14 Guidelines for Good Social Media Interaction
There are a million and one, perhaps even a million and two blog posts on good social media behavior. Because of this great shortage, I felt one million and three was necessary, dare I say, essential? So…drum roll please…here is my list:
1. Be kind.
This shouldn’t need to be said, but it does. A lack of kindness reveals a deeper level of personal insecurity. The more confident you are in what you believe, the greater your kindness should extend to others.
2. Ask yourself what you are seeking to accomplish.
Sound too technical? I think it’s a question every Christian on social media should ask. Personally, I view social media as a tremendous tool to connect with, encourage, and challenge people. I want to have friends from a variety of perspectives. Yes, many are Christian. But many are not. In every interaction, I want to model my Jesus well for fellow Christians and hopefully encourage those who do not share my faith to give it some consideration.
3. Do not assume positions.
Strawman arguments are easy to make, and they are used to inflate our positions. For example, I am not a Calvinist. But I have a ton of great Calvinist friends, and I’ve come to discover there is a whole lot of disagreement among Christians who fall under the label of Calvinist. To write as though all Calvinists fall into one category is crazy. I don’t like it when someone assumes my position. I shouldn’t do it to others.
4. Avoid overstating your claim.
Sometimes I see friends make great points, only to overreach with a claim that is highly controversial. It only takes one sentence to undermine an entire argument. Unfortunate, but true. Just because the issue is settled for you, do not assume it is settled for others.
5. Give the benefit of the doubt.
Sometimes good people make foolish arguments. When this happens, be gracious. Look at the comment and take a few minutes to respond. You know that old practice of writing out a nasty letter and then throwing it in the trash? Try that with social media. Be quick to listen and slow to speak.
6. Avoid snarky responses.
Ask yourself, what is the goal of this interaction? Would I speak to a person this way if I were sitting across the table from them? Avoid the social media equivalent of a smirk.
7. Avoid posting links without explanation.
Sometimes links are helpful, but generally, they should only follow after some personal interaction or a comment that explains why the link is relevant. Nothing screams condescension more than responding to a thought-out comment with a link to a website of your choice with no explanation. Posts like this communicate that others are not worth your time and usually silence interaction.
8. Avoid connecting the person to the topic.
The more insecure someone feels about a topic, the more they will be tempted to go personal. It is the low hanging fruit. The moment you go personal, it’s tough to have a reasonable conversation.
9. Remember it’s a blessing to have people disagree with you.
I love having people in my life who challenge me. It’s natural that many of our friends will think like us, but too much of this can lead to a warped view of reality. Back a number of months ago, I remember seeing different posts around social media that went something like this; “If you support Trump or Biden, leave a comment below.” On many of these feeds, the support was overwhelmingly one-sided. Like 98% one-sided. That’s a problem.
10. Avoid passive aggression.
If someone makes a post that you think is wrong, do not respond to it with generality. Don’t say, “Well, some people believe this” when it is obvious the “some people” is them. Be confident and interact directly. This communicates you respect them as an individual.
11. Remember that your opinions have the right to be critiqued.
If you put it out on the web for all to see, you deserve what you get. Regardless of your claim, true or false, if you fill up someone else’s timeline with your content, it has a right to be critiqued and questioned. It’s why I believe posts that say “this topic is not up for debate and all comments who disagree will be deleted” are in poor taste. It’s a bit like standing on a street corner and shouting, “Donald Trump is a racist” or “Donald Trump is the greatest” and following this up with, “But I will not tolerate any discussion.”
12. Know your battles.
Most battles aren’t worth the fight, but some are. Know where the line is for you. Personally, this is where leaning into a Kingdom-minded perspective of the world is essential. When my heart is consumed with being about God’s business, it becomes much more difficult to fight every battle.
13. Check your sources.
Seriously. Please. Babylon Bee and The Onion are a great place to start! (My spiritual gift is sarcasm)
14. Find a friend to keep you accountable.
For me, this is my pastor. I sent him a note some time back and asked him to send me a text or give me a call if he ever saw me get out of line on social media. Why him? A) Because I know he will and B) I need other voices in my life. Sometimes we think our tone is gracious when actually it is condescending or overly sarcastic. How else can you know unless someone tells you?
Why am I such a renowned expert on this subject? Because I have made every one of these mistakes many times, and probably will make the odd mistake every ten years (nine to be conservative) or so in the future.
I’m flawed. I need grace. But this is the way I want to live and interact.