I’ve often felt that current culture lacked a great moment to call our own. The previous generations selfishly beat us to the punch on nearly every compelling discovery. Fire is already a thing, the Industrial Revolution has come and gone, the Bible has been printed for the masses, and sprinkle donuts are gloriously available in every city. Is there nothing left?
But then I’m reminded that our generation has one momentous invention to write home about. Cavemen couldn’t draw it, Columbus couldn’t navigate it, and Confucius couldn’t fathom it. It’s the novelty that gives us our own historical street cred. Of course, I’m talking about Social Media: the magnum opus of an online generation.
But even in all its glory, the advent of Social Media comes with one terribly inconvenient side effect: drama — lots and lots of drama. We cause it; we are victims of it; we hate it and we love it all at the same time. This is the nature of drama: it is the balm that burns and soothes simultaneously.
I propose that followers of Jesus should live by a higher code of social media ethics. Arguments, snarky comments, hijacked threads, social stalking and cryptic posts are beneath us. Our timelines should be a reflection of the truth we espouse rather than the trials we endure.
Here are some suggestions for those who love Social Media but hate Social Media drama. If your family, your career, your friendships or even your church have been affected by online chaos, here are 10 ways to avoid it in the future:
1. Set criteria for what you post.
Establish boundaries and vet each comment before you post it to make sure it falls inbounds. This will help you post with a purpose and keep you from awkward apologies later. WWJP is the question of a new generation: What Would Jesus Post?
2. Never post or comment when you are angry.
Your scathing comment may sound great today, but you’ll regret it tomorrow. When you are upset, put your phone down and go for a walk. Proverbs 15:1 says: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh answer stirs up anger.” This is never truer than in a Social Media world.
3. Resist the urge to post something for everyone to read that is really intended for just one person to see.
If you have something to say to an individual, don’t post it on your timeline. Be brave enough to call, email, or message that person directly.
4. Utilize the unsubscribe feature.
If you’re tired of seeing someone else’s drama but unfriending them would only add to the drama, simply unsubscribe from their updates. You’ll be amazed at how freeing this can be.
5. It’s Not Always About You.
Don’t assume the nasty, cryptic or braggadocios update someone posted was about you. Anytime you find yourself thinking, “I wonder what they meant by that?” you are enrolling in Drama 101.
6. Learn to be happy for other people.
Jealousy is an unattractive feature that Social Media tends to expose. Learn to share in the happiness of the guy who posted about his promotion or the girl who changed her relationship status. Their success doesn’t make you a failure, and their failure doesn’t make you a success. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)
7. Forgive people who have offended you.
Let it go. Your social media grudge is only hurting you. Jesus’ example and command to forgive applies even in the Social Media era.
8. Stop trying to convince people that you are happy; just go be happy.
If you are giving us a minute-by-minute commentary about your date night, you may be missing the point of date night. Go have fun; you can tell us about it later. Check out your date instead of checking in on your phone.
9. Use your Social Media account to encourage others.
What if you decided to only post things that would make others feel better about themselves? This means more “likes” and more “shares.” This also means resisting the urge to jump in on that long, argumentative thread about politics.
10. Exercise wisdom in what friend requests you accept.
A friend request is not a subpoena. You don’t have to accept it. Really, you don’t.
Bonus: Spend less time on Social Media
The Apostle Paul must have foreseen the upcoming behemoth that was Social Media. He must have known that even followers of Jesus would be tempted by online shallowness, divisiveness and bitterness. His words in Philippians 4:8 ring true for us today. He says we are to focus on the things that are right and noble and pure and admirable. This is perfect advice for every Social Media devotee.
Remember, your Social Media page is a social network platform not a middle school cafeteria, a Lifetime Movie of the Week, or an intervention. It can be drama free. Better yet, Social Media can be a reflection of your life in Christ — a place where love and laughter, peace and patience are the dominant themes.
Granted, Social Media may not make the Mt. Rushmore of discoveries, but it’s all we’ve got. We mustn’t let arguments or bitterness ruin our great social experiment. Because if we do, what do we have left? What will we tell our grandchildren years from now at sparsely attended family reunions when they ask what we gave society? Without Social Media, it’s quite possible that Pinterest becomes our shining achievement. Pinterest, people. We can’t let that happen.