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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Out of the overflow of the heart a man posts: Social Media Etiquette

During Sunday's worship Service we applied some Proverbs to the use of etiquette toward strangers and acquaintances. 

I'm going to share something that you might not think a big deal but I remember it and am still slightly embarrassed by it. It was a Facebook comment I made about four years ago. A couple was posting love-grams back and forth on their Facebook walls. I didn't quite say, "Get a room" (after all it was later in the evening, they were sitting next to each other and so did, in fact, "have a room"), but instead typed out: "Isn't he sitting right next to you? Post-it-Note instead?" I was trying to be witty and cute, or was I? The next morning I looked into my heart and thought: I'm probably a little jealous, my marriage isn't right now full of "sweet-nothings" like notes and posts and that's my issue not theirsThis is a couple whom I love dearly, serve the church faithfully, and are just people we really enjoy being around. A few days later I would apologize face-to-face. 

Cat posts are still care-free, all other posts require care
Social media like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter are now firmly entrenched among the go-to venues of modern communication, long since supplanting even the phone call. Just last year I bought a phone second hand and was told by others they have a hard time hearing me if I'm not using the speaker or an earpiece - but it didn't cause me to run back for a refund. I always keep an earpiece nearby because some communications require hearing a person's voice but the reality is I'm going to be using WhatsApp, text or email far more often. The entrenchment of social media and text in our lives and the degree to which it occupies a high percentage of our communications requires, then, that we cease treating what we communicate as if its "secondary" communication. What you post is not just another "throwaway" online comment, it must be taken seriously because now many of us use these modes of communication primarily. Cat photos still don't require much, but all the comments following require at least some level of care. It matters - not only to show respect and concern for others but for yourself as a reflection of what's in your heart. 

Here are some tips for displaying Social Media Etiquette
1. Don't go online to feel better, only go online to feel even better. This tip is a combination of words of wisdom I once heard about consuming alcohol and what Jesus said in Matthew 12:34-37 - a strange combination to be sure. I once heard some secular advice about the consumption of alcohol: Don't drink to feel better, only drink to feel even better. The point being that using alcohol as a "refuge" or "comfort" to give you the lift you need is dangerous indeed! So is social media. You may be feeling down or just in need of a lift, so it's tempting to tap that Facebook or Instagram App and get your fix but your heart and fingers remain unstable, craving something that another's "best-of" life or their response to your comments cannot give you. So how then might we feel better? Jesus says the trouble really starts in the heart (Matthew 12:34-37). When we cheer our hearts with the good news - Jesus' unshakeable love for us and who we are as a result - the overflow will be a celebration of God and neighbor online with stable fingers that type nothing short of celebratory and encouraging words. Don't go online to feel better, first apply the good news to your heart and then communication will prove even better. 

2. Resist engaging in social media counseling. Jesus clear pattern was to go to a brother and talk with him alone (Matthew 18:15-17). If they are far away, choose a private message or email. Even then it might be wiser to either let it go or ask if you can have a video/audio chat over Facebook or WhatsApp. When people can hear and/or see you, they can also hear your empathy and see on your face an expression of genuine concern.

3. Use Emojis. Speaking of facial expressions, communication through online media along with email can be  because you can't see a persons facial expressions and intonations. I can't believe I'm saying this publicly for all three of you to read, but I would heartily recommend the use of emojis. For example, someone asks you to do something with them and you just type back "Later" that can be construed as abrupt, putting me off, no intention to actually get back with me but if you say "Later" and include a smiley face and party popper it communicates - I need to hold off but I want to talk about this, do
something with you, and "it's going to be awesome." People overdo it for certain. I'm not sure why I get emoji'd a Looney Tunes Bomb and a Spanish Dancing Girl, but at least I know the person's mood as they write it and it's not: Annoyed, Disinterested, or Put off. So some men (and women too) are going to find my counsel vile because they feel emojis are beneath them. Let me exhort you: Be released to use an emoji! They may help prevent one person a week from misunderstanding your communication. If you don't like the ones out there, you can submit one to the Official Unicode Consortium (yes, the official keepers of the emoji).

4. Take a moment to Evaluate your posts & heart. Pastor Jarrid (that's not misspelled) Wilson suggests that 1 Timothy 3 paints an picture of godly leadership as it pertains to the life of the Christian. He says, "If any of us aspire to lead others (which we all should), we must take the contents of 1 Timothy to heart and evaluate our lives from the inside our. I think we should do the same for our social media posts."  What do your posts say about your heart?

  • Are your posts above reproach? (1 Timothy 3:2)
  • Are your posts nonviolent and non-confrontational? (1 Timothy 3:3)
  • Are your posts managed well and full of respect?  (1 Timothy 3:4)
  • Are your posts put above time with God, or family? (1 Timothy 3:5)
  • Are your posts humble? (1 Timothy 3:6)
  • Are your posts respected, and do they portray a good name for Christians? (1 Timothy 3:7)
  • Are your posts sincere? (1 Timothy 3:8)
  • Are your posts reflecting your trust in God's truth?  (1 Timothy 3:9).

Out of the overflow of the heart a man posts (Luke 6:45).