Recent advancements in technology have been both a gift and a curse in regards to communication. There are many instant conveniences that we have gained that are available simply at the touch of a button. With our smartphones, we can send a text and get an instant response, send a video message to a family member or friend or conduct a live, real-time, interactive conversation with anyone across the globe. Overall, technological advances have greatly changed the way we communicate and interact with one another as a society. It has also impacted the methods we use to share various cultural experiences among family, friends and even business colleagues.
Nevertheless, there is a danger to social media that often goes unchecked. The age-old cliché that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” has been proven time and time again to be inaccurate. Therefore, because of our technological advances, our communication and approach to conflict resolution via social media has magnified the impact of the power of words. Once hurtful words are shared via a text message or on a social media platform they are permanent, with the ability to be viewed and shared over and over again for the whole world to comment upon at their leisure. As a result, a message can potentially cause damaging effects, altering a person’s emotional state to the point of causing anxiety, depression, as well as death.
As users of our new technology, people post or send messages with no forethought of the consequences. Often times people experience “cyber courage,” where they feel they have the liberty to say what they want to someone through a text message or via social media, but if the same person were in front of them in person they would hesitate to convey the exact same message with such boldness and lack of care. Though we live in a country that celebrates the right of free speech, it should never outweigh our moral compass of human decency and respect. Many tend to post things, not caring about whom the message will offend or even how they will be viewed once the post has gone viral. Many have lost business deals, sponsorships as well as relationships based upon their “cyber” point of view.
As children, we are taught in our traditional educational institutions how to read, write, and socially interact with others. Now, with these new technological advances, we need to incorporate new educational protocols around communication via social media and within our online cyber community. Just as there are constructive and destructive methods to communicate with someone in person, there are also constructive and destructive ways to communication online.
In Ephesians 4:29, the apostle Paul explains the best way to communicate. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” In addition, Matthew 18:15 teaches us the proper way to address conflict resolution. “If your brother acts wrongly towards you, go and point out his fault to him, when only you and he are there. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Following these simple instructions from God eliminates the need for disrespectful speech, lewd remarks or even an “open letter” on social media to address how someone has wronged someone else. The word of God applies in the same manner, whether we are in person or on social media. In addition, we can always apply the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”(Luke 6:31).
Lastly, my mother always told me, “You better think before you speak!” I admonish everyone today to not only think before we speak, but also think before we type. Not only does God see us and hear us, but our words will continue to echo throughout the world as well.