Another post that makes me cringe. Another comment that makes me cry. Another moment of wondering if I should unfriend someone on Facebook or maybe just get off altogether.
Facebook has reached back into my childhood and built a web of connection to people I once knew. It’s allowed me a glimpse inside the lives of people I once would have only known on a professional basis. Facebook has enabled me to have a long-term friendship with someone I met in a single class or at a speaking event; someone who would have been a dot on my actual timeline now becomes a line, moving on with me from that moment in time.
But it has also allowed me to see the ugly, hateful, mean, prejudiced, close-minded sides of people I would rather not know about. And maybe they see the same in me.
We tell teens to be careful what they share on Facebook because it could return to haunt them, messing up jobs, or relationships, or their future. But are we that careful what we post? I think not.
So here’s my 2015 Facebook Love Manifesto. Taken from an ancient book, using verses most familiar to us from weddings, here are some definitions of love that should affect what we post on Facebook.
Love is patient, love is kind.
Before we post, or comment, let’s ask, “Is this kind?” I am astonished at some of the negative comments I see on Jen Hatmaker‘s posts. Yes, she’s a famous blogger and author, but that doesn’t give us the right to question her motives on every word she writes (or doesn’t write, as a recent firestorm over how her post on a tragedy was too short—even though it was written on her vacation).
Would I say this to the face of a person I care about? If not, I shouldn’t post it.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
Facebook is like a yearlong family Christmas letter. I do want to hear about the great things going on in your life, and I’m really trying not to envy you that vacation or book being published or whatever else. But Facebook should not be simply a brag fest or an advertising venue for you. Every time someone gives you a five-star review on Amazon, I don’t need to hear about it. (I will be happy to hear about the first one, as long as it’s not from your mother.) And sometimes it’s good to hear that, like me, you had a crappy day, or life just didn’t work out as planned.
If I post this, will someone say, “There she goes AGAIN”? If so, then I probably shouldn’t skip the post.
It does not dishonor others.
This is the biggest issue I see on Facebook. Just because something is placed in a cartoon, or comes from an article on your favorite website, doesn’t mean it’s not hurtful. If it is a caricature of a person or a generalization about a people group, you are going to hurt someone. And we shouldn’t want to do that. We are called to love others. Each person on earth is treasured by God; who am I to treat him or her rudely?
If the person or people I am talking about read this, would they find it hurtful? If so, I shouldn’t post it, and I might want to ask God to challenge my own thinking so I don’t want to disrespect others.
It is not self-seeking.
Is this all about me and my opinions and what makes me comfortable? A few weeks ago I posted an article on Facebook about why people don’t return to a church after visiting. I happily crowed that the first item was the thing I hated about church. See, it reinforced my own preferences. My friend Mandy called me out on it. Church is not about my preferences; it’s about worshiping God in community and that takes compromise.
Am I posting this because it supports my opinions or preferences over those of others? At least I must consider if by posting it my goal is really blasting those who hold a different viewpoint.
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Life angers us. Spouses anger us. Politicians anger us. But do we need to spew that anger out into the Facebooksphere? And if we are so often angry, shouldn’t we ask why, since God tells us love is not easily angered? Where is his love manifested in our lives? Where are the fruit of the spirit such as joy and patience?
Do people know me best for what I am against? Do they think I am hate-filled? Maybe it’s time to start looking for positive things to praise, good stories to tell, some grace-filled thing to be for.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
We are so eager to wallow in the tragedy. This isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s what always drove newspaper sales. It’s what causes rubbernecking or gaper block or curiosity crawl or whatever you call it when the side of the highway unaffected by an accident slows down because everyone has to stare. But the Internet and Facebook make it worse. We can share a rumor, a scare, a lost child in a moment, with a click. But should we?
Am I sure this is true? Before we share a rumor that the government is stockpiling coffins because they plan to kill all the _________ (gunowners, Christians, whites, blacks, whatever our conspiracy theory of choice) or whatever the rumor du jour is, let’s please check it out on Snopes or one of the other debunking sites. Same goes for the lost child photos. Chances are even if it was true, the child has been found, so let’s take the time to check before we pass it on. And is this something to rejoice over? Or am I just promoting evil by giving it press? Then don’t.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Those of us who are Christians are called to protect others, especially the most vulnerable among us. If you don’t believe me, read Matthew 25:31–46. Our words should show people we believe in them, that each one is a valued and much loved creation of God. If I am personally critical of someone or rude because I disagree with their politics or stand on an issue or who they are, that doesn’t communicate love or respect or hope or trust. If I disagree with someone who is a friend, a real friend, and I feel the need to engage on the subject, it’s best done in person and with great care. Facebook comments is not that place.
Does what we are saying destroy someone’s reputation, self image, life, feelings, enthusiasm for living? Then don’t say it.
Love never fails.
If I choose love , I’ve chosen right. So in 2015, before hitting the post button, I will do my best to give the copy (or cartoon or picture) a love check and delete or edit accordingly. I hope you’ll join me in living the 2015 Facebook Love Manifesto.