Facebook and other social media is as commonplace and regular as eating. Well, maybe even more than eating. After all, you don't keep a Big Mac on your nightstand... but your wake-up routine probably involves your phone and your newsfeed.
As Facebook has become a staple of our social interactions, our filters for what we post and when we post have dwindled. But as a Christ follower, I think we need to be extremely judicious in the words, phrases and images that we use on social media. Here are three reasons I think this is so important:
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make on Facebook is simply dismissing the context of public Facebook posts. For instance, let's say you're commenting on a close friend's picture of her new baby, and just last week you were laughingly joking about another picture that had made the baby look like Gollum. All in good fun, and you both were totally on the same page.
But your Facebook comment on your friend's picture: "Haha, not so Gollum-y here - she's actually cute!" is going to be read by dozens - if not hundreds - of others. And they're going to interpret that comment through their context - and with none of the backstory you and your friend share. These are probably both close friend and distant friends... and maybe even a few people who don't know you at all.
And perhaps they'll start to think, "Gosh, she's kinda judgy about how baby's look - what does she think about my baby?" Or, worse, "Wow, he's kinda a real jerk."
Every time we post publicly on Facebook, we're inviting people with no similar context to read and make snap judgements about our contextualized comments.
'Oh, but who cares?' you think. 'I'm going to do me, and if people want to make snap judgements about who I am, that's their problem, not mine!'
That's a nice position to take, but as a Christ-follower (and as a regular person, too), it's simple not realistic.
The truth is that we want to be influencers - and we want to be influencers for Christ. That's why you've shared articles about Godly parenting or about Christian tolerance or about true love. Ultimately, you want to influence people toward the gospel.
But we can't pick and choose when we're going to influence others, and our articles about godliness and truth are going to be seen through the lens of our other posts. More precisely, and here's the scary part, our posts are going to be seen through the lens of other's perceptions of our posts.
If we post something that can be miscontextualized or misinterpreted, we need to acknowledge that those posts are going to negatively affect our ability to influence, lead and direct other's toward Christ.
How We're Perceived Affects How Our Message is Perceived
And that leads directly into the third truth, which is simply that how we're viewed or perceived is going to directly affect how our message is interpreted, viewed or perceived. And if our message is the gospel, we should do everything we can to make sure it's seen in the best light possible.
And that means being as wise as possible about everything we post on Facebook.
You can say, "But that's not fair! Someone's snap judgement of me based off a joking post to a friend shouldn't affect their ability to hear the gospel or make good judgements about other things!"
And no, it isn't fair. But that doesn't change anything. And it certainly doesn't change the fact that those judgements are being made all the time, and rarely will people ask you if they've made the right judgement.
I think a natural response to some of these thoughts is along the lines of, "That's a little ridiculous, and sounds like it would make Facebook a lot less fun." And I probably agree. To be honest, I'm relatively scared to post on Facebook! I have friends who simply don't post - because they've decided that posting can be more dangerous or damaging than beneficial.
That doesn't have to be the case, and I don't think that Facebook necessarily needs to be less fun, but I do think we need a good dose of wisdom spattered into our posts.
We need to pause, and assess everything we make public, asking, "Can this be mischaracterized and used to dismiss my message?" Yes, it's an extra step. Yes, it might prevent some posts that friends would genuinely enjoy. But it might also help to preserve our gospel message, and there's no value that can be placed on that.