Let’s do something new.
It’s totally real and authentic, we all get indignant and fired up by things that cross our paths on social media platforms on any given day… and we go to sharing and posting away. Whatever our political, social, religious, philosophical or fiscal inclinations might be, there’s a whole world of memes and news stories out there to support our view and also to ridicule our view.
Are so many of those memes and stories just a bit biased, unfair, exaggerated or intended to cast one side in the worst light possible while giving the most generous presentation to the other side? Well, of course. Are those memes and stories intended to inflame and create controversy? Surely. Do they change anyone’s mind or alter anyone’s position on anything? I don’t think so.
Too many of us keep on breaking the internet’s #1 rule: Don’t feed the trolls. And we think we won something. We keep sharing and re-posting the jabs and skewers upon which we gleefully imagine “the other side” flailing in their death throes. But it’s not happening. No one is dying… only the discourse. The casualty is the space between us… it grows more and more dense and dark, deadly and confining.
Let’s try to make a change of the better, shall we? Let’s stop posting and sharing all the things that inflame and make us indignant. Let’s “lean in” as people are saying now, or “bear down” as we’ve said in the past, on making our shares and posts really count for good. You and I, each of us, in all our diversity and uniqueness, share this burden and this responsibility.
I quickly came up with six questions to ask myself before posting or sharing something. If I can answer yes to each, then I will share or post. If I cannot answer yes to each, then I need to stop, drop and rethink. Why am I posting? Is it what I really want to post? Why am I struggling with a yes on one of the questions?
Questions to ask before posting…
- Is it honest?
- Does it give the benefit of the doubt?
- Does it encourage someone needing encouragement?
- Does it promote every person’s dignity?
- Does it ask good and fair questions?
- Does it stretch my own thinking?
How would you adopt and adapt those questions and make them your own, for the good of more thoughtful and meaningful posts? Did I miss anything? I’ve written a little about Facebook Etiquette in the past, but this hopefully goes a little further. Let’s do something new.
Let me share a few thing additional thoughts real fast…
HUMOR: There’s a bunch of humorous things that can be posted without worrying about the heaviest questions of goodness and dignity. But don’t think that because we can post a cute kitten video without asking deep questions that we can then post any humor without asking good questions. Be wise. Think deep.
PERSONAL STUFF: Same thing goes here I think. If I post a proud pic of the salad I made for lunch, that’s cool. Many times we post and share things that are rather benign and don’t beg to be vetted by a thoughtful social conscience. But having some benign posts does not negate my responsibility to weigh my more meaningful posts and shares against these questions.
CONVICTIONS: I’m not asking us to stop having convictions and deeply held beliefs. I’m asking that we learn to share them in ways that are not combative or mean-spirited. Speak your mind and share your heart, but not just to score a point or one-up somebody in your feed.
Perhaps we need to have an inverse set of questions for when something seems benign or we aren’t sure how to apply the first set of questions.
The Inverse Questions to ask might look like this…
- Do I see a dishonesty or a stretching of the truth in the post/share? (Or better, have I looked into the background and sources to know if it’s honest, true or accurate?)
- Does it assign someone a set of motives they have not clearly themselves articulated? (Often this involves name calling and accusations of being a “communist” a “conservative” a “liberal” a “racist,” etc.)
- Does it openly ridicule and make fun of someone’s physical person, race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, language, religion, sexual orientation, gender or other personal expression or reality of their being?
- Does it devalue a person or a group of people or invite negative thoughts about a person or group of people?
- Does it only set out to win an argument without leaving room for dialogue and searching?
- Does it simply affirm what I already think without causing me to question deeper or more clearly, or to learn something new?
If you’re a follower of Christ, there’s a strong biblical case for this kind of discernment in our daily communication. If you’re a person of another faith, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist or one of the world’s other great faith systems, I know that this is in your scriptures and creeds. I’ve seen it in many of your writings and heard it preached in each. If you are a person of no faith, I know you are completely capable of seeing the goodness in this idea.
As always, the question is what will we do? We can look back… looking. Or we can look forward, and do. Forward lies the the question, the answer and the hope.
Here’s the question in some Christian scriptural terms…
Is the post/share:
- True (or false/deceiving)
- Noble (or unworthy of you)
- Right (or simply wrong)
- Pure (or makes you feel dirty)
- Lovely (or an image/word of hate)
- Admirable (or just winning at any and all costs)
- Excellent (or stooping too low)
- Praiseworthy (or just a quick laugh at someone’s expense)
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–
think about such things.”