How can we effectively use social media as a good and even edifying experience for all involved?
I started thinking seriously about this topic about fifteen years ago when working for a website. At that time forums and message boards were popular and I found it interesting how posts could both bring people and communities together or pull them apart so easily depending on what was said.
Everyone seeing what we post is a real person. Sometimes we forget that since we don't have someone actually sitting in front of us or talking to us on the phone. Social media is relationship based.
We need to treat social media just as we would communication with another person. It is communication with another person, just through a specific medium. A healthy person looking for healthy relationships can create healthy interactions using social media just as in-person.
Typically social media posts fall into one of four categories: funny/fun, edifying, informational and attention seeking. For instance someone may post a joke, post an encouraging note to a friend, post a link to a blog (like this one?) or post something along the lines of, "I'm so lonely tonight". The first three can and often are used for good, healthy purposes. The last, attention seeking, should always be avoided.
My best advice for how to think through good practices for using social media comes from Henry Cloud and John Townsend from their book, Safe People, even though the book doesn't touch on social media at all.
Before you post or respond to something on social media ask yourself:
- Does this make me a better person?
- Does it bring me closer to others?
- Does it bring me closer to God?
- Is this being done out of love or brokenness?
If any of your answers are in the negative you should think hard about what you post. With these guidelines opinions and even critiques can still be posted. Just think through the way in which you do it. It doesn't mean everything has to be lovey-dovey. It means thinking through the end-reader response and your intentions.
If you want more advice from Cloud and Townsend visit their website at www.cloudtownsend.com. They focus on creating healthy boundaries in relationships.