Using Social Media to Punish Each Other

21 Dec

Matthew 5:23, 24:  “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;  Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”

Those two simple verses were written centuries before the advent of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, texting, and the iCloud.

They were written soon after the Advent of Jesus Christ, Whose birth we celebrate within a week and Who came to give us abundant life, now and in our future.

Social media keeps getting more sophisticated.  With each upgrade, we are presented with more choices about what we will share and with whom.

Facebook has become a system under which we can share different thoughts with different groups, as well as immediately repost our Twitter and blog entries, without any added effort on our part.

 

The newest innovation in Facebook is to be able to separate your friends into “circles” from first degree friends to second, third, or fourth degree friends (to give rough categories).  There are  those who get to hear every thought we ever have and various other groups all the way to those who only get to share the jokes we are reposting (those are rough examples, but you get my drift . . .).  I think Facebook got the idea from Google Plus, where it was part of the original launch of the application.

The sophistication of Facebook can lead to it being used as a tool for communication of our displeasure with someone when we feel we have been offended.  

If we are very angry, we can delete and block that person.

If we are just angry, we can delete the person.

If we are only a bit angry, we can move the person from a relationship of “first degree friend” to “second degree friend” or from “second degree friend” to “third degree friend.”  

The issue arises when we overlook the simplicity of the above two verses, in effect for over 2000 years, to use the complexities of man’s latest innovations.  

Jesus told us what to do when we are offended.  Jesus also told us what to do when we think we may have offended another person.  As one of my former pastors used to say, He presented the teaching in such a way that the person offended and the person who did the offending should meet halfway between their homes, anxious for reconciliation.  

Jesus didn’t give the escape clauses we sometimes apply to those verses.  In fact, He didn’t give us any escape clauses in them.   

He didn’t say that they only apply to laypersons, because it is hard for a staffmember to communicate a problem to a pastor without fearing for his or her job.  

He also didn’t say that they only apply to close friends and that we are allowed to dismiss everybody else in the body of Christ by way of social media (I guess Jesus would have had to say “when it is eventually invented . . .”  Ha, ha!).  In other words, in Jesus’ time, when it was impossible to delete someone on social media, that would have been the difference between telling someone something to his face or sending him word via a third person.

It has never stopped being a cold act to not deliver news to another person ourselves.  If her action bothered us enough that we would move her from being a “second degree friend” to a “third degree” friend on Facebook, her action must have bothered us enough to go to her in person.  

The only other option Jesus gives us is to cover that action that offended us with love and do nothing about it whatsoever.

When we use social media to make statements to people and to deliver news to people that we will not present in person, we say something about how much we value our own comfort.  And about how much we devalue that other person.

And, on the other hand, when we respond to being deleted or blocked by mounting a public ad campaign against that other person instead of going to him privately, we also devalue a blood-bought brother in Christ.  It works both ways.

In fact, if I delete a person today because I think he is untrustworthy, and he is talking about me behind my back by tomorrow, he actually proved my point, didn’t he?  But we are both losers in that scenario.  How much better it is for two blood-bought children of God to get together and sort out their issues privately.  

I have watched social media be used to punish perceived enemies (and friends who slip up) for over a year now and it is time to say something.  

I promise those folks who are on my social media, as uncomfortable as we both may feel doing something in person, if I am ever angry enough to delete you or to move you to a position where you can’t see some of my posts you have been able to see before, I will tell you about it.  Okay? 

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