Tuesday, April 5, 2016

We are all little publishers! : A Code of Ethics For Christians Posting On Social Media

If you’re on social media, you are a publisher. Oh yes you are!

Every time you post a comment or share a link, you are publishing content.

Being active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other platform is not radically different from publishing a magazine or newsletter.

Seriously. Just think about it.

Your subscribers and readers are your “friends” and “followers.” For some, the information you provide is taken very seriously.

At the least, everything you post is a reflection of who you are, how you think, and a promotion for the ideas you are sharing.

How seriously others take your posts is tied to who you are. If you’re viewed as a trusted source, then what you post (aka publish) is seen as true and valuable. Something to be taken to heart.

Hopefully, this gives you pause.

During a recent webinar I participated in, the presenter, Marshall Shelley, vice president of Christianity Today, made a statement to the effect, “I'm struck by how much we [Christians] believe in truth but how little we sometimes practice honesty.”

The statement was made, in part, in reference to the kinds of “stories” and “memes” posted in social media and shared via email. These often aren’t very true.

But Shelley broadened this out to include all publishing.

The audience for the webinar was members of the Evangelical Press Association. Shelley pointed to EPA’s Code of Ethics as he challenged us as writers and editors to exercise care in what we share.

There’s some good stuff in this Code. Go take a look.

From the full Code, I’ve gleaned and distilled the following seven points that I want to propose as a Code of Ethics For Christians Posting On Social Media:
  1. Christians who post on social media should care about advancing the work and witness of Jesus Christ and the Church.
  2. Christians who post on social media should care about helping all people understand their world in light of biblical truth.
  3. Christians who post on social media should exhibit trustworthiness, fair play, and civility in what they share, avoiding even the appearance of defamation or slander.
  4. Christians who post on social media must make rigorous efforts at accuracy and copyright acknowledgement

  5. Christians who post on social media should be wary of the temptations posed by the medium’s immediacy and should exercise restraint in passing along questionable information and use care in checking facts and sources.
  6. When substantive mistakes are made, whatever their origin, Christians who post on social media will publish a correction or clarification at the earliest opportunity, and delete the erroneous post.
  7. The foremost responsibility of Christians who post on social media is faithfulness to the will of God as expressed in the Bible and to the articulation of the truth.
The bottom line is that when we post something on social media we need to exhibit truth and practice honesty.

Something that’s just a little bit true is a lie. At minimum it’s misleading and inappropriate to post.

Posting or sharing comments, links, and memes that are insulting, inaccurate, mean, or untoward is simply wrong.

Christ calls us to be better. To be like Him.

Making this concept practical, Paul warns us to “put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth [as in, don’t' be a potty-mouth or a potty-poster]. Do not lie...” (Colossians 3:8-9, HCSB).

And then he encourages us to “be ready for every good work, to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people” (Titus 3:2, HCSB).

I’ve said it before but I’m going to say it again, before you post that next comment or meme, stop and ask yourself is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

If the answer is not a resounding yes to each question, don’t post it. Just don’t.

After all, in a sense, you are what you post.

So, based on your Facebook or other posts, what are you?

Additional reading:

Have you posted something that later you realized was inaccurate or mean? Did you go back and delete it? If not, why not? Have you ever been offended by someone else’s post? Did you let them know? If not, why not? If yes, how did they respond? Is something that’s a little untrue okay to post if it’s funny? Why or why not? Please share your opinions in the comments

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