Facebook and other forms of social media have the potential for good, but as evidenced, also the potential for plain old stabbing ugly. I see more negatives on Facebook than positives lately. At least it feels that way when we think about how many positives outweigh one negative…
It made me think about the commonly known sociological idea of needing to speak more positively into a person’s life to counteract one negative. For some reason, people think Facebook is the ideal place to spew anger and personal ideologies wherever and whenever they please. I am not talking about posting personal viewpoints about religion or politics on your own page, but how we respond to others who post things on their own pages.
If I don’t agree with what you post on your page – I can choose to scroll by and leave it alone.
What began for me as a fun way to stay in touch with family and friends, has me thinking of deleting the whole page, “unfriending” all but my closest friends and family, or just never looking at it for the sake of keeping it as a ministry tool. Yet, it is a wonderful way for me to see pictures of kids and grand-kids, some of whom I hardly get to see.
Sociologists have known for ages that for every negative that gets spoken it takes between five and nine positives to counteract. Yet, I can think of the many times I post an article, a saying, or an image, and no one ever “LIKES” it. Yet, post an article that someone disagrees with and people who are never on my Facebook page come out of the woodwork to make judgments, speak their opinions, correct, or try to provoke an argument.
On several occasions I have posted articles that I wanted to read later, only to find by the time I had returned to my page there was a long argument of responses already there.
I always delete the post rather than have put downs or arguments front and center.
When you continuously post negative comments to another person’s page, it is like going into their living room for a visit and provoking an argument or telling them everything that’s wrong with their thinking.
It is not relational. It’s rude. It does not foster community. It hurts feelings.
Facebook should not be a place for thought police to tell others how to think, feel, or what convictions they should or should not have based upon your personal ideologies or doctrinal beliefs in the absence of genuine relationships.
How long do you think a real life friendship would last that way?
Not long ago I posted a satirical article from a silly paper, poking fun about a prominent prosperity gospel preacher “declaring he could fly.” I do not believe the prosperity gospel is sound gospel, I believe it promotes self-centered, American Christian exceptionalism, and I came out of a word of faith cult – buried a child in it – it is my personal deep conviction. Mine, mine, mine – you don’t have to agree. I found the article amusing – nothing more, nothing less. I was disappointed to have several people preach at me, even make a comment about hoping my “friends understand that it’s satire.” Yet, instead of replying if my “friends” think people can fly they deserve to be deceived, I deleted it. Seriously?
I don’t want to enter into rude dialogue in a public forum. If I accidentally offend someone I apologize – and I don’t preface it with a “but I thought…”
Since that satirical article was posted, I have taken notice of how many people visit my page to speak life. I have deleted three more articles in a matter of weeks, one which I hadn’t even read yet but had posted to “read later.” I have also just deleted comments that were negative and would hurt someone else, if not me.
(And yes, I “like” lots of stuff – even things I disagree with if it was a well written article with good points. I try to see from the perspective of others – I teach that in my courses. I do it to create the “positives” I’m speaking about.)
I also take notice if any “friends” comment on the video of the Muslim girl speaking about her horrific experiences of persecution (not just my Muslim friends, but Christians), or “like” the picture of the Hindu child of my friend, adorned for a religious service. I notice if they ever share a conference about grief that is being held locally, even if they don’t want to attend, but because maybe it’s important to someone else. Or because I ask and it’s important to me. I notice out of 600 plus “friends” less than 200 have joined my ministry page – the thing that is most important to me in my life in Christ – serving others who are hurting…
I take notice if I say I may choose not to vote and people are quick to tell me how wrong I am – that my “only options” are…and my “only choice is….” People who don’t know me well enough to know what my convictions are, or if I have ever voted in any election. Or with a strongly military family if I hold convictions of passive non-resistance or agree with taking up arms.
I don’t know my Facebook “friends” and they don’t know me. In truth, we are not even acquaintances.
I have certainly come to understand that. I have less than a handful of friends that know me and Dave. Friends that I trust my heart to. I certainly don’t have 600.
Most of my closest friends aren’t on Facebook. They don’t like what they see there.
If people did know me, they would understand that my empathy and trauma work stems from a soft heart and a place that is easily wounded so carefully guarded. I have good self-care in place.
My friends understand that I have strong convictions that I try not to push on others. So when I say I probably won’t vote – I want to be respected for that – the same way I will respect your right to vote for Hillary, Trump, or anyone else (even if I don’t respect the candidate) – or not vote at all – believing you are basing your decision upon your own convictions.
I wish I could say that sticking to ministry interests has fixed the problem, but I have had people rudely respond to articles about suicide, domestic violence, and poverty – sometimes messaging me privately to tell me how wrong I am – and deleted the comments in courtesy toward those who would be further wounded. Really?
I am not God. I am not arrogant. I am fallible. So are you.
I am a citizen of a higher country first, and a citizen of the U.S.A. second. Both are places of freedom
So let me make some suggestions about Facebook:
- If you see a post on someone else’s page, don’t argue unless you know that person desires to be engaged, or invites you to.
- Instead, you can always re-post the article in your own living room (facebook page) and start a dialogue there.
- Find positive things to “like” about your friends posts. Use the 5 to 1 rule. If you haven’t found five positives with a friends opinions don’t respond negatively with one. Five likes on grandkids pictures don’t count.
- Remember people have feelings and you never know what someone is going through at any given moment in time. You can make or break that day with positive or negative words. Speak life.
- We live in a free country – try not to be like the politicians who spend more time bashing each other than dealing with the issues. We don’t need thought police.
- Ultimately, we are all on the same side – wanting what we believe is best for our country, the church, our children, our communities – even when we differ.
- If you are a Christian – remember that we are salt and light. Spending all your time speaking out against the sins of this country, the moral issues you disagree with, or end time judgements is not living how Jesus did. Jesus spent the majority of His ministry healing, doing good, and speaking life – even to His enemies. That is the power of the gospel -the Good News.
So, if I unfriend you, don’t take it personally. I need to take care of my heart and stay close to my kids and I am trying to figure out how to do that. Maybe I just need to stay away for a season – As Dave says, “It’s Facebook.” I know.
If you are a “friend” you can follow me where it matters to me the most – my ministry page. That is where I am busy trying to feed vulnerable children and families, help orphans and widows, and serve the poor and hurting. That’s who I am – God uses our brokenness for His glory. I am trying to live out that lesson through social media – be patient with me.