I am a huge fan of social media. In fact, I started blogging before there was blogging, circulating a weekly e-mail “post” to a few hundred subscribers back in the mid-1990s. I use Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram every day.
Social media has flattened the world, making it easier for anyone to connect with everyone. As a pastor, whose job is communicating good news, I love that.
However, as a reader and editor who thinks words have real power to do good or evil in the world, I have concerns. Sometimes it seems we have simply forgotten how to be nice.
Social media is like a power tool. With it you can build a beautiful platform—or make a big mistake really fast.
And these are not harmless errors. They are gross abuses of the power of speech, virtual literary sins. They harm not only you but those who read them.
Here are 8 social media mistakes you need to stop making right now.
If you’re doing any of these, it’s time to quit.
Facebragging (a.k.a. humble bragging) is promoting yourself while pretending to be mystified by your own achievements. It’s saying things like “Can’t believe my little darling won first prize (again) in the school show #speechless,” or “Salesman of the year for the third time running. Never saw this coming #humbled.”
Celebrate your success and others will join you. Pretending to be other than justifiably proud of your achievement is disingenuous.
Quit doing this because it’s inauthentic, insincere, and prideful.
2. Doing things for the purpose of Instagramming them.
This is different from Instagramming the things you do. I’m talking about the wedding proposal invented for a video shoot or buying a Coney Island dog for the purpose of taking a selfie on the boardwalk.
Your life is not a series of moments that have value only if someone is watching. It’s a precious gift, even when you’re alone—without your phone.
Quit doing this because it presents a false image of yourself to the world and to you.
3. Following people on Twitter just to get them to follow you.
Yes, I’ve done this. And it finally felt so cheesy that I had to quit. “Like me, okay? Will you? Please? Like me?”
No one can pay attention to more than a couple of hundred people in any social network. And only true A-listers have more than a few hundred people who actually care what they say or do. Use social media to be social, not to make yourself appear more interesting or successful than you really are.
Quit this because it’s a phony attempt to inflate your value in the eyes of others.
4. Asking for Twitter love.
This is posting something whiney followed by a desperate plea for affirmation. It’s basically any post that ends with words like “Am I the only one?” or “I’m not weird, am I?” or “#feelingscared.”
Sure, it feels good to have complete strangers say “You’re okay.” But step back for a moment and see this for what it is: begging for affirmation. Literally. Begging.
Quit doing this because it’s demeaning.
5. Reposting things that you know are bogus.
You know you’re doing this when you feel the need to say, “Not sure if this is legit but” or “I don’t necessarily endorse this but.”
Quit this because urban legends are hard enough to stop without you fueling them.
6. Reposting anything about Westboro Baptist Church.
Don’t be a Fox News enabler. Just quit talking about them, and they’ll go away.
Quit doing this because it furthers the hatred and division that threatens to destroy our society.
7. Reposting self-righteous rants.
The sheer volume of negativity on the Internet threatens to crash Facebook at least twice a day. Much of that comes in the form of reposted blogs or clips arguing a political or theological point.
Never, never repost something with a headline like, “Middle-schoool kid goes off about the first amendment, leaves city council speechless” or “Fed-up mom writes letter to school board, totally humiliates superintendent.”
Advocate any position you truly believe in. But please do so kindly and with no attempt to humiliate, crush, demolish, wreck, or reduce to a puddle of tears the people who disagree with you. Say something nice or at least say it in a nice way.
Quit this because it just adds to the negativity that already threatens to overwhelm us.
8. Lecturing people who aren’t listening to you.
These are posts that begin “To the idiot driver who tailgated me all the way to work” or “Dear woman at the checkout counter with a screaming child,” etc.
This may be the worst social sin of all: Self-righteously demeaning others behind their back—and asking others to join you. Back home we call that gossip.
Quit this because it’s disrespectful, harmful, and wrong.
So what should you post on social media?
How about something that will make the world a better place? “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
That’s the best social media policy ever written, and it’s nearly 2,000 years old.