Social media is too often used as an avenue to shame, dishonor and ridicule people – even by Christians.
Our kids deserve better examples from us of what it means to be in this world but not of it.
As I scrolled down through my Facebook feed recently, my heart broke as I saw my timeline filled with posts from Christian friends using this platform as a way to express passive-aggressive (and sometimes downright aggressive) disapproval of other people.
It appears that we feel like social media is an acceptable place to be rude, snarky, sarcastic and just plain mean to each other.
I’m not targeting anyone in particular, but rather noting a troubling trend that I’ve observed.
I’ve seen things shared multiple times that do not reflect the love of Christ, the fellowship of his sufferings and the testimony of his grace – the things we are supposed to be communicating with the world.
There are better ways, much more productive ways, of channeling disapproval.
For example, if we feel the youth of today are an immodest, misbehaving, selfish, uneducated generation, let’s not post a meme about it. Let’s find a way to serve them.
Become a mentor. Be part of their community. Local churches need children and youth volunteers. Use that as the platform for change by living a life of true love and sacrifice and modeling how to live productive and selfless lives that honor others.
A million memes on Facebook with a snarky comment about how kids can “whip” and “nae-nae” but can’t say the Lord’s Prayer will do absolutely nothing but hurt them and others.
Instead, do something. Say the Lord’s Prayer for them and then with them as you lead them in love.
In the same way, if we feel that a political party is wrong about something, let’s recognize that calling them names on Facebook, making fun of their educational level, lashing out at them in sarcastic and hateful ways, and creating an atmosphere that supports violence and division will only lead to no good, for us or them.
If we really care that much about a party or candidate, we can share why without having to denigrate others at the same time.
We can spend more time on what we consider good and less time using social media to rail against others in rude and inconsiderate ways about what we think is bad.
Before posting, ask yourself, “Would I like someone to say this about me?” If you wouldn’t, then don’t post it.
Don’t call people names (that would stop half the posts I’ve seen right there). Don’t undermine people’s character because they don’t agree with you. Address issues without attacking people.
If we are unhappy with legitimate social issues in society – things that range from concerns about education to society’s addiction to technology – let’s actively do something about it.
We have influence on actual people – children and youth that are in our churches, our communities, our world. Befriend them. Build a relationship with them.
Let’s bring them the love of Jesus and let our lives model for them what it is to live in the world and not of it.
Then when we share our concerns, they may actually be heard, rather than just cause a reaction of shame or anger as social media memes tend to do.
My daughter will turn 13 this year. She will be old enough for a Facebook account. And I will let her have one because I think I’ve raised her with some character tools that will help her use social media in a healthy way.
But I would never allow her to use social media as a place to make rude or snarky comments about her friends.
So why do so many believe it’s OK to do that to strangers, youth, parents, Democrats, Republicans or random people that we’ve never met?
If shaming is the only tool in our social media belt, we should take some time to really consider what it is that we believe about God, his love for the world and all the people in it, and then think about how we can make lasting changes by serving others rather than shaming them.
I understand that might mean we post some pretty straightforward and thoughtful things on Facebook that share our heart in loving and honorable ways.
It might mean we take a direct stand on some issues because that’s what we feel called to do.
But let’s do it with a heart of love and use the tools of grace and humility rather than the weapons of shame and condemnation.
And let’s show our kids that they can do the same when it’s their turn.
Christina Embree is director of children and family ministries at Nicholasville United Methodist Church near Lexington, Kentucky. A longer version of this article first appeared on her website, Refocus Ministry, and is used with permission. You can follow her on Twitter @EmbreeChristina.
A church planter with Plowshares Brethren in Christ in Lexington, Kentucky, she is a graduate of Wesley Seminary with a Master of Arts degree in ministry focusing on family, youth and children’s ministry.