a rule to follow (online)

It’s social media week here at thedaysman, partly because I’m helping host a conference on campus: @Jesus: Finding the Truth in a Digital World.
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The major theme of our recent conference on social media was intentionality. It all boiled down to this: be more thoughtful and purposeful, ministering to and respecting others.

Speakers were careful to say that social media itself is not the problem. And the solution, we heard several times, is to be more intentional.

Quentin Schultze, author of Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age, suggested several reasons this is difficult. Our time is inadequate, our will is insufficient, our abilities are incomplete and our desires are corrupted.

That means when we use Facebook, or Twitter, or any other social media tool, the effects are not always what we intended.

This happens in real life too, of course. But online it may be amplified. It becomes easier to exclude others, or invade their privacy, or to overload our lives with more contacts or information than we can manage.

A sort of “cultural Attention Deficit Disorder” results, which keeps us from being as intentional in relationships as we should be, or want to be.

Shane Hipps, author of Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith (review to follow), called this the “dark shadow” of social media. And being aware of it is a good beginning.

We need something more practical than awareness, however. And I liked what Nate Evans, one of our tech guys, said in a panel called “Gen Y logs on.”

“I try not to say anything on Twitter or Facebook that I wouldn’t say to someone sitting in my living room.”

It’s a good rule, and addresses what the problem with social media actually is: the distance it creates, the anonymity it suggests, and the freedom it allows, all of which are merely illusions.

Because words are real.

It’s easy to forget what Jesus said, that our words flow out of the abundance of our heart. And it’s easier still to forget it online.

It’s easy to forget.

But it is dangerous to do so.

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About wally metts

Wally Metts is the daysman. He is director of graduate studies in communication at Spring Arbor University and is a pastor at Countryside Bible Church in Jonesville, MI. The father of four adult children, he and his wife Katie raise barn cats and Christmas trees in Michigan. His grandchildren call him Santa.

One Response to “a rule to follow (online)”

  1. The reverse is true here as well, and is a personal rule.

    Don’t do anything in real life you don’t want published all over the internet.

    Again this is something that’s been true forever but the internet increasingly amplifies and makes it faster to see it all. If you do or say something inappropriate or stupid it’ll may end up on the internet with your name attached forever. Even if it isn’t immediately. http://www.lettersofnote.com/ has lots of non digital seemingly ephemeral content that’ll now be around and search able forever.

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