This is a reprint of my column from the August 2020 Carillon Notes. Read the whole newsletter here.
There are a lot of things about social media that I enjoy. I like being able to hear from old friends who live far away, get together with people online (especially when it’s important to keep our physical distance from each other), and get reminders about people’s birthdays. But I know that social media isn’t entirely safe. There are predators, provocateurs, scammers, and criminals.
And there’s the share button.
It is so easy to click the share button, to push someone else’s thoughts further out into the world, and then to forget about it. It is so easy to click the share button without thinking about how it might affect the people in our social networks. And it is so easy to impulsively and accidentally spread falsehoods, insults, and other hurtful things. It’s so easy that we all do it sometimes. I know that I do.
So here are three questions that we should always ask about the things that we share… questions that can help us make our favorite networks into virtual spaces that are healthier and happier.
Is this from a reputable source? A lot of people on social media are sharing their hopes and struggles. Other people are sharing controversial opinions and invite serious discussions. And some people are working to spread lies and hatred. Professional trolls, recognized (and unrecognized) hate groups, and others all have a presence on social media. And those people are intent on getting people like us to innocently share their posts and put their ideas in the mainstream. So, before we share, we should ask, “Is this coming from a group of people that I would want to be associated with?”
Is this true? As Christians, we believe in putting away falsehood and speaking the truth (Ephesians 4:25). Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and it can be fun and useful to have debates where opinions differ. But there are plenty of things on social media that have the ring of truthiness and that are not actually true. Photos are doctored, videos are deep-faked, and bold claims are presented without evidence. A quick search of fact-checkers like Snopes and PolitiFact can help us check our impulses. Before we share, we should ask, “Is this something that I reasonably believe is true?”
Does this add love to the world? We all sometimes puff ourselves up by putting other people down. Sometimes, those other people are individuals. Sometimes, those other people are groups. Social media makes it easy to take things that we would never say to someone’s face and broadcast them to the world. And when we do that, we can find ourselves adding anger, hurt, sorrow, and hatred to the world. As Christians, we should be focused on adding love. So, before we should ask, “Is this something that expresses love for the people in my life?”
By being thoughtful about what we share and what we post—and by reminding our friends and neighbors to do the same—we can help make our favorite social media networks into more loving places… the kind of places where we actually want to hang out.