With over 500 million active users, and 50% of people logging in on a daily basis, Facebook is a way of life for most of us. As a regular Facebook user myself, I enjoy reading my friends’ and family’s status updates. I like staying in touch with what’s happening in the world, and its fun to see what people are up to. Lately though, I find myself cringing at some of the stuff I see people sharing on Facebook. Did they really mean to say that? Or, why would they post that picture?
We’re all human, and it’s way too easy to post something without thinking. Once a post (or picture) has been shared and passed along to dozens (or hundreds) of people, it’s too late to take it back. Consequences vary from humiliation to getting passed over when applying for a job, getting fired, or even ending up in jail.
Most times, it just makes us look stupid.
Thankfully, we can confess our sins to God on a regular basis, but beware: Facebook is not as forgiving.
1. Discussing private matters about your children. Because of Facebook, I now know about bad report cards of some of my Facebook friends’ kids, as well as private, detailed information on sensitive parent and child issues. It’s shocking to see that some parents use Facebook as a platform to vent about their kids. Honestly, my heart breaks when I read status updates like those. It’s a cruel way to deal with stress as a parent. Sharing personal stuff about your kids is a major trust issue. Think twice about how they would feel if they knew you were sharing their personal struggles with the world. That’s what counselors and priests are for, not your Facebook wall!
2. Political spats. This is a very touchy arena. It almost seems better not to post political stuff on Facebook, but then you lose the opportunity to express yourself and let your voice be heard. The problem is the shove-it-down-your-throat mentality of a lot of people on Facebook. They get nasty and backbiting, kind of like a schoolyard bully. Many times, their facts are off and not at all in line with the teachings of the church. And then, there are the hecklers who seem determined to strike down every political thing you share. What to do? First, check your sources to make sure the information is correct and in line with church teachings. Despite what many would like to believe, Orthodoxy is not a church of a thousand interpretations. Next, when you share a political post, make sure it is as respectful as possible and for the purpose of inspiring intelligent conversation and healthy discussion. If you plan to comment on someone else’s post, follow the above guidelines. You might see that person at church on Sunday or at work the next day. How will you feel when you know you were judgmental toward them in your Facebook comment?
3. Using Profanity in your posts. Again, we’re all human…but I’m shocked how often I see people who I thought had higher standards share or post a profane status update. Even jokingly, it’s offensive and a reflection on your character. There are plenty of ways to be creative without stooping to lower levels that cause people to think less of you. Another thing to consider is the impressionable teens you have as Facebook friends. As a practicing Orthodox Christian, would you want them to see what you just posted?
4. TMI (Too Much Information). Personal issues, health problems, family stress. These can come back to bite you, or just really embarrass you. When you realize the world knows you had too much to drink at a friend’s party the other night and fell on your face, you won’t be able to stop the 700 shares that flew around Facebook. We don’t need to know intimate details about your relationship with your spouse, or hear every embarrassing detail of your Grandma’s surgery.
5. Revealing photos. Yikes. No. Don’t tell me you just… Yes, you did. Next time, please don’t. Not only is it tacky, but it also makes you less likely to get hired by an employer…and your reputation just went down by quite a few notches.
6. Complaining about your life. People like to hear the latest fun and exciting news about you. They don’t care about what you complain about.
7. Bragging. I will admit, I have blocked some people who constantly brag about their life, their kids, etc. It’s one thing to be proud of your family and your life, but constant posts bragging about how perfect your life is and what perfect kids you have are nauseating.
8. Threatening posts and discriminating or racist remarks. This will hit you in every direction. It goes along with backbiting, nasty comments from #2. You’re going to see many of your Facebook friends again in person. How do you plan to recover the damage you did?
9. Being unprofessional. It’s easy to get sloppy on Facebook because its so easy to slam out a few mindless sentences and hit “enter.” I know I sound like a broken record, but I repeatedly tell my kids to act as though what they are doing is going to be on the news. That’s a good way to measure if your behavior lives up to your standards and is something you would be proud of.
10. You’re boring. Sorry to offend you, but no one needs to know that you had mac and cheese for dinner tonight and that you’re filing your nails or waiting in the doctor’s office. And please, don’t post every ten minutes! (or even every hour).
11. Mindless posting. Aargh! Why don’t people check sources more often? It amazes me how many people post stuff from inaccurate or flimsy sources. Many times, it’s gossip and not based on fact. Check your sources and ask yourself what the purpose of your posting is. Is it to help, or hurt?
12. You’re addicted. You just realized your kid has been standing next to you saying “Mommy” and you were tuning him out while you read your Facebook feed. Or how about this? You just checked Facebook while on a date with your wife. Ouch! I admit, Facebook never fails to spark my curiosity, so I am careful how much I allow it to be in my life. It’s a great platform to share the joys and highlights of life, to share an inspiring quote or ask for prayer. But be careful how much control you let Facebook have over your life. It’s the real-life relationships in person that matter the most.
13. Being naïve about child predators. Unfortunately, there are some sickos out there who are taking advantage of proud parents posting innocent pictures of unclothed babies and little children. Make sure not to post pictures of your friends’ kids without permission, and be cautious about posting the names of your children to Facebook’s public setting. If you have teens on Facebook, make sure their pictures and settings are filtered as private. Also, check the pictures that are posted of your teens. Find out who they are interacting with on Facebook. So far, my daughter has showed me two friend requests that concerned me. One was a guy with a fake name and no photo pretending to attend her school (which I reported to the school), another was a forty-something male my husband worked with years ago. Why would he want to friend request a thirteen-year-old girl? It’s always better to be extra vigilant in this area, especially when there are people who don’t have the most innocent intentions looking at Facebook content.
In many ways, modern technology is a gift. Through social networking, we can connect with people in powerful ways. Like anything involving technology though, it can get out of control without our realizing it. Use Facebook on your terms and in an honorable way, and you’re less likely to run into the problems above.
As far as your Facebook friends who refuse to change their ways, there’s a wonderful solution called the “block” feature. Use it to your heart’s desire.
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