We’ve all been faced with those opportunities:
Someone we know has posted a controversial meme.
Or maybe it’s a seemingly racist or hateful pic on their Story. Attached an extremist “article” or deepfake-like video that clearly lacked credibility.
You ask yourself, “Do I comment and start another Facebook-Feud? (Or perhaps a Snap-Battle/Twitter-Tango/Insta-Idk, etc.)
Or do I technologically bight my lip and just keep scrolling? (Think Dory.)
A Samaritan and a Jew
In Luke’s account of the life of Jesus, the author describes a time when Jesus addressed a similar scenario. Once again, Jesus was being hounded by some religious leaders who were searching for Tweet-worthy bait that would go viral or even make Buzzfeed’s Trending category.
Luke narrates that the expert of religious law sought to “test Jesus” asking Him, “Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?”
Jesus knows his antics. This isn’t the first smart-Alac he’s encountered, nor will it be the last. He defers to the Old Testament writings, questioning, “What does the law of Moses say?”
The religious expert correctly responds by essentially saying love God and love your neighbor better than you love yourself.
After Jesus affirms his answer, the religious leader goes down swinging, questioning Jesus one last time, “But who really is my neighbor?”
Jesus goes on to tell a story about a man who is now known as the Good Samaritan, a man that portrays who Jesus ultimately would be to humanity: a lover of His enemies, those who were dead-set against Him and everything He stood for. This Good Samaritan placed his enemies before Himself in His finances, time, reputation, and personal reservations among others. Picture an African-American man helping an injured leader of the KKK during the ’60’s. This man disregarded the cultural norms of His day and the potential anger he had towards this person for the sake of his enemy’s well-being as a human being.
So what does this have to do with social media?
Loving the Tweeter Next Door
Loving our neighbor better than we love ourselves is difficult. After working fifty hour work weeks or going to school full-time while juggling family or dating relationships, a budget, groceries, bills, health, and a never-ending queue on Netflix, it’s easy to forget to pay a bill let alone love our neighbors.
Even more so, social media poses an imaginary divide between us and our neighbors. For some reason, we seem to see the people we talk with on Instagram and Snapchat not as the human beings on their phones or computers. Instead, there is this digital barrier between us, between our screens and theirs, that dehumanizes those said people.
This is where our problem lies.
As soon as we begin to look at someone else as less than ourselves, as less than human, we are able to justify treating them as such.
As someone other than our neighbor.
As someone other than a person Jesus told us to love better than ourselves.
Sometimes I wonder: if Jesus would’ve came to earth in the 21st century instead of the 1st century, how would He have answered that same religious leader’s question? How would He say the great commandments, namely loving God and loving our neighbors, should affect the way we interact with other people on social media?
While I’m still thinking through what this can look like on a practical level, here are some tips to better love your social media neighbor:
- Weigh the cost. Consider whether it’s even worthy of a response. In a month, six months, or even in a year, is the content of this post really going to matter? Is the post or person I’m considering confronting going to have a lot of negative impact on those who are viewing it? If so, do I respond in a public post to them so that everyone may see? Or do I write them a loving message or text? Or do I even go so far as to call them and set up a time to talk in person with them?
- Wait to respond. If I find myself doubting whether or not I should respond to a post, I type up a potential draft, save it, and walk away for awhile. Whether it be an hour or a day, I know I need to be sure about what I’m about to post. I can’t let my emotions be the main influence of my actions especially when I’m heated.
- Ask someone else. Find someone that you trust to be honest with you (not your gossip girls but someone more like your spiritual leader, mentor, or parent). Ask them to look over what you’re considering posting and to honestly share if they think it’s wise and beneficial. More often than not, I ask my wife to look over a potentially controversial blog post or comment, not because I simply don’t want to offend someone—sometimes that’s a byproduct of speaking the truth in love—but because I want to ensure that what I’m saying is wise, beneficial for the person/s I’m engaging with, and has God’s kingdom in mind.