Even though my publication dream is fiction, I often contribute to other sites ---with book reviews—and with statements on church culture.I recently wrote a piece that has garnered some of the response I expected it to, but on a larger scale than I could have anticipated. I knew going into it that it would be an interesting subject that would inspire some dissonance and I did the best I could to prepare.
I used this experience to note what is helpful and what is not when working with a difficult topic on a large social media forum.
Sit back and watch: learn what your tone is. Learn and be surprised at how your words are read by those who don’t know you from a hole in the ground. Take notes. If you thought you got a point across in a lucid manner and yet people stumble with it, you can note it for next time.
Recognize the banner you are presenting. Everything can be shared, tweeted, linked and copied and pasted. Snippets can be taken out of context. The internet is a wonderful sphere for dialogue and discussion. But it is also a Leviathan. It can swallow you up.
With weighty subjects come weight and responsibility. It is your job to make sure you are speaking in the most balanced way you know how. Don’t post for the sake of posting. Make sure that you feel that you are speaking as a disciple. Make sure you are read up on the theology and scriptures you reference ( whether blatantly or not ) and have an underlying thesis. Know your missive. I was lucky to have an editor who knew my intention and was invaluably helpful. Run it by some of your friends and critique partners.
People who have taken the time to share emotional and personal responses are reaching out and deserve feedback. Speak in love. Get your Ephesians on. Bank time to respond to them each in turn and make sure you are understanding their view—all Atticus Finch like—in the best way you can. We are fishes swimming in different ponds with different worldviews who all feel we have the right and best intentions. This can cause dissension and collision ( which is wonderful if done in an informed way) but don’t be a catalyst for petty hate and indignation.
As Christians we are responsible for our words: but we cannot feel guilty over points and intentions whose tone was apparently misread and we must trust that our Great reader knows our heart and thus our intent. You cannot be responsible for those who will glean certain tenets from your discussion than you intended and you must be prepared for that.
Choose which forums to engage in and, most of all, choose which hills you are willing to die on. Don’t fight anything merely for the sake of fighting it. Rather, ensure that the only dissonance you provide to discussion comes from a core belief that your response will somehow enlighten or is meted from your deepest convictions. The internet is a marvelous place filled with people from all walks of life, many experiences and many viewpoints. Invariably, they will differ from some of your own.
Being moderate and polite doesn’t mean relinquishing your backbone. Recognize that you may be Proverbs 31:8-ing and recognize that you may be speaking for a demographic who don’t feel that they have a voice.
If you find yourself coming up against a certain statement over and over again, write a response you can copy and paste. Edit it and read it and pray over it. That way you have been ruminating on it to the best of your ability and are not just throwing immediate reactions into the world. Pause. Meditate. Hesitate.
Keep an open blank document to write knee-jerk reactions to comments that stir you: that way you get it out of your system without regretting pressing send. Who knows who will see and share those hasty gut responses. Be Ye Smart.
You are being watched:by One whose name you are writing in. By non-believers whose only initiation to the topic may be your social media presence and by industry professionals. Don’t write anything that can ostracize you. Your viewpoints may differ from others but the way you present them is how you should be measured.
Separate the comment from the commentator: it’s hard ---but don’t immediately impose personal judgments. Take these things apart and recognize that the internet is wonderful for dialogue but it is not the same as reading tone and body language over coffee.......
Don’t be silent. God gave you a voice. In this case He gave me the opportunity to write a piece that reflects part of the underscore of a novel I currently have on submission. I gleaned that the dialogue is relevant and thus that my novel does have a place. What a great feeling.