Why do we post that story or picture, that comment, share that video?
What we post online matters. It matters because it’s an image of ourselves we share to the public. It matters because we are representing Christ to the world. It matters because it affects other people. It matters because the online world is now part of the real world.
So here’s a checklist to run through next time you want to post anything online.
Why do I want to post this?
Start with yourself. Why do you want to post this?
It’s really important here to be honest. The human brain is very good at lying to itself. Stop to think; ask yourself, what are my intentions? What do I hope to get from this?
Sometimes I tell myself I want to post something online because it’s fun, or I haven’t posted in a while, or because I want to share what’s happening in my life. But deep down, when I reflect, I realise I actually want to boast, or present myself a certain way, or I’m looking for affirmation, or even make a dig at someone else.
This post isn’t just for me.
Everything you post online is viewed by others.
So how will they receive the rant you post, or the cute picture, or the political meme? They will all be seen by other people, people who have varying experiences to you, different ages and genders and cultures and religions and opinions. How could your post be interpreted differently by them? How will your post affect and influence them?
Is this loving?
Once I’ve considered why I’m posting and how it will affect others, then I run it through this filter. Is it loving?
As Christians we are very clearly called to love others. We can love others by either choosing to act or avoid an action.
Obviously don’t post something that is mean, rude, or passive aggressive. But the next step in being loving is using empathy; imagining what an experience is like for another person. What we post could really hurt someone else, even if unintentionally. For example, if I knew a friend had recently lost a sibling or was struggling being an only child, I wouldn’t constantly post happy snaps with my sisters.
Choose to walk the tightrope of sensitivity and sense. You can’t please everyone. But you can use empathy and wisdom to carefully choose whether a post is loving or not.
Does it honour God?
Sure, it may be funny… but is that meme really honouring God?
I’ve really struggled with this one. A lot of the time, my posts centre around me. But do they honour God?
This doesn’t mean we are confined to posting Bible verses. Instead choose to focus on what is true, noble, pure, lovely and admirable (Philippians chapter 4, verse 8). You can be positive as a way to honour God. Point to the beauty of the life he has given us. Pursue justice and love. Lift people’s eyes to Him. An easy one is pictures of nature,“The heavens declare the glory of God…” (Psalm chapter 19, verse 1)
Is it helpful?
The online world, no matter the number of your followers, is a form of influence and audience.
Content can be informative, uplifting, interesting, humorous, beautiful, educational. How will what you post help others today?
Some things just shouldn’t go online
Not everything needs to go online. Maybe it’s a conversation you need to have with someone or something you can just share privately with a friend rather than posting it all over the internet.
The Bible tells us we are representatives of God’s reconciling ministry. God desires to bring the world back to Himself, and we are his ambassadors or representatives here on earth (2 Corinthians chapter 5, verses 18-20). Jesus is not here physically on the earth, but we are, and He has tasked us with making disciples and bringing people back into relationship with Him.
As the face and hands of Christ here on earth, as His ambassadors, surely everything we do matters. As Christians we are representatives of God. So what we post online is to non-Christians a representation of who God is! If someone was to scroll through your posts and comments online, what would they learn about the character of God?
Is it honest?
Social media is full of fake news and carefully curated images that don’t reflect the realities of real life.
I’m not talking about oversharing. You don’t need to post the intricacies of the last argument you had with a family member. Instead choose to post as close to the truth as possible. Don’t edit your pictures or edit the story. Have the courage to be real.
When social media reflects real life it takes away the pressure to be perfect and creates a safer space for everyone to be honest.
Before we post or comment online, we should stop to think. Think about our intentions, our audience, our call as Christians, and the possible effect of what we post or comment.
If you wouldn’t say it through a megaphone to a crowd of everyone you’ve ever known, maybe don’t post it online.
Melanie is a young Christian and leader from Sydney, passionate about Jesus, creating a better world and appreciating the good things in life. She works for an NGO and serves at Northern Life Baptist Church.
You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out her socials.