Think Before You Post: The Art of Discernment on Social Media

Photo by  SamahR

Photo by SamahR

Over the past few weeks, we have been looking at how we as Christians are supposed to live and interact on social media. We’ve discussed topics such as sarcasm, pride, and conflict. Throughout each of those posts, one common theme has emerged: the importance of discernment. When you Google the word discernment, one of the first definitions that appears is “the ability to judge well.” If we are going to think and act like Christians on social media, you and I must practice discernment. We must have the ability to judge when we should read something and when we should not. We should have the ability to judge when to say something and when to not. So, what does it look like to practice discernment on social media?

The Importance of Being Fast & Slow at the Same Time

James, the brother of Jesus and the leader of the early church, wrote a letter to Christians in the first century that carries a message for us today. He writes, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). So, how does James tell us to practice discernment?

  1. Be Quick To Hear
    1. One of the most important aspects of discernment is being quick to hear or, for our purposes, quick to read. Often, when we read something, we are quick to jump to conclusions and make judgments. We read social media posts quickly and do not fully process or consider what we’ve read. In face-to-face conversations, we have the opportunity to ask for clarification immediately, but this is not the case with posts and comments that are made on social media. If we are going to practice discernment, we have to be quick to hear. This means reading posts carefully before drawing negative conclusions that lead us to react irrationally.
  2. Be Slow To Speak
    • This is one of the most important elements to practicing discernment. Because there are often few, if any, repercussions for what we say on social media, we think we can say whatever we want to whomever we want. This, however, is not true. As Christians, we are called to watch what we say and ultimately live at peace with everyone (for more on trying to live at peace with everyone, see “What Do You Do When a Brawl Breaks Out on Facebook?“). When we challenge ourselves to be slow to speak it causes us to be more intentional with what we say. More often than not, being slow to speek prevents us from saying something we regret, leading us instead to share something that is beneficial and uplifting to everyone.
  3. Be Slow To Anger
    • Finally, let us be slow to anger. All three of these actions build up to this point. If we have listened carefully and thought about what we want to say, then we will not speak out of anger but rather out of calmness. For many of us, anger is the sort of emotion that doesn’t happen immediately. It is a slow-building feeling that, when not handled, eventually erupts. When we read others’ posts without processing slowly and considering our response, our anger will often overflow into our comments. If anger is an emotion that we cannot control, then we need to be careful about how often we are on social media. Perhaps our anger is a sign of something much deeper going on inside us. Don’t let your anger control you. Seek help from others, maybe even a counselor, before your anger seeps into your social statuses and, more importantly, your life.

Practice What You Preach

The three actions above are easier said than done. However, God has called us as Christians to practice discernment – even on social media. What steps will you take today to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger? Whether in the real world or the digital world, let’s practice discernment.