So I was on Facebook…

9 Jan

The rules of social media are vague at best, but committing a faux pas can mean losing or disturbing relationships. Yet I feel that it is within my rights (and also to some degree part of my Christian duty) to speak up and make the case for Christianity using these platforms. One of the most comprehensive lists of how to care for your friends via social media that I’ve seen can be found at the Reasons for God blog, and is worth a read. In my next two posts I’m going to focus on two aspects of this broad topic: how to engage others in “their space” and what to promote in “your space.” I’m using these terms to mean their wall/pictures/pages vs. your wall/pictures/pages. Tweeting a link to a blog is very different to posting it directly onto someone else’s page, and there is an appropriate time to do each.

When considering how to engage someone in their space, it’s worth considering if you should even proceed. For me, I need to know (1) that I have the relational capital to disagree with this person in public without hurting our relationship, (2) that a public challenge will not offend or shame my friend, (3) that the issue is worth tackling in a public forum, and (4) what I post is logical, convincing and hopefully novel.

Don't cause your friends stress because you don't know how to act online.

Don’t cause your friends stress because you don’t know how to act online.

The general guidelines for engaging in spiritual conversations should enable you to engage folks without collateral damage. Some of the most helpful are being nice, looking for areas of agreement, and if possible using questions rather than statements to disagree. If you’re unsure about 1 or 2 above then proceed with a direct message or (gasp!) a real life conversation. The third issue above is never going to be airtight. I tend to think the closer the issue is to Jesus then the more necessary it is for me to lend my voice. For example, current hot button political issues aren’t something I’d respond to but someone claiming Jesus never lived would elicit a reply from me. (I do believe Christians should take a reasoned stance on the political issues – because they’re MORAL issues as well – but don’t think arguing in circles on Facebook will help turn the cultural tide). Also, I like to consider if the person was looking for a conversation out of it. I made a mistake once by commenting on a friends post (she had said “look at this, it’s awesome!”) and she had clearly not been looking for any feedback other than NEAT-O!

I was recently moved to send a direct message to an acquaintance after a mini-rant over some local pastors who had come to his door one morning (I’d have a mini-rant too if awoken on my day off). He mentioned that the Bible was written by illiterate tribesmen (I used his wall to point out the oxymoron) and messaged him about the bigger issue, which was a statement that we (humans) should “harm no one.” I agree with the sentiment but find no potential grounding for such a claim within atheism and so invited him to have a conversation about moral ontology. He agreed and I’m excited to see where it goes.

In all, social media is a powerful tool and we ought to be using it for kingdom purposes in addition to stalking our exes and posting pictures of food. Consider your relationships carefully and make your approach as agreeable as possible in order to preserve them, but don’t shy away from questioning information because you never know who might be intrigued by the different perspective.

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3 Responses to “So I was on Facebook…”

  1. kstedman January 9, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    Good thoughts here. The best conversation I’ve ever had about abortion was when a friend on Facebook used her wall to criticize a new policy that I thought was obviously strong. I sent her a message asking politely for her to explain herself, and we had an awesome exchange; I think it was probably the first time I really started to understand her perspective.

  2. amphomma January 9, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    This is thoughtful. I go back and forth, wondering when to speak up and when to hold back. I want people to know what I believe, but I also want to do it in an appropriate and respectful way. Face to face encounters are pretty rare these days with my little one at home, but I agree that that is an ideal way to communicate.

    I also agree that no one usually changes his or her mind about a hot political or spiritual issue following a heated discussion via social media. I speak up when someone is being disrespectful to God; I stay out when the opinions are all over the place and I can tell no one wants to have an open mind.

    It is hard, because I see the hurts and needs around me, and want to speak earnestly with my friends. Praying for wisdom!!

    –Alison

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Some objections are better than others… | What do I say to that? - March 18, 2013

    […] written before about engaging folks through social media – this time I’d like to break down a series of interactions I had last week. It started when a […]

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