Remember the faces behind the screen

What would your mom say if she saw your posts, or your comments, on Instagram? Would she think that your statement was funny? Would she applaud you for standing up for your convictions, or would she be appalled at your anger and hate? 

By now, the majority of campus is familiar with opinions of other students, whether viewed positively or not, that have gone unspoken or only mentioned within close circles of friends. Social media seductively offers a megaphone to a variety of thoughts and viewpoints, promising little to no consequences for a biting comment or a rude remark. Whether regarding someone’s actions or political opinions, the comment section entices the best and worst of every person’s emotions and reactions. 

We at the Threefold Advocate plead with you to remember Scripture, and not just the one that fits your opinion. Although writing to the early church when Instagram didn’t exist, James would probably not be pleased with what has occurred this past week. 

In James 1:19, he writes, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” In order to listen and speak, you have to engage in the real world. And according to the Bible, the last thing in the list is to be angry and to be slow to react in that emotion. While anger is a natural emotion, we are also admonished not to sin in our anger, and that includes backbiting, gossip, divisions and strife. 

In the heat of the comments, with flying fingers and a furious mind, it can be easy to spout off an opinion that you would never say to someone’s face … right? But you’re still saying it to someone’s face on the other side of the screen. At the least, if you believe your comment is right, that you are speaking the truth, please recognize that social media isn’t always the best platform to discuss such divisive issues. You are talking to your study partner in biology, the girl sitting next to you in New Testament and the guy who lives in the suite down the hall. 

When you see someone walking across campus and remember the comment they made, you’re forced to recognize that they remember your comment, too. You can close the app and turn off your phone, but you can’t get rid of the hurt. You can delete your comment or delete your post, but a screenshot and a memory last forever. 

Outside of the debate, there are real people you are not only talking with but talking about. These are the ones that you call “pagan,” “bigot,” “idiot” and “snowflake.” Many of them, marginalized in the very university that calls itself a community, feel unsafe to speak out, afraid of the backlash that is now all too real. 

When you already feel like you don’t belong and then are reminded that the very judgment you fear isn’t just in your head but actually exists, the community doesn’t become a place of belonging. It becomes a place of isolation, pain and terror, waiting for the day that the venom of online comments spills into a classroom debate or is said to your face. 

How can we still call this a Christian community? How can we still profess to have Christ Over All when we actually believe that he is only over some?

We need to take a long hard look at the tables we find ourselves at, whether in the cafeteria or the classroom. We need to look at the faces sitting across from us. If we believe that not everyone is welcome at our table, we desperately need forgiveness and love. Lord, help us to find both in your arms. 

Photo courtesy of Robin Worrall