Is Social Media Worth the Brain Damage? 4 tips and 4 things to avoid

 In Blog, Communication

There are a few places that I try to avoid if at all possible. I never go to Walmart on Black Friday. If a snowstorm is forecast for tomorrow, I avoid the grocery store. I refuse to visit New Orleans in early February and I try to avoid social media during election season. What do all of these things have in common? Each is a place where otherwise normal people temporarily lose their minds, throw caution to the wind and can become downright destructive to themselves and others.

Unfortunately, there are times just before the prophesied snowmageddon that you need milk or eggs and you have to face the lunatics preparing for end times because of the incoming inch and a half of snow. Even more disheartening is election season.  As much as I’d like to, I don’t abandon social media and crawl into a technological hole. Social media is how people connect even if it is sometimes in antisocial ways. People on social media often say and do things that they never would if they were interacting in person. This split personality is something that we have all seen. Here are a few of the common personas that I have seen normal people ‘put on’ while interacting online.

Captain Sunshine

Social media allows us to share what’s happening in our life with others. We all have a tendency to ‘put our best foot forward’ but some of us take that to extremes. Mr. Sunshine is your friend that, from the digital world looking in, lives the perfect life. 2.5 beautiful and smart children who never fight, always smile, and whose meals look like they were prepared by a gourmet chef. The problem is, you actually know them. Their life, like all of ours, is a mixed bag of joy and sadness, ease, and hardship, and to be honest, sometimes the kids eat Kraft Mac N Cheese and hotdogs cause that’s all we can pull off that night. That’s reality. Resist the temptation to paint an idyllic picture of your life on social media. Transparency is good for your soul and helps the rest of us who are holding it together by a string to not be discouraged as well.

Queen of Drama

The other end of the spectrum is the King and Queen of Drama. These folks are just looking for a pot to stir. We all have bad days. And like we said, transparency is a good thing. But you CAN have too much of a good thing. Imagine if Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh had a twitter feed? That’s who we’re talking about. Negativity can be contagious and sharing how the world is out to get you isn’t the kind of attention you are looking for. A good rule of thumb is this: before you share something on social media, take a break, move on to the next thing in your day and if an hour or so from now you still feel like sharing it, go for it. Sometimes we just need to let things breathe first.

The Political Animal

I get it. I really do. There are strongly held beliefs that people have on real issues that have a significant impact on lives. Social media is a fine place to express your support for someone, a cause, or concern over an issue. Here is the one thing that comes from getting into a political argument with someone on facebook who hates your candidate and who you think is crazy to see the world the way they do: NOTHING. In fairness, I think we do need more intelligent, dignified conversation in a public space about things that matter. Those conversations rarely start by sharing how crazy, stupid, and worthless someone is for holding a belief that is different than yours. If you can’t begin with understanding, acknowledge that reasonable and good people could disagree with you on the topic, and have the conversation in person.

Mr. Meme

I love memes. Some of them are super funny. The reason they work is that they often take a complex issue and reduce it down to a simplistic idea. At their core, they show absurdity. The problem with them is that they can be pretty offensive. We have a rule in our house; no jokes at other’s expense. This is a good rule for posting memes. If all else fails, ask yourself, what would Jesus meme? (not to be confused with what would Jesus do for a klondike bar)

When you go to social media, don’t be like these guys. Here are a few things that you can do as a church leader to be a positive influence on social media:

Be Yourself

Set the agenda aside and be you. Hopefully, the people who are your ‘friends’ are your friends. If so, they already like you as you are. Be transparent and vulnerable. Interact with people like they are sitting across the table from you and you are looking them in the eye.

Protect people’s dignity

Social media gives us a false sense of anonymity. That’s why people are often crueler there than in person. No one did this better than Jesus. (Ok, so not on Facebook, but in person). The way that he treated the woman being stoned showed how much he cared about her dignity. Gossip, criticism, and judgment are the fuel that many social media channels run on. Don’t get sucked in

Respond to people

People post things because they want engagement. Like the post, drop a note, and let people know that they matter. It is really easy to scroll through your feed and just be a social media voyeur. Take the time to wish someone happy birthday or congratulate them on the promotion.

Be uplifting

The world can be a dark and troubling place. There are lots of things we fear, worry about and lose sleep over. No need to add to that cycle. When you find something positive, share it. Sometimes it may be as silly as a mother wearing a Chewbacca mask in her car, but it makes tons of people’s day. Even though the world is tough, there are so many beautiful things that go unnoticed. Let’s help people see human’s capacity for kindness and the beauty of creation. I think we could all do with a bit more of that.

How are you using social media to bring life and encouragement to people in your community?