Social Media Etiquette for Christians, Part 1

This is part one of a two part blog article to help Christians be better representatives for Christ on the web. This part overviews some what I call the "Do's" of Social Media.

One of the most challenging issues a person can have in the venue of social media, such as using Facebook is violating generally accepted etiquette. When you think about it, if you were going over to someone’s home to share Christ, you would not barge into their house unannounced. You might call on the phone first, introduce yourself and see if you could come over for a visit. When you arrive, you would knock on the door and when invited, go in. Once inside you wouldn’t necessarily launch into presenting the Gospel first. You would first share some small talk before going into the deeper God talk. You might ask about their family or compliment them on their home. These are things that we do as human beings. We are designed for relationships and such etiquette or manners are important. If we violate these manners, then we and our message will not be received well.

When thinking about social media manners, it is important for all of us to be aware of things we should do that will help others to receive us and our message and of things that we should avoid. Here are some general “do’s” and “don’ts” for social media.

Do’s

1. Do think before you post.

The dangerous thing about social media in general and Facebook in particular is the way you can instantly have your immediate thoughts posted online. Not every thought that pops into your head should be expressed out of your mouth; the same is true for Facebook. It’s always better not to write anything when you are angry or upset. This could come back to haunt you later.

2. Do write your messages and updates in a word processing document first.

This may at first seem bothersome to you, but this will help curb that immediate urge to send messages that have not been properly thought through. It will also help you to take a second or third look at your posting before it is up before the world.
3. Do listen to others. In communication there is the message, a sender, a receiver, and filters on both sender and receiver. Often the intent of the sender is not perceived by the person on the other end. This requires the receiver to send a message back to make sure it was received correctly. We all have filters. In face to face communication it is a lot easier to understand the message. You have voice tone, facial expressions and body language besides the words. So in communicating through Facebook you will need to be extra careful to really listen to what they are saying. Asking for clarification is a good thing. It also tells the other person you are making the attempt to understand them.

4. Do build quality relationships.

People are still people whether online or in person. They will respond to you if they feel like they really know you. In order to have a quality relationship you must be genuine, not fake. People don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to be honest, fair and kind; especially if you’re presenting yourself as a representative of Christ.

5. Do account for your actions.

The internet has caused some distance between people and for some, the distance has made them think their actions will not have any accountability. You cannot do or say whatever you want on the internet without losing the respect of others. It will harm your witness for Christ. If you do something that you regret, then be accountable. Admit it, and then ask forgiveness from them and God. Learn from your mistakes and move on.

6. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Yes, this is the golden rule taught by Jesus. For you it means more than just being nice, but be nice as well. Say things that you’d want others saying to you. Respect them and the community. You represent more than yourself. You represent the followers of Christ who are relaying their faith to others. Make sure those who are recipients of your witness have a positive experience.

7. Do personalize your Facebook messages.

The messages need to speak with your voice. If you are just getting to know them or reacquainted with them, send a “hello” message first. Let them know why you are contacting them. It will leave a good feeling.

8. Do a check on people who want to “friend” you.

As a personal rule, I don’t friend someone unless I personally have met them or they are friends of my friends and have some possible connection with me. I don’t “friend” people if they have a similar interest, for example, in books or movies as me. There has to be more than that.

9. Do graciously allow for others to not “friend” you.

They have the right to refuse a request just as you do. Respect their decision.

10. Do remember you are on mission.

Though Facebook has been called the ultimate in narcissistic experiences, you are here for other reasons. It is not about you but about Christ in you relaying your faith to others so they can find the most important thing ever, their salvation in Christ.

11. Do ask for a commitment to Christ.

In the context of your ongoing relationship, ask your friend if he or she has made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. If they have, ask them to tell you about it. Find out details of when and where. You can do this and it is expected by your Lord that you do this. If they tell you they do not want to discuss it, then don’t. But don’t say, “No” for them. They may say a big “Yes.” Many people tend to be more open about their personal thoughts online than in a face to face meeting. This could be the best avenue for you to ask them about their commitment to Christ.

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