Both of our daughters, Karina and Angela, are Christ-centered women and wonderful wives and moms who serve their families and churches well. They are very wise, and I have learned a lot from both of them.
Angela Stump is a part-time ER nurse, and the women’s ministry director at Gresham Bible Church, where she and her husband Dan are both very involved.
Three years ago we shared the original version of Angela’s article on social media, and it was one of the most popular posts we’ve ever had. She’s since revised and expanded her post into a two-part series. Since the expanded version is every bit as relevant and helpful as the original, I wanted to share it with you.
In part one, which follows, Angie encourages us to stop and think about what we’re posting on social media. —Randy Alcorn
Is it just me, or does anyone else have a serious love/hate relationship with social media?
I love to reconnect with old friends, to keep up relationships with people who live far away, and to see worlds collide when someone at work turns out to be friends with someone I went to elementary school with. Love it.
And then I hate it. Sometimes I see people, often not realizing it, post things that really rub me the wrong way. Should I comment or keep my mouth shut? I also hate it because browsing through pictures or reading updates “for a few minutes” often turns into 45 minutes...or more. And I hate it because sometimes I see all the wonderful things people are doing and feel like a failure. Pinterest, anyone?
As I’ve been leading women’s ministry over the last few years, I’ve heard from a whole lot of women in the church who have various struggles with social media. Facebook is often the biggest culprit. There's probably a book series that needs to be written on this subject; I’m sure there are several already. Here are some thoughts to encourage and challenge Christians to examine how we represent ourselves, and most importantly, our Savior, to the online world.
1. Check Your Motives
Always ask yourself, “Why am I sharing this?”
First, before you post anything (a picture, Facebook status, Tweet, or even a comment) please check your motives. Always ask yourself, “Why am I sharing this?” Are you posting something for the sole purpose of getting comments to boost your ego or to have people add fuel to a fiery rant you’re getting off your chest? I think it’s fine to want to share a favorite picture, or a funny story, or even be honest about a struggle you’re having—as long as you’re not doing it just to get that pat on the back you think you deserve or insinuating that the “struggle” of trying to decide what’s for dinner tonight is the biggest one you’re facing. Or how about this one: seeking permission from others to nurse a bad attitude. Ouch. Guilty.
2. Remember Your Audience
After you’ve checked your motives, before posting please remember your audience. When was the last time you looked through your list of “friends” or “followers”? Not just glanced at it, but really looked? (Hopefully your network of friends is diverse!)
Pause to consider your audience...
- Not everyone is single, or married, or has kids.
- Not everyone who is single is either a) desperately looking for a date, or b) not praying hard enough for one.
- Not everyone who is married is living happily ever after.
- Not everyone who has children is loving being a parent every second of the day.
- Not every woman works and not every woman stays at home.
- Not everyone has enough money to go out to dinner every week...or at all.
- Not everyone who has extra spending money wants to or should spend it the same way you do.
Many of the believers in your friend network are at different places in their spiritual walk than you are. You can safely assume everyone has a different story and different insecurities and struggles you have no idea about. That’s the reality. You can’t change it, but you need to be aware of it.
The point is: Your words and pictures have the opportunity to encourage and amuse. But also know your words and pictures have the power to discourage and potentially cut deep. Be sensitive. Be gracious. Be considerate. Be kind.
3. No Really: Consider Your Audience
Then there’s another percentage of your audience. When you look at the list of your “nearest and dearest,” are there any who don’t know Jesus? The world is full of them, and I certainly hope some of them are your friends! Have you ever considered that for some people, you might be the only person they’re friends with who claims to love Jesus? Have you thought about what that might mean? People are watching you. “Uh, yes, Ang, that's the whole point of social media.” But listen to what I’m saying. People are watching you.
Whether you acknowledge it or not, and regardless of whether you like it or not, non-Christians are watching you, and you could be one of the only people in their life who has the opportunity to show them Jesus—the real Jesus.
It may not seem that way, but every picture, every status update, every comment you post is a representation of Christ to those who don’t know Him. There are people who are curious as to what Jesus is all about and are waiting for an opportunity to see His truth and love in your life. But unfortunately, there are also people who are watching and waiting for an opportunity to say “and that is why I’m not a Christian.” Please don’t give them more ammunition with careless words or angry rants. (And if you do make a mistake, be willing to own up to it and ask for forgiveness! That kind of honesty and humility may be what draws them to the Lord.)
Does this mean that we’re never supposed to speak (or write) truth? That we have to swing our pendulum wildly to the side of embracing everything, even those things at odds with our beliefs? Absolutely not. But maybe you should consider having a face-to-face conversation with someone you disagree with, instead of writing a blanket statement post, or commenting on someone else’s.
The written word can have a tone to it that you don’t intend, and you can’t read the facial expression of the person receiving the message unless you’re sitting across from them. If that’s not possible, call them. Or write them a private message. Commenting on someone’s post where the whole online world can see it might embarrass them, anger them, or start a chain reaction of comments from others that you can’t control.
This Is Speaking Truth in Love
Bottom line: before people can hear truth from you, they have to trust that you care about them regardless of if they ever agree with you. Are you “speaking truth in love” or are you just irritated that people don’t make the same choices you do? Remember that as Jesus was being crucified He prayed for His torturers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Is that our attitude towards unbelievers, or even to Christians who are walking in sin? Do we pray for them and do our hearts break for them? Speaking the truth in love is gut-wrenching. It should bring you to your knees, not to 30 seconds on your keyboard and a click of the mouse.
So the next time you’re sitting at your computer or opening your go-to social media app on your phone, and you get the urge to speak your mind, take an extra minute to think it through. Think about not only what you want to post, but why. And after that, think about who might read it and how you’re coming across. But above all? Think about Jesus.
Part 2 of Angela's 2-part series on social media: 3 Things to Remember When You’re Browsing Through Social Media