Principles of Social Media Civility

"If you say something offensively, people will react defensively"
Rick Warren on Twitter, 8/11/12

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. 
Proverbs 12:18

The amount of access that we have to one another has literally exploded with the global use of social media.  I now have regular facebook, twitter, imessages, instagram and email interactions with people from all over the world and in all types of social circles.  While many bemoan the explosion as it shows a deference away from face to face contact, I would submit that many of the people that I have interactions with solely via social media are people who I would never have the ability to actually meet face to face.  Therefore, social media acts as a access extender that allows me to connect with many more than I would have naturally.

With that being said, I want to state that wherever there are people-people interactions, there will be pathology.  Over the past several months, I have had the privilege of writing some social media posts and blogs that received a significant amount of attention due to the fact that they were about socially provocative topics.  This means that the responses were often, oh how to say this, disrespectful and offensive.  I do believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion but I also believe in civility and respect in our approaches.

I want to give you 6 principles that guide my social media interactions, including what I allow to be posted as comments on my walls and tweets.

1. You have the right to freedom of speech but just not one my social media account.  In other words, you can not just say anything about everything and anyone on my account.  Disagreement and offensiveness are two different things.  If your tone and content are offensive, I will remove the post.

2. Social media connection (friends on FB, followers on Twitter and Instagrm for instance) are privileges, not rights.   You do not have the unlimited right to my social media forums.  Irresponsible posting, offensive words, etc results in the suspending of that privilege.  

3. Social media is can be a public persona and/or a personal expression.  I am a Pastor, Pediatrician, Parent, Browns Fan, High School Football Junkie, etc.  My church has an official web page, my clinic does as well.  When I want to use a twitter post that is official Church business, I use the Church's twitter account.  While I am a representative of the church, what I post on my personal social media accounts are not the official positions of my church, my clinic, the Cleveland Browns.  While I recognize that anything that is seen on my personal accounts may reflect upon my associated entities, it is important that friends and followers know the difference.

4. I reserve the right to limit access to my social media accounts.  Everyone needs time of contemplation and focused interactions.  That means there are times in which I decide that I simply do not wish to have ongoing interactions for a period of time.   Even Jesus controlled who had access to him and he kept it to about 12.  Its unreasonable and unhealthy to think we can be open and accessible to hundreds or thousands of people all of the time.

5. Civility and positive interactions breeds intensified interactions.  Even if you disagree with a post or comment and you can express yourself in a civil tone or constructively, you will find that I will encourage further comments and be more likely to interact with you on your social media accounts.  

6. My social media accounts are not tools for your political and social agendas.  While I enjoy political, religious, and socially provocative posts, some people respond with the same superficial rhetoric and unwitted propaganda that ultimately drives a particular agenda.  I have some FB friends who will make any post I have about abortion.  It is disrespectful and I will suggest that you develop your own social media accounts for that development.  It does not mean that something like abortion is not important, but that my social media accounts are not the forums and tools to exploit for your causes.

Lets use social media responsibly as it has tremendous power to impact and influence.  I pray that our words will be seasoned with grace.

May God bless,

Pastor M Traylor
Dr. M TraylorComment