Rules bring freedom. It’s strange but true that a certain amount of structure and regulation enables us to live – and to do so with a decreased (or non-existent) shackle of worry regarding safety, wellbeing and enjoyment.
Red light means stop, green light means go; a rule that brings the liberty to drive from Point A to Point B, without risk of injury to self or others.
In the fire safety book that my three-year-old son has fixated on, there’s a “Two-metres from the heater” rhyme. We have the freedom to enjoy a heater’s warmth, without its burn, if we adhere to such advice.
Sundays in our household are TV-free days. This rule gives us freedom to enjoy each other’s company more completely – to read, talk, play boardgames and go for long walks.
Rules protect us.
If ever there was a sphere that lacked healthy regulation it would be social media. Nowhere will you find more disrespectful, hateful, abusive or crude material as in the annals of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and all those other places that I’m already too old and uncool to know about.
But the reality is that social media is a huge part of our life – it’s likely here to stay. And if Mark Zuckerberg isn’t going to keep tabs on your wall, best to self-regulate.
There’s some great material out there to guide us, largely rooted in Biblical principles like that well-known verse in Philippians 4:8, “…fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.”
Relevant Magazine published Five Questions to Ask Before Posting on Facebook – poignant for whatever category of user you are: the pic-by-pic Photo Journaller who has been known to post photos at five-minute intervals throughout the day; the Voyeur who ‘likes’ and ‘favourites’ but rarely participates; the Copycat who ‘shares’, ‘re-tweets’ and ‘pins’ other people’s thoughts and activities; the Provocateur who loves to stir the pot. There are others, of course.
Here are those questions:
1. Am I seeking approval?
Perhaps the little red flag or the “ping!” of a notification gives you a surge of adrenaline. Attention. This is an addictive road to instant, but empty, validation.
2. Am I boasting?
There’s sharing excitement and there’s bragging. Truthfully, we each know which camp we fall in. 1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “…love does not boast…” Examine your motives and make it a goal to use social media as a message-carrier for your values.
3. Am I discontent?
Comparison is destructive. Social media has a way of displaying others’ lives as bright and wonderful while casting shadow on our own. “Let us not forget, their world is as ordinary as ours and our life is as exciting as theirs” (Relevant Mag).
4. Is it a moment to protect?
When we’re constantly engaging in social media, there’s the risk that we are disengaging from reality. Anyway, some of our best times are most enjoyed privately.
5. Is it kind?
Social media is for connecting, not attacking. Use discernment, love and wisdom to choose what words and pictures you share.
With each advancement in communications technology, the gap between thinking and speaking has been wrenched tighter. Once, a letter was written – slowly and thoughtfully, with a quill and ink, ensuring each word carried the full weight of meaning intended. It was diligently folded and sealed in an envelope, not to reach its intended recipient for days, weeks – months even. The care and time taken were part of the final message. Impulsive, off-the-cuff comments didn’t enter this scene.
Then, the telephone sped things up. Yet still there was space to measure each word, to gauge response and employ sensitivity.
Thought and written word shook hands when email was invented, and social media locked them in an often-crude embrace.
I didn’t mean that… Did I say that?… That’s not who I am…
To claw back the time lapse between thought and communication would certainly make social media a safer place.
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday June 16, 2014.
*For parents – here is a great article on setting boundaries around social media use.