Eddie, I have a few friends who in real life are great people, but online, they make me insane. Now I’m not talking about constant pictures of kids, I’m talking about commentary on the latest news story (i.e. Ferguson), rude sports smack-talk, or the dreaded political season vitriol. Can you talk to these people for me and I’ll just passively share this article in hopes they realize it’s written for them?
Oh my goodness, Heidi, you are really funny! I’ve been asked a lot of questions in my advice column life, but never one that’s asking me to drop a truth bomb on some unsuspecting friends. However, not only do I share your frustration, I’m also not above helping you passively chastise them. We’re so mature, aren’t we?
All right, let’s start with the issue. Not the issue you spoke of, but the issue behind the issue: unlimited access to everything. We are living in a unique age, that is, a time where we have unprecedented access to all information and communication.
Think about it, 20 years ago, if you wanted to buy a new toaster, you’d head to your trusted store, read the cards under each toaster model, chat with a salesperson, and buy one of the three models they carried.
Now, you can literally sort, view, read reviews and price shop every toaster ever made, all from the comfort of the device that’s in your pocket. Want more? You can find the schematics of your new toaster, the history of a toaster, national toaster collecting groups and probably a dating site for people who like your toaster and want you to like theirs. At no point in history have we ever had such access to knowledge. Literally, we have the world’s knowledge in our pocket. It’s crazy.
Additionally, we have unfettered access to not only receive information, but to broadcast it. Again, 20 years ago, if you had a strong opinion about something and felt like voicing it, you’d have to call somebody, send them a letter or, you know, see them. Now, you can reach everyone you’ve ever known, instantly. And if your crowd deems your opinion worthy, it can reach thousands instantly. Millions, even! I repeat, it’s crazy.
So the question is: What does it mean to have this kind of access to everything and everyone? Well, we don’t know, as we’re still in the early stages of figuring out what this means, how it positively or negatively affects community and how it reforms humanity. Yes. It’s that big a deal—and we’re living it in. We are just starting to wrap our minds around what in the world this new access means and how we’re to use it. And to be honest, I have no idea how this will redefine humanity—but I know it will.
Holy smokes, am I in my head right now with this answer! I mean seriously, you probably just wanted a few tips for navigating a conversation with your friends. But to be honest, I have no idea, because fundamentally I’m learning the new language of access along with everyone else. And what annoys me is not usually the person, but their motives—which I rarely understand.
Why would anyone care that you’re #disappointed with #Obamacare? Well, I care that you’re disappointed, but your Tweet does nothing—oh forget it, I’m old and didn’t grow up with this. However, this access will be the native language of my daughters, which has forced me to not run from the change, but try and ride the wave the best way I know how. So, without further ado, here’s the answer to your question.
My Old Man Rules For What To Post on The Internet:
Rule 1. Would I say it in person to everyone who reads it?
I’d say this statement is fairly self-explanatory. I won’t post something unless I know I would, with integrity and zero humiliation, stand in front of everyone who’s going to read it and say exactly what I just posted. This reality has changed my view of social media not as a way of expressing me, but rather a way of engaging you. This also means the only thing that makes it past this filter is typically a joke, link, expression of gratitude or picture of my sweet family.
Rule 2. Can I debate this point?
Anybody can write that the racial divide is embarrassing in this country (and I tend to agree), but can they hold an educated, long-form conversation on this statement? I can’t, as I don’t fully understand the problem, my role in it or a wise response. So, because I can’t debate it, I don’t Tweet it. This is one rule that may get some pushback from smart people (and I hope you educate all of us in the comments), but for me, I’m either going to go swimming or stay dry—no toes in the water.
Rule 3. Am I representing [insert everything you’re a part of] well?
People who write things like “posts don’t represent the views of xyz company” are lying to themselves. Yes they do. You’re always representing your family, job, community and (yes, I’m going there) Jesus. There is no firewall between what you post and who you are in relation to the aforementioned list. You are always you, and you should always be accountable to every facet of your life.
Rule 4. Who cares?
If your post makes it through the first four rules, ask yourself this final question: Who cares? More precisely, who on God’s green earth cares about what you’re going to say? What’s that, only you? Delete.
And those are my four rules, Heidi. I hope they help, and I hope your friends read them and apply them. But more than that, I hope you take a cue from a previous era and actually engage your friends in a conversation (in person, of course) about what bothers you and how you can learn from each other as you navigate this brave new world. Go get ‘em, Heidi!
RT and “Like” away!
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Eddie Kaufholz is a writer, speaker and podcaster and serves as a director of church mobilization for International Justice Mission. He also hosts and produces "The New Activist" podcast. You can find on Twitter @EdwardorEddie.