To me the saddest, most troubling facet of Covid-19 and our current racial unrest has been how we’re showing up as Christians on social media and Facebook, in particular. A tsunami of negativity, disunity, blame and distrust has swept over us—and that’s why I HATE IT. Yet Facebook can be a great place to find resources, process questions, share experiences, to grow and connect with those we care about. When Facebook offers these things I LOVE IT.
With that said, I do believe we have the right to express our opinions; it’s a cornerstone of democracy. But we of all people, who’ve received the utmost grace in Jesus Christ should express ourselves with sensitivity, grace and humility, realizing that other people’s experiences are often vastly different than our own. If we show up with grace, sensitivity and humility, I believe God will use Facebook to share His message with the world.
So why is it so difficult for us to take a posture of listening and to treat others’ viewpoints with kindness and respect? Why are we consistently NOT reflecting love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness and self-control but expressing anger, selfishness and blame instead?
I think we’re hurting more than we know. We’re stressed by the disruption and financial impact of Covid; we’re pained and uncomfortable by the ugly reality of racism. And the kicker is that we’re not aware how powerful our anxiety, fear and lack of control are. Since we don’t see how these negatives are compromising us and driving us, we’re not getting the support we need.
There are many helpful ways we can support each other. (Please see my recent blog “How We Get and Give Support.”) Instead of tending to our hearts and emotions, however, we vent publicly to let off steam. But isn’t enough; it doesn’t bring the deep peace we long for and it transmits our anxiety to others.
How to Grow the LOVE and Change the HATE
With this in mind, here are 5 ways to make social media a positive in our lives and a force for holy change in our world.
- See Facebook as a “buffet” of ideas, not a place to force-feed anyone our opinions. Trying to convert others to our thinking is exhausting and 99% fruitless. When I insist on doing this, we force people into being “for” or “against” when we can be both for and against. I can be for just police officers and against police brutality, for example. Insisting people take sides divides us at a time when we need to support each other more than ever. Ideas don’t have to be all or nothing. I can love people and still disagree with them. If they challenge me, my response is still to love. And I can disagree without reacting. In fact, I don’t need to post again and again as if repeating my point of view will convince others.
- Understand that we can find online evidence for any viewpoint we want to believe. There’s a tendency to seek out perspectives that support the views we already hold—that’s called bias; each one of us has a bias. When we want to support our opinions, it’s easy to find “evidence” that affirms our views whether we consider ourselves liberal or conservative. So how do we wade through infinite online content and discern what is true and valid rather than just embracing as fact articles that support what we already believe? This is a challenge that requires spending time in prayer and thoughtful consideration, choosing to respond rather than react. In addition, two nonpartisan resources to help you determine credibility in news are: americanpressinstitute.org, and factcheck.org.
- Dramatically limit what and how much we consume in order to care for our souls. We can’t control who, what or how often things are said but we can control what and how much we take in. If what we consume revs our anxiety or causes us to lose sleep then it’s our job to care for ourselves by limiting that source of anxiety. That means “snoozing” voices or getting off Facebook. (FYI, I’m taking a long break.) After we’ve listened with humility and discernment, we may need to eliminate excessive, unreliable or nonconstructive content.
- Don’t turn to social media for emotional support because it’s a cheap imitation of the real thing. With all that’s happening in our world right now, we need A LOT of support. Are we looking to Facebook to validate our opinions and feelings? Is uncertainly and lack of control driving our need to post? Why are we so defensive about perspectives we don’t agree with? Let’s honestly examine ourselves. If we’re turning to social media to vent or feel affirmed, we’ve striving for a cheap imitation of the real support we need. Our unseen and unprocessed emotions will likely escape our control and hurt others as we vent, complain, and blame. Turning to supportive people (and being them) is how we’ll genuinely get our needs met.
- Recognize that our Facebook presence is our Christian witness. Let’s express LOVE not HATE. Just as our faith needs to shape every aspect of our lives, it must guide how we use social media. It sends a message loud and clear about who leads our life. But what about truth you say? Truth is important, but grace is it’s equal like two balances on a scale. Truth without grace isn’t loving and the Bible makes it pretty clear that loving is our job. So with Jesus’ love in mind, are we using Facebook as a tool to bless, heal and lift others up? Are we reflecting the hope and peace we have in Christ online or, if we’re honest, are we putting our self-centeredness on display? Are we showing up as peacemakers and reconcilers?
So much is at stake, friends: our relationships with those we love, the strength of our communities and nation, the health of our souls, and most important of all, how we represent Jesus Christ as his people.