By Susie Hawkins

Social media is like anything else – it can be used for good or for evil, especially when in ministry. Our posts sometimes carry more weight than we realize and if they are negative or perceived as mean spirited, they can compromise our witness and effectiveness.

Full disclosure: this very thing just happened to me and I will not forget it anytime soon.

Here are four “DON’T’s of social media. Of course there are many more, but these will get you started down the path of good sense, spiritual discernment and wise discretion. 

Don’t post when #angryandirritated. Rants and inflammatory language used against others never cause you to come off looking good – it’s a very poor witness. Not only that, there is an excellent chance you will regret something you said in anger. Even if you go back and delete, it was posted and was public. “Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want plastered on a billboard with your face on it” (Erin Bury). That thought should give all of us pause.  

Don’t be #rude. There are times when negative observations, warnings or hard truths need to be stated, especially as the church seeks to be counter-cultural in our post-Christian world. But that is never a reason to use harsh, unkind language. Online rudeness is no different than face to face rudeness. Remember, the written word does not communicate your body language or tone of voice, which could be used to offset anything offensive. Always use Ephesians 4:32 as your guideline.

Don’t #selfpromote.  Just don’t. Distinguish between recommending a good resource you provide rather than promoting yourself. 

Don’t #flirt (unless it’s with your husband.) Online romances and inappropriate emotional connections through social media are rampant, even among believers. Facebook in particular offers endless opportunities for temptation, especially as it relates to former romances.  An unhappy marriage is often the catalyst for a Facebook fling. This is a road we cannot go down simply because this temptation itself has a power no other temptation has. CS Lewis brilliantly observed, “All the sexual vices have this unfair advantage- that the very temptation is itself pleasurable: whereas the temptations, say, to anger or cowardice, are in themselves unpleasant.”  Undoubtedly that is why Paul says to “flee sexual immorality” ( 1 Cor. 6:18.) This temptation cannot be reasoned with, it’s too seductive.  If you find yourself in this place you need to “flee”, meaning “close” immediately.  Shut it down.

Use this social media wisely and encourage others to do the same. What can you add to this conversation? What are some other “don’t”s you see as important?

Published September 5, 2014

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Susie Hawkins

Susie lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband OS Hawkins. She is the author of From One Ministry Wife to Another: Honest Conversations on Connections in Ministry. She has 2 daughters and 6 grandchildren, keeping her life full of craziness and joy.