A few months ago I blundered into the previously foreign country known as social media. Specifically, I opened a Facebook account. I hadn’t intended to, but I wanted to post a comment on a blog and the only way that I could do that was via a Facebook account. So I followed the simple instructions and voila: I now had a Facebook account.
The reactions from my family and friends to this seemingly unobtrusive act ranged from the incredulous to the suspicious. Most were shocked that I was now-finally-on Facebook, while a few thought that someone had hacked my identity and set up a spoof account. Nevertheless, I began browsing this brave new world, and in no time-with almost no effort of my own-had over 100 friends. Huh; who knew?
I wonder if the speed and ease with which we acquire “friends” on social media deceives us into thinking that social interaction is that simple. I wonder if technological capabilities, as amazing and useful as they are, sometimes blind us to the difficulties but necessity of ordinary human interaction; or worse, if they serve as a substitute for personal interaction. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) You can’t sharpen iron without touching it.
Some of the comments I read on blogs, on Facebook, on other web sites give me pause. I wonder if posters would take the positions that they do, or express those opinions with such imperiousness and at times vitriol, if they were having the conversation face-to-face. I wonder if typing into a computer or a cell phone desensitizes us to the human being(s) on the other end of our missives. Can we disagree without being disagreeable? “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)
I think particularly of a phrase that I have seen on social media, and now hear spoken as well: haters gotta hate. That expression really bugs me, which I suppose makes me a “hater” to those who use those words. First, someone who disagrees with you does not perforce hate you; he or she simply disagrees with your opinion. Sometimes a person may actually disagree out of love; see, for example, Galatians 2:11-14, where Paul talks of confronting Peter. Secondly, calling anyone who disagrees with you a “hater” betrays an arrogance in your attitude, that your position cannot be refuted, so therefore those who oppose must necessarily resort to an ad hominem attack on you. Finally, calling a respondent (are you even thinking of him or her as a person?) a “hater” lowers the level of conversation, and makes the possibility for constructive dialogue unlikely.
As Christians, we must be faithful witnesses on social media. Dieters have an expression: a moment on the lips, forever on the hips. I suggest similar cautions for our social media posting: post in a rage, and it’s always on the page; if you stop and edit, it’s to your credit. May we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), neglecting neither truth nor love, and may we always be ready to give the reason for the hope we have, yet with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
And hey, keep those funny memes and cute pictures of your kids coming, too. 🙂
Steve Hoogerhyde is a Ruling Elder at GRC.