About and To

The complicated thing about sharing political, ideological, and/or theological opinions on social media is this: as we’re writing about people, we’re also writing to people.

When we like a nasty post about welfare, it could end up on the newsfeed of a parent who has tried anything and everything to get her head above water after her car accident, and she was on her way to meet with a caseworker. To see if she might quality for food stamps. She was already feeling defeated and ashamed before she saw our post, and now she knows for sure she can never be honest about her struggles because it’ll mar our opinion of her.

Oh, I know: That’s not the “welfare mom” we were talking about. But that’s the one we were talking to.

When we share a self-righteous post about abortion, accompanied by a sentiment like, “You can’t possibly be a Christian and be pro-choice,” it may confirm a young woman’s fear that the abortion she had three years ago completely disqualifies her from being part of a church community.

Oh, I know: We’re talking about the people who “use abortion as birth control.” But that’s not the woman we’re talking to.

When we write an arrogant post about people who don’t “belong” in the United States, people who should just “go back home,” people who have no business taking our jobs and clogging up our schools and taking advantage of our healthcare system, we’ve just taught our kids an important lesson about the variable worth of human beings.

Oh, I know: We were talking about the “illegals who refuse to learn to speak English.” But that’s not the kids we’re talking to. 

When we put up a hateful comment about same-sex marriage, we solidify in that young man’s mind that he is an abomination, that he is worthless, that he will forever be rejected. And so he pushes up his sleeves, which reveal dozens of scars on his forearms, and he begins to plan his suicide.

Oh, I know: We’re talking about the other kind of homosexuals and their allies—the ones who are “persecuting Christians.” But that’s not the boy we were just talking to. 

When we respond to videos of police brutality with, “How ’bout you just do what you’re told?” we’re assuming someone’s guilt, we’re declaring some people unworthy of fair treatment and respect, and we’re giving our Facebook friends permission to devalue and dehumanize people who appear to be different from themselves.

Oh, I know: We’re talking about the “thugs.” But that’s not the people we’re talking to. 

When we respond to reports of police shootings with a knee-jerk comment about race and class and unnecessary force (but we actually have no idea what really happened because we weren’t actually there), a police officer’s spouse—who was on Facebook just looking for a quick dinner recipe—sees that post and runs to the bathroom to retch because her husband’s partner was shot to death last week when he responded to a domestic violence call.

Oh, I know: We’re talking about the police who are “racist.” But that’s not the woman we’re talking to. 

I’m not saying we can’t hold the opinions and perspectives we do. I’m not even saying we can’t talk about those opinions and perspectives. But for the love of Pete…can we please stop to consider how our posts might affect the people who see them? Let’s read what we’ve just written—and read it out loud—before we hit “Post.” Now let’s read it from the perspective of someone to whom it might apply. Flinch? Delete it.

Can we exercise some empathy?

Can we maybe just hush for a little while? At least until we can get our mouths under control?

Can we decide to truly value all people? (If you’re a Christ-follower and you said, “No,” I’d like to have coffee with you.) (Actually, that’s not true, because you’ll probably make me cry. I’d like you to have coffee with Jesus instead.)

Okay, I’m going to take my own advice and hush for a little while. Have a good Monday, y’all.