Facebook is a cancer.
One of my friends told me this several months ago, but I did not agree. I’m a writer and a journalism and mass communication major. Social media has become a huge part of the mass communication world. I’ve studied it in classes. On a professional level, becoming proficient at navigating the ins and outs of almost any social media platform is essential.
On a personal level, I have friends and loved ones spread out all over the globe. I love being able to stay in contact with them, to wish them happy birthday, to see pictures of my cousin’s kids a few states away. I enjoy sharing memes and cool videos with my friends. I like seeing the communities that are built by pages like Overheard. I can enjoy people’s creative works and share my own. I get to reflect on memories, to publicly honor those who have had an influence on my life, to laugh with those I love who are thousands of miles away.
What could be cancerous about that?
Except that’s not all I get to do. On any social media platform, but on Facebook specifically, I get to have a voice. I get to communicate in a permanent, worldwide way at the touch of a button.
I also get to have ears. I can read people’s opinions, beliefs and convictions simply by scrolling. I can tune in to thousands of conversations about thousands of different topics with thousands of different opinions.
And those two things can be very dangerous.
My friend told me Facebook was a cancer after I came away from scrolling through my feed almost in tears. I was rapidly losing respect for people I loved based on what they posted on Facebook. Sometimes it was angry political posts or harsh condemnation of opposing views. Sometimes it was “fake news” or conspiracy theories with unreliable sources shared as if they were fact. Sometimes it was personal attacks on other people or myself.
Sometimes it was simply a different opinion on something I felt strongly about.
I didn’t let myself cry for very long, however. Instead I wiped my tears and set fingers to my keyboard. I broke hard and fast personal rules I had abided by since I first created a social media account at age 16 and started posting pointed, angry posts over different current events. I started commenting on posts or worse, responding to negative comments. I kept scrolling, and I kept getting angrier.
In the past, I had used my Facebook primarily to share posts praising God, prayer requests, or just a funny story I hoped would make someone laugh. Now I was calling people out, shouting my opinion from the rooftops, and in the words of my friend, “being emotionally manipulative.”
I felt powerful. I felt like a suffragette standing on the soap box, fighting for what I believed in without caring what it did to other people’s opinions of me, my reputation or my testimony. I had a voice, and I was going to use it to shake the world awake so they could see why they were wrong.
After all, that was biblical, wasn’t it? Proverbs says that an open rebuke is better than hidden love. We are called to speak truth, are we not? How are we supposed to share the Gospel if we don’t speak? How are we supposed to share the truth of God’s word if we don’t use our voices? How are we supposed to promote love if we don’t open our mouths?
Except that’s not what I was doing. Proverbs also says, “There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.” Many, many verses in the Bible caution against opening your mouth. Why? Because “he that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” Because “he that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.”
Because “death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”
Is it wrong to express your opinions on Facebook? Was I sinning by standing on my metaphorical soapbox?
Yes and no.
I had to find a balance. The pen is mightier than the sword, indeed. I’m a communication major. I spend my days sitting in front of a computer, writing literally thousands of words a week. It’s my job, my delight and what I believe is my calling from God.
But when I let myself and my pride get in the way, it can also be my destruction.
When I speak the truth in love, then I am following Scripture. But if I am passive-aggressively posting my thoughts in response to a difference of opinion with someone else, rather than approaching them personally, I am not following the dictates of Scripture.
I still struggle with this. I scroll through Facebook, and I get angry. I get sad. For me, finding balance looks like scrolling less. It looks like evaluating the motivation and attitude behind my posts. It looks like stepping back and thinking before posting in the heat of the moment.
And it looks like sharing my praise of God far more often than my political opinion.
Is Facebook a cancer? I don’t think so. It’s an extension of the tongue, and therefore powerful: hard to control. It can be used for good, just like your words can be. But while it holds the power of life, it also holds the power of death.
As with all communication, find the balance of speaking truth in love. Fight for what you believe in, but do it in the right spirit. Find your soapbox, but pour over your speech in prayer and caution before you step up to the platform. Your words are powerful. Treat them with the care and respect they deserve.