Have you ever read a social media post that surprised you? Not only for what it said but because of who posted it? Did it change the way you thought of that person? Maybe the images, language, or message was contrary to who you thought the person was. Whether we like it or not, what we see as entertaining, what stands we take, the jokes we share and the language we use, speaks to who we are.
Our friends may not be the only ones looking. Many businesses now say they review social media posts before hiring applicants. If they don’t like what they see, you probably won’t be considered for the job. Don’t be too quick to think they can’t see your posts either. Just because your page isn’t public does not mean you are necessarily in the clear. Per Forbes writer Kashmir Hill: “The reddest flags for most employers seem to be drugs, drinking, badmouthing former employers, and lying about one's qualifications. But there's another good reason for checking out a candidate's Facebook page before inviting them in for an interview: it may be a fairly accurate reflection of how good they'll be at the job” (“Facebook Can Tell You if a Person Is Worth Hiring,” March 5, 2012).
Everything we put on the Internet is viewed by a variety of people, and we need to consider that. How many times have you seen someone share a meme or video and then state something like, “This is great, but excuse the language”? Sometimes, people don’t even make excuses and they just post whatever they like without thought. It may contain swearing, violence, strong opinions, hate, or anything that is opposite to who they represent themselves to be. For instance, if I say I am a forgiving and loving person, but then go online and post angry, hateful and inflammatory things, how will others view me? Will they still think I am loving and forgiving? Probably not.
Consider who you are called to be
As Christians, we are to be lights to the world (Matthew 5:14, see also Acts 13:47). If we are lights, how does it look if we use social media to slam our friends and family, talk about our drunken evening, tell dirty jokes, or speak evil of leaders? (Acts 23:5). How will people view us if we are posting our horoscopes, or applaud when something horrible happens to another human being? Are we posting without much thought or because someone else we know posted something? Others are watching and learning about us by what they see.
We can change how we do things if we consider some of the following.
1. Contemplate your post—Read through and think about whether your words or what you “share” is something that reflects who you are. If it is not who you would like to be viewed as, don’t post it (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
2. What would Jesus do?—It’s a thrown-about statement, but it is valid. We are to emulate Jesus Christ. Would Jesus say what you are saying? If not, is it something you want to post? (Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:6).
3. What would Mom think?—I’ve always said if you can go without swearing in front of your parents, you can do it all the time. Make no excuses for acting poorly on the Web. If Mom couldn’t handle seeing or hearing it, then it’s not worthy of posting.
4. Love your neighbor—It’s difficult to post hateful things about anyone or any group if we are loving them. Consider posting something helpful instead of hateful. If you dislike the way a person or people are acting then try offering helpful suggestions rather than attacking. We should also love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).
5. Make them feel good—What do you like to see on social media? Does it make you feel good to see a lot of negativity or do you like to laugh and smile more? While we do need to occasionally ask for prayers, or notify people of things that aren’t positive, most of our posts should make people feel good or stop and think.
6. Pray—It’s not something you might think about. If we ask God to guide our thoughts and actions throughout the day, it will include what we think about posting.
7. Type it out—Sometimes, when we get riled, our fingers speed across the keyboard, and we hit enter. What if we type, read through and then hit delete instead? Get the feelings out, and then disregard them.
We can all benefit from these steps. Every change we make in our own behavior helps us to grow (Psalms 92:12). We all are guilty of reactionary responses or getting caught up in the moment or cause. We cannot walk the path of everyone else (Psalms 119:1-3; Proverbs 1:15). We need to be more than followers of Christ; we must act as His disciples.