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The Dangers of Communicating Via Social Media

We are living in a hurried, fast-paced age. If you do not own or have access to a MacBook, iPhone, iPod, iPad or their non-Apple equivalents, you are almost lost.
While these new forms of technology have afforded us tremendous conveniences, some unfortunate byproducts of those conveniences have emerged.

Text messages, Twitter and Facebook encourage users to put into print quick, short messages.

There are many benefits to these forms of communication, but there are also several drawbacks we often forget to consider before we text, tweet or post messages online.

While the writer may desire to share one message, unwittingly, unintentionally and frequently other messages are perceived or conveyed.

You may have meant to communicate one thing, but the recipients – without the benefit of hearing tone of voice, viewing body language or clearly receiving overall context of what is being shared – may extract something altogether different than what you originally intended.

While angry words, flippant remarks and poorly constructed comments can create confusion and breaks in relationships, there are other, more subtle pitfalls when communicating through social media.

When using these devices, individuals are less likely to take their time and prayerfully consider their words.

This can lead to unwise statements as well as unintended messages that cause friction in relationships.

Gaps of time before responses also may convey unintended messages as instant communication has changed our perception of what constitutes a “timely response.”

The aforementioned modes of communication also give the allusion of anonymity.

In other words, people feel freer to say things in text messages, Twitter, message boards and Facebook that they would never say to a person face to face.

Far too often this sense of freedom results in harmful, destructive words being expressed.

While letters and telephones have been used in this way, these new forms of communication seem to have exaggerated this tendency.

We would be wise to remember the advice found in James 1:19: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

This is not to demonize the advancing technologies, but rather to raise some cautions in order to keep us mindful that our words (whether verbal, written or electronic) have power for good or evil.

So, before texting, twittering or Facebooking, ask yourself a few simple questions:

â—     If I were on the other side of this message, what would I “hear”?

â—     Is this something I would say to a person face to face?

â—     Is this a “light” message that can quickly be conveyed or am I avoiding a conversation?

â—     Does it really make sense to send a bunch of text messages when we could (and probably should) talk to one another in person or on the phone?

Finally, even if we are cautious in our use of social media, we should remember that in this fast-paced society, we are losing the beauty of real human-to-human contact.

So, perhaps we should take some time to pick up the phone and call someone. Every now and then, maybe it would be wise to put pen to paper and write someone a letter. Every now and then, go and pay someone a visit.

These approaches are increasingly perceived to be antiquated forms of communication. Yet, there is warmth, charm and beauty nestled into these means of communication that no text, tweet or Facebook message can deliver.

Chris Smith is pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in Wickliffe, Ohio, and author of “Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors.” A version of this column first appeared on her blog, ShePastor, and is used with permission. You can follow her on Twitter @Revcsmith1.