“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts…” – Matthew 15:19
A brief feature on the news the other day caught my attention. A comment posted by a school administrator on her own Facebook wall, which she thought was set on “private” but was actually public, ended up not only embarrassing her, but due to the community outrage, forced her to resign from her position. This by no means is an isolated incident. For as long as the Internet and text messaging have been popular and easy to access, we have heard stories of people who suffered the consequences of not thinking before posting.
Take a moment and reflect on the technology that you use on a daily basis. Just how much do you text message. Instant message. Tweet. Facebook. MySpace. Blog. For some of us, especially those of us under 30-years-old who can barely recall a time without computers and cellphones, we have truly embraced the technological age in which we live. We are connected 24/7. However frequently we use these platforms to voice our opinions and share our thoughts, what is most important is what we are saying.
Think about it. What are you texting back and forth to your friends? What are you tweeting? What are you posting on Facebook or Myspace? There is a saying: “Think before you speak.” Sadly, it seems that the sense of freedom that comes with modern social networking has lulled many of us into complacency. We no longer think before we type a hasty 140 character rant and press “Tweet!” or “Share!” And we so easily forget that what we post is not always just seen by ourselves, but by a whole world of people. Yes, you may have adjusted your Facebook privacy settings so your status updates are only viewable to “Just Friends” instead of “Everyone” (aka public), but how many friends do you have? 60? 80? 150? Do you even know all these so-called friends personally? Do you really want all of these “friends” to know what you just posted in a moment of anger or thoughtlessness? And unlike the spoken word, whose effects can fade over time, the written word, especially those published on the Internet, can last for a lifetime.
We need to be more conscience of what we say via text messaging, tweeting, Facebook, and blogging. We need to pause and really consider if that message or comment is something we would want the entire world to know about us. As someone shared with me today, why not view it like this: Is that email, text, tweet, comment something you would feel comfort with if it was printed on the front page of a newspaper with your name in the byline? If your answer is “no”, then delete it. This applies to more than just the words we publish; it also includes the types of photos we are posting on our Facebook and Myspace accounts. How many times do we hear about people posting stupid photos of themselves doing inappropriate things (alcohol, nudity, or even sexual photos) and then being unable to stop these photos from being spread all over the Internet? It happens a lot, especially with teenagers and college-aged young adults.
After all, what we say, what we write, and what we do are the end result of the thoughts we have in our mind. They reveal the type of person we truly are, not the one we pretend to be. As Matthew 15:19 points out: “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts…” Are you using social networking as a platform to rant, rave, complain, spew negativity, and share evil thoughts? It does not have to be that way. One of my favorite Scripture passages is Jeremiah 29:11, which reads: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Let us join together to share a revolutionary message: one of joy, peace, love, compassion, and understanding. In the words of the apostle Paul: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)