Tension, Passion, Anger
If you spend any time on social media you will probably come across heated ‘debates’ over social issues, sports, political policy.… There is a long list of things about which we feel we should argue our opinion, and we are not afraid to put people in their place when we disagree! And of course, we want to win that Facebook argument! Tension builds, passions flare, and the disagreement becomes heated. In an instant, outsiders are joining in and taking sides and the civil ‘debate’ that you started has turned into an all-out Facebook brawl!
Is that really how Christians should be letting their “light so shine” in a dark world?
There is another way to ‘win’ in these circumstances…and it might not involve you ‘winning’ the argument.
What is a debate?
Google the word debate. Whether you are describing a debate (n) or to debate
(v), both definitions hinge on the formality of the process. It is a formal discussion done in a formal manner. That is opposed by the word argument which, while is an exchange of opposing viewpoints, is defined as ‘heated’, ‘angry’, or ‘persuasion.’
In other words, when an issue is debated, the two sides lay out their facts/arguments in a factual manner and the best argument wins. What I see in many circumstances doesn’t resemble any form of conversation that is
profitable, uplifting, or edifying to others. In the place of conversation we have substituted an excuse to speak passionately about our opinions in ways that often are hurtful, prideful, and sharp. When the conversation ends (if it ever does) no one is convinced otherwise, no one admits the other may be right, and people leave emotionally limping and hurting, only to fight the same battle another day.
Not My Facebook!!
If your reaction to this introduction is “That’s not how I debate my opinions on Facebook!” then congratulations! You have reached a level of spiritual maturity to which I have not attained. Being transparent, I still struggle with allowing building frustrations to flow down through my fingertips and onto the computer screen. I often allow my right pinky finger to hover over the ‘enter’ button and then shamefully delete my comment because I haven’t been careful in my tone or selection of words.
If you are like me, Facebook and social media is a great way to connect but also a source of temptation in this area. Here are 7 simple steps to winning the personal struggle you may be facing over social media rants.
1. Remember, you are talking to a person
You might be in front of a flat computer screen but you are communicating to real people, with real emotions, real needs and real hurts. Often when I write articles on parenting I will print out a picture of a random family and have it sitting beside my computer. It reminds me that the words that I am typing are going to have an effect on real people out there. Remember, you are not arguing with Facebook, you are arguing with a real person.
2. Words without facial expression can be subjective
“I didn’t say she stole my money.” Take that sentence and say it seven times with an emphasis on a different word each time. It will imply seven very different things. When we remove the voice inflectional facial expression from communication, words can be take to say something completely different than their intended purpose.
Though different studies establish different percentages, the overwhelming evidence points to this fact…over half of your communication is non-verbal. You are missing all of those non-verbal cues when having an online discussion! Keep that in mind. Things that you wouldn’t even consider to be controversial can be easily misinterpreted without those non-verbal cues.
3. Be passionate about things that deserve your passion
There is nothing worse than seeing two kids arguing over a silly toy. In fact, as they their anger and passions become inflamed, the toy becomes irrelevant to the argument and is often cast aside while the argument continues! They aren’t arguing about the toy; they are really arguing about their self-worth. Literally, their pride and selfishness becomes the driving force to their anger.
Why waste your passion and energy on things that aren’t worth arguing about! (p.s. arguing to defend your pride is not a good reason!)
4. Not everyone reading your conversation ‘knows’ you
There are times I read conversations on social media and I can almost hear the conversation in my head as I read it. Why? Because I am so familiar with these people that I can figuratively hear their voice! Sometimes they will say/type their opinion and I ‘know’ what they are saying because I know them as a person. Not everyone on social media knows you enough to give you the ‘benefit of the doubt.’ If you have developed any type of social media presence, the vast majority of people that will read your daily interactions may never even hear you voice. They only know you by the words you type. Be careful!
5. Not everyone reading your conversation ‘knows’ your Savior
As conversations are shared, commented on, tweeted, and liked, your words become more and more open to people that you will never contact. If my words are being read by complete strangers on social media those words carry an incredible burden to represent Christ! I’m not saying that every post must include a Gospel witness. But would it be wrong to do that?! Here is a better question. If you shared your faith online would your previous conversations reinforce your claim to saving faith or would people doubt you?
6. There is a greater purpose!
It is so easy to get wrapped up in new ‘things’ that we never stop to consider what we actually want to accomplish with those new things. Have you ever determined to use your social media to share your faith?
Have you ever considered that the influence you have with others online is influence that could be leveraged for righteousness instead of angered rants? There is a higher purpose in everything that a Christian does! You have to choose to use your influence for Christ!
7. Develop the ability to walk away from a conversation
The final step to winning this war in social media is to be willing to walk away from heated discussions! This is so (pronounced sooooooo) hard!!!! That’s right…just get up and walk away. Turn off the computer. “Turn off notifications for this post!” Christians, it is just not worth it. It is not worth losing the opportunity to point others to your Savior to prove that your team is better, that your candidate is better, or that your political viewpoint is superior. All it takes in a conversation is one person to become heated and they can push the issue right into an argument.
Be a mediator when possible. Try to keep conversations uplifting and positive. When necessary, you might need to walk away.
Facebook and other social media platforms are a great way to keep people connected. Don’t let them become an instrument to drive people apart!
DJHarry Isaiah 64:8 We are the clay!