4 Tips To Be A Social Media Peace Maker
We've all experienced it -- the social media flurry of combative statements, over-generalizations, and heated arguments. Probably, you've already been unfriended by a person or two. Social justice is important to you, but Jesus told us that peacemakers are blessed -- so how do we stand up for what for what we believe, and still be the peacemaker that Jesus calls blessed?
After all, there's a difference between being a peacekeeper and a peace maker. Peace keepers avoid dialogue and confrontation because it's uncomfortable. Peace makers, on the other hand, understand that there is no true peace until everyone knows peace -- including the marginalized -- and they are willing to walk through the discomfort for that end goal. But how do we manage our willingness to walk through those conversations and not fall into a pattern of inciting divisive rhetoric?
It can be tricky, but not impossible.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to engaging on the minefield that is social media
Engage only if you’re in the right state of mind. If you’re feeling particularly tender and raw, that might be a good day to keep scrolling. Only engage if you’re in an emotional state that will allow you to take the higher road if necessary. Knowing when to engage and when to keep scrolling is also an important act of self-care -- some days, your own sense of peace really is more important than playing the role of social justice warrior. When you do engage, stick to debating ideas, not people. No one will change their mind if they feel attacked -- but if they feel heard and understood, it's possible that they might gain a new perspective.
Say what you want to say, and let others do the same. My personal rule on my Facebook page is that it’s MY Facebook page, so I get to say what I want. However, that also means that other people get to say what they want on their pages. If people want to engage me, they can do so on my page, where I can call the shots. And the shots are mutual respect and consideration, and no hate speech ever. I can’t be guaranteed that I’ll be working in the same parameters if I insert a comment into a discussion on someone else’s page, so I rarely do it. The only exception is if the conversation that’s already started and seems to be constructive, and I have something unique to add to the perspectives being offered. In the end, though, it's dialogue that's going to heal our country and our relationships. So healthy engaging is good.
Know when to keep scrolling. There’s a lot on Facebook I’d LOVE to respond to, but that doesn’t mean I should. I want to be a peacemaker, but not everyone is ready for peace. Only God can offer that peace, and I have to remember that I am only God’s instrument. Unless I have the know / like / trust factor with a person, anything I say will likely be met with eyerolls. It’s better to live out my online life authentically — because I know people are watching — and make sure it matches my IRL existence. Then, if someone chooses to engage me on my page, I’ll have their trust, and they’ll be more likely to listen to what I have to say.
Ask genuine questions. Note this doesn’t mean asking leading questions that will somehow prove your point. It means listening with a curious mind and a loving heart. Listening this way doesn’t mean you have to change your mind, or that the other person has to, either. But it can lead to a greater understanding of our similarities, our viewpoints, and our fears.
These are just a few rules that you can live by to help make peace