Like me, do you have moments when you're tempted to lash out rather than live out love in social media? We get triggered - but to what end? Read on as friend Alexandra Kuykendall directs us to whatever is excellent.
Grace in Social Media By Alexandra Kuykendall
I sat at my keyboard, my fingers rapidly pecking out my response. I should have known through the force of each punch of the key that the energy I was feeling around this conversation was not positive (slight understatement). The person on the other side of the screen had not only offended my personal stance on the issue of the day, she had also dismissed every faithful woman I knew that believed as I did. I couldn't just let the comment go. I needed to stand up for my people!
Not surprisingly my response was less than gracious. I went from defense mode to attack mode. So, as I've done many times before, I deleted the comment before I hit publish.
The question I often ask myself in those moments is, Am I conveying God's goodness through my comment or post? Another framework to consider is Paul's direction to the Church in Philippi:
"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." -Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
If you're feeling a disconnect between your tone in social media interactions and what you want to convey, consider the following:
Walk away. If you can't control your emotions in that moment and you feel that "I'm going to show them" feeling rise up in your chest, put the phone down or close your computer and do not comment. Consider a 24-hour period where you step away from the conversation. Saying things out of anger or frustration usually isn't productive.
Write it out somewhere else. Often the exchange of ideas on social media touches a nerve we weren't even aware was there. We have feelings and thoughts on a subject that we haven't totally thought through but we need to get our words out. Great! Maybe the best place to write those words is in a journal, a Word document, or the Notes app on your phone. Once written, we may be better able to articulate how we feel and why in a more public space. Or the words might be just for us, to clarify our feelings.
Make a commitment to your tone. Having some type of personal litmus test will help you discern where the line is when approaching a topic. With a commitment to only say encouraging things, you simply ask yourself, "Is this encouraging?" Your answer will come pretty quickly.
Be mindful of who you follow. As with anything in life, what we consume impacts what we put out. If we tend to follow (or be friends with depending on the platform) people who have a nasty tone, we will unconsciously normalize that behavior. We should certainly follow people who think differently than we do, hold different worldviews, but they should be able to convey their ideas with civility and kindness.
Change platforms. Different social media platforms lend themselves to different types of interaction. I use Twitter for sharing news and ideas (often with people I don't actually know), Facebook is my place to tell real life friends and readers what we're up to. Instagram tends to have a kinder, gentler tone. Being nasty there is like being nasty on Pinterest. It doesn't feel right. If you need to be "social", but are tired of the arguments, perhaps a change in platform will help.
Delete past posts or comments. If after reflection you decide you want to make a change in what and how you put something into the social world, it is okay to go back and delete things that do not reflect what you currently want to convey. I give you full permission to change for the better. You are not being disingenuous by taking things down, you are choosing to improve and I think that movement also honors God.
Learning to show grace in social media is a process, often one of responding more slowly and thoughtfully, and showing restraint. However, sometimes we may need to speak courageously and not stay silent, but to exercise a prophetic voice. Hopefully in a way that points people graciously toward truth with all the previously-mentioned qualities. This is oh-so-complicated in real life, face-to-face and online!
We have agency in how we use social media. The free will God grants us extends beyond our face-to-face relationships into how we respond in the virtual world. If you want to do better in this area you can, and you will be more likely to leave the aroma of Christ if you center on grace and kindness.
A trusted voice for Christian women, Alexandra Kuykendall speaks on issues of how faith impacts everyday life. She is the co-founder of The Open Door Sisterhood, a community of women working to be world changers for good right where they are. She co-hosts a podcast and retreat under the same name. Alex has authored four books: Loving My Actual Life, Loving My Actual Christmas, The Artist's Daughter: A Memoir, and her newest Loving My Actual Neighbor. Alex lives in the shadows of downtown Denver with her husband Derek and their four daughters. You can connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.