Recently at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference, I was challenged by many thoughts and exchanges. It’s funny how you can listen to a speaker or sit in a workshop and there is that one thing that worms it’s way into your heart. At this conference I walked away chewing on many deep reflections, but one small idea by Dr. Craig Detweiler keeps plaguing me. He spoke on technology, social media, and the need to disconnect sometimes from always being “on.”
Yet, one point stood out to me in light of our looming Presidential Election. It all started with his unraveling of the concept of “Facebook Envy.” This is a psychological dilemma in which we see that post of someone’s presentation of a seemingly “awesome” life and are left feeling lonely and miserable. There are actual studies that PROVE this is happening to us. (Here are some top headlines on the topic.) Usually, when I hear this concept the speaker directs us to put our identity elsewhere, go online less, or just take all of our social media posts down.
However, Dr. Detweiler had a different spin on this. Instead he said:
Think about OTHERS before you post.
The challenge was slightly controversial yet followed the Biblical mandate of, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Dr. Detweiler literally asked us to think about how others might feel if we posted that picture in front of our extravagant vacation, posed the family photo, or the political statement that puts others down with #blessed in tow. He didn’t berate us for doing it; the charge was simply:
Think of others first.
Honestly, my first response was, “Well, it’s not my issue if you can’t handle that my family went on vacation to a great cabin this summer.” I get tired of explaining to others in their judgement, “A friend gave me their timeshare to use.” Yet, that’s not the point. It doesn’t have to do with whether or not you judge me. It has to do with you, and if this picture will somehow bring you down. So my response changed to, “Can I think about you before I post?”
As Dr. Detweiler spoke it made me realize there are a few simple actions we can take to change the way we share our lives publicly:
Think About Others Before We Post:
I want it to be clear I am not saying we should never put up pictures showing our experiences and life. An acquaintance recently posted pictures from their honeymoon on waters that were crystalline blue. Not only did I feel joy for her, I was inspired to add this small island to my list of bucket place visits. I think the challenge is to think, “WHY am I posting?” Is it to make others jealous of me, solve my insecurity, or is it just to share a cool memory with the world? Is it posed or genuine? If this will cause dissension and debate, is it about being heard or about standing for an injustice?
Like It Or Not, Others Are Paying Attention To Your Posts:
This generation of teens is marked by a desire for authenticity and an attachment to technology. Your students are paying attention to your posts and pictures. Maybe it wasn’t appropriate to invite the whole youth group out to dinner at your house. Perhaps they don’t know that student smiling in the picture of you making cookies or playing “Black Ops” has been going through a horrible time and they needed some extra attention. Your group sees you playing favorites and wonders why they weren’t so special enough to come too. So the question is not whether or not to stop giving extra time to some, but really it’s, “Do you need to let the world know?” What about that strong political opinion or judgmental post you just HAVE to share? What are they thinking about that? Could they decide they need to believe what you do because you are their role model? This is not a call to hide but to seek our hearts on what we need to put out for public speculation.
Opinions Are Different Than Truth:
Opinions are subject and based on our own feelings and whims of the day. We can feel like it is a right to be able to share our most recent opinion with the world and others must listen and agree. Truth does not rely on our feelings or belief system because it is true. It is not subjective, but instead objective. Before you post think about what and how you post. If it is a truth, a justice, a people without a voice that need to be heard, then step up and shout it from the mountaintops. However, remember whether or not others share your passion for this injustice falls into the opinion category. This is where we can get hung up. We share about an injustice in the world, one that needs to be proclaimed, but then start mudslinging when others don’t agree. Remember to temper everything with grace even if it’s an area where you need to stand unwavering.
In a few weeks we will have a new president. Some of us will be happy with the outcome, others disgusted, while still others will remain confused about whatever happened. It’s a good reminder that whatever happens to remember to love our neighbors as ourselves, even in the cybersphere. You may feel like there is a truth that needs to be posted about this or a million other things, but just remember to be careful to avoid defensiveness and an attacking posture. Our students are paying attention, and as Dr. Detweiler reminded me, it’s simply the right thing to do.
It’s this simple: before you post, take a deep breath, and think about others first.