I regularly tell people that I much prefer Instagram to Facebook. The reason for this is because I find Instagram to be far more uplifting, peaceful, and calm. In comparison, Facebook tends to be a place of in-fighting among believers, political rants, debates, personal attacks, and name-calling. This kind of behavior could possibly be expected among those who do not follow Christ’s way of living, but for those of us who have the Holy Spirit residing within, this kind of behavior is inappropriate. Yet we and our fellow believers often get sucked into the raging debates, don’t we? It’s human, it’s normal and we need the love of God for others to turn social media from trap to tool!
I sincerely doubt that Facebook will be disappearing anytime soon, so what are we to do? How can we take the principles of Christian living and apply them to our daily interactions on Facebook? Could “godly Facebooking” be a thing? Here are four principles to get us started:
Online behavior reflects your offline attitude.
At times, the internet seems to have made things worse in how we treat one another because we now have screens we can hide behind. The reality is that the angry, harsh debates taking place on Facebook are not the fault of Facebook. They are reflective of the pride and arrogance that can run rampant in our hearts. Facebook merely provides us with a platform on which to display them.
If you are engaging in personal attacks on Facebook, this says more about the condition of your heart than it does simply your social media practices. Take this realization before the Lord, seek Him, and pray the prayer of David in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” We all go through those seasons where we need to check-in on the condition of our own hearts.
Purpose to avoid online negativity.
Paul implores us in Romans 12:18 that “if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” The noteworthy thing here is not that we are told to live peaceably with those with whom we agree, those who are like us, those we like, etc. Rather, we are told to live peaceable with all – no exceptions. While there was no social media when Paul penned this letter, his admonition certainly applies to how we live our lives on Facebook. If we are not living peaceably with our friends there, then something needs to change. Either we need to repent of our wrong behavior and seek peace and reconciliation, or else we need to erect boundaries between us and relationships we have with folks who are particularly quarrelsome.
Refuse to return evil for evil.
Something we can forget is that the comments people leave on Facebook posts come with a backstory that we simply do not know- a backstory that contributes to their attitude, intent, and tone. Unfortunately, this lack of knowledge and compassion regarding that backstory is what often ignites the Facebook wars.
With that in mind, may we take it upon ourselves to “be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). May we assume the best of others rather than the worst, seek to get to the bottom of why people act and believe believe the way they do, and assume that they have heartfelt reasons for the worldview they are upholding. We still may not agree with them, but that seeking to get to the bottom of the truth will go a long way towards our being able to respect and treat them as fellow human beings made in the image of God.
Lead with kindness.
The phrase “kill them with kindness” finds its origin and inspiration in Proverbs 25:21-22, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” This concept continues in the New Testament when we are told that even unbelievers love those who love them, but that we as Christ-followers are to love even our enemies. This is our calling – to love, respect, honor, and treat with empathy and compassion those who are particularly nasty towards us on social media. Rather than engaging in their vitriol and stooping to the level of personal attacks and name-calling, we are to be the bigger person and respond with love. In so doing, we just might be able to point said naysayers to Christ!
The world of social media is strange, hard-to-navigate and at the same time, is a wonderful place that builds community. There are principles which can guide us on our way as we seek to be the light of Christ to those with whom we interact online. When we find that the online space is simply not a good one for conversations on particularly hard topics, may we instead turn to our in-real-life community and purpose to talk through those issues face-to-face. This, too, will go a long way towards our being able to treat one another as we ought!