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5 Truths About Social Media You Absolutely Cannot Avoid

On Friday, June 26, 2015, moments after the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, I sat back and watched Facebook and Twitter explode. Less than a month prior, Bruce Jenner’s transgender transformation into his pseudonym, “Caitlyn,” sent shockwaves across the web (on that note, he’s still—and will always be—a man). Two months prior, hundreds of Baltimore citizens protested outside the Western District police station over Freddie Gray’s injuries he sustained during arrest while millions more rioted across the terrain of the Interwebs. And shortly before that time, “DeflateGate” rattled the sports world with allegations of cheating by famed athlete Tom Brady.

Digital Soapboxes

Suffice to say that no matter how trivial, tainted, or tragic the issue, social media facilitates an opportunity for chest-beating, opinion-wielding, “truth”-slinging voices to be shouted from atop a digital soapbox. On it, we throw proverbial stones, take sides, raise banners, dethrone leaders and exalt others, all while giving Rachael Ray a run for her money with our #foodie posts.

Adding to the mix, despite the issue, debate, or status update, our sense of gratification and genuine contribution as a society has become enmeshed in the emotional payoff of retweets, likes, favorites, tantalizing debates, shares, and comments. Aren’t we allowed to speak our opinion freely? Of course. Shouldn’t we speak unashamedly about our moral and ethical convictions? Certainly. As Christians, shouldn’t we fearlessly defend our faith as salt and light in the world? Most definitely. Shouldn’t we engage with our peers and spur each other on to enlightened thinking? Indeed.

So then…is it wrong? No.

Wisdom for the Ages (and for the masses)

It just is. But that’s precisely why using wisdom, valuing relationship, and assessing the possible outcome of our digital diatribes (whatever the topic may be) trumps right, wrong, or even the entertainment value had in debate.

I can hear some of you responding, “Chris, you’re over-thinking this. I’m just having fun. My day goes on after I post. It doesn’t really matter. Who cares?” That’s totally fine! But no matter your opinion about this issue, there are five truths about social media you and I absolutely cannot avoid and should consider on a regular basis as we interact with one another, because after all, there are real people behind those profile pictures.

Five Unavoidable Truths About Social Media

1.) It’s easy to sit behind the screen and assert our thoughts (whether good, bad, right, wrong, ignorant, or studied) without considering the importance of rapport and relationship. As such, it’s easy to say things that are completely misunderstood, misconstrued, and blown out of proportion. In fact, we often have the confidence to say things on the screen that we’d never say in the context of relationship.

2.) It’s quite difficult to perceive and understand emotion and intention in black and white. Consider these two examples:

“What’s going through your mind?”

The first question might be perceived as assertive and confrontational because of the use of all caps. The second question, on the other hand, reads like a simple question.

3.) Social media posts become a rallying point for shared opinion. As a result, sides are taken, and often, our partisan cravings to be “right” are satisfied. To that, the lines between “truth” and “being right” are blurred.

4.) It becomes an energy-sucking outlet for perceived “change” when in fact, it’s a smoke screen; a distraction. But truthfully, real cultural transformation doesn’t happen on the screen. True cultural transformation happens on the street, in relationships, and like the prophet Daniel in the Bible, by serving a humanistic, self-serving culture with excellence and high character.

5.) We get distracted by the chaos. The trouble for a lot of millennials is that social media has become the primary source of news, when in fact it’s nothing more than unsubstantiated media and disproportionate opinion. In turn, too many Christians have been caught-up in the spirit of the age and have forgotten who they are as “salt and light.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love social media and use it regularly. But in the long-run, I want to be known by what I’m for, not by what I’m against. I want to respond to life, not react. I don’t simply want to talk about change. I want to be an author of change. And instead of feeding chaos, I want to feed courage.

I believe you want the same.