One of the worst things that happened during this most recent Presidential Election in 2016 was the constant re-posting of offensive, untruthful, politically charged, and controversial information on social media. It was a bombardment of negativity and ignorance on a level I’ve never seen before. People were sharing things that had clear signs within the articles the information was fake, things that were so ridiculous they couldn’t possibly be real, and stuff that was rejected by every major news and fact checking organization in the country.
Unfortunately, now we are hearing about all of the same things happening in other countries. Facebook and Twitter are making an effort, but how much of the problem is their fault? Certainly they hold some blame, they gave malicious people from various countries, including our own, unimpeded access and ability to share mass amounts of fake information. But isn’t some of the blame ours as well?
I’m not one of the people who believe social media is evil. Social media, like everything, can be used for both good and evil. However, a lot of the fake stuff I saw on my feed was shared by friends and family of Christian faith. This is a problem for me.
A lot of why fake information was shared by Christians is because of politics, and I’ve already talked about that here and here. I’m not going to talk about that more at this time, but I do want to talk about what a Christian’s responsibility is when they go on social media.
Although you are anonymous a lot of the time on social media, there is usually a breadcrumb left behind that can be followed to some personal information about you. I’m not suggesting that you are in danger, only that when you post something, the readers of that post often have more information about who you are than you might realize when you are sharing, replying, tweeting, etc.
First, your history on those apps is freely available assuming they have permission to view. Second, your proud reference to God or your Christianity is often in your profiles. Third, your account name can sometimes imply your Christian faith, like @ManOfGod, or @SavedFromSin, etc.
Whenever your faith can be connected to your social media posts and words, you have a responsibility to refrain from making all of us look bad. I would hope that as Christian men and women, you’d all behave as a Christian no matter what you are doing, but we know that doesn’t always happen. Just wait for my inevitable post on road rage (I am such a failure at being a Christian while driving). We have the responsibility to Jesus, and to our entire faith to not make people think worse of us. There is a real image problem we have with unbelievers, and they shouldn’t have any support for it, but they do.
As I’ve said before, I didn’t grow up with Christians. Most of my experiences with them have been negative, not positive. If it wasn’t for Jesus specifically speaking to my core in the bible, the strong pull toward Jesus in my heart, and the strong Christian women now part of my family, and my current church; I wouldn’t want anything to do with the church or it’s people. But why is that?
Part of it is because of the image issue, I don’t want to be associated with the “crazy” part of Christianity. The over-aggressive, over-judgmental, paranoid, fearful, and sometimes hateful members of our community. The other part is my trust problem. When a group of like-minded individuals get together, it usually results in closed-minded ideas and actions. We as Christians aren’t known for our open-mindedness, and not being open to some of our ideas being wrong is part of the problem. We expect others to be open-minded about our message, but we don’t want to listen to their ideas and thoughts.
I don’t claim to know exactly how every non-believer feels, and clearly because of my faith, I’m very different. However, I am an outsider of sorts, and being an outsider gives me a perspective other Christians you know may not have.
The negativity we share on social media has a significant impact on our image. When you post hateful, untruthful, rude, angry, judgmental, or aggressive messages on social media, you do it on behalf of the entire Christian community and Jesus. I know a popular thing to ask is “What would Jesus say?” and “What would Jesus do?”
I think the better question is “How would Jesus react if you said or did that to him?” I don’t have a lot of biblical verses that can relate to social media, but I can give you a favorite of mine that speaks to this.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40)