COVID-19 mania grips the world right now. And I have noticed a great many posts on social media during this season that include unkind words, poorly documented “facts” or just plain false information. I wrote the bulk of this post several years ago, but its message seems more necessary than ever today:
Are you like me? Controlling my words is an area where I must exercise vigilance. Lately negative social media posts are on the upswing. Lies and exaggerations are not uncommon. The “share” button is another potential pitfall.
I am convinced that words matter—whether spoken or written. Psalm 34:12-14 challenges me:
“Do you want to really live?
Would you love to live a long, happy life?
Then make sure you don’t speak evil words
or use deceptive speech!
Turn away from evil and do what is right!
Strive for peace and promote it!”
Since I already have a lot of careless words to answer for, I found four principles inspired by these verses to guide my words and social media posts.
1. Make sure my posts are true. I strive to be true in every detail I write. But, I sometimes post something that is not accurate. If I later find out I have posted inaccurate information, I correct my post or delete it and post a retraction. Sharing a post is another opportunity to spread lies, which leads me to my next principle:
2. Read and confirm the truth of a post before sharing it. Multiple studies have verified that nearly 60 percent of articles that are shared on the internet have not been read by the one who shared them. (Yes, I checked this number and found at least 2 studies verifying this statistic.) I sometimes share posts that are inspiring or that support my point of view on a faith or political issue, and I have to confess I have sometimes done this without reading every word. Bad idea! In the case of theological issues, current events or political leaders, there are countless weak positions and fabricated stories out there. Before posting information, positive or negative, I have resolved both to read every word and to confirm that a post is true.
3. Ensure my posts are respectful. I see a lot of posts that ascribe motives, actions and attitudes to others. I can state my opinion without slamming the character, motives or actions of those who think differently. Sometimes a post I have written in a moment of emotion needs repeated editing to meet this standard.
4. “Strive for peace and pursue it.” Nothing gets me more riled up than a thoughtless word or a lie spoken or posted about issues or people I care about. When I read such a post or hear a strong opinion on a topic, I need to step away from the keyboard or breathe a prayer for wisdom in the middle of a conversation. If I respond out of anger, my words are apt to be hurtful, and doubtlessly have been. When harsh words pass my lips or flow from my keyboard, I am neither striving for peace nor pursuing it. I don’t need to respond to every opinion spoken or posted. But if I do, I need to do so wisely and with regard for the person who shared it. Sometimes a question is better than a statement. And when I ask questions, I need to be prepared to listen well and respond graciously.
I have friends on all sides of most issues. As I engage in discussions with them, God’s standards for me are high. Prayerfully consider following these same principles with me so that we can live long, happy lives together.