Social Networking is a huge part of your life today, and knowing proper netiquette is important. Dr. Meier of the Meier Clinics shares how to enjoy social networking and represent Christ well too. Is there anything that you would add???
INTERNET ETIQUETTE (NETIQUETTE) FOR BELIEVERS INTRODUCTION: The internet can be a wonderful tool for us, as believers, to practice the Great Commandment: to Love God with all our hearts, and to love our neighbors as we practice biblical love and respect for ourselves. The Golden Rule also comes into play in internet communications: Do unto others as you would have them to unto yourself. Having made an internet search on emerging rules of etiquette on the net, now called “netiquette,” I was surprised at how many of the “rules” I have accidentally broken myself. So I decided to write this brief summary of ways we can practice Christ-likeness on the internet while remaining our true and honest selves, loving and being loved via the net. So following are MEIER’S TWELVE RULES OF NETIQUETTE FOR BELIEVERS:
1. SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE. When sending emails or using facebook or other social networks, be sure what you are saying is accurate and that you are sharing it in a loving manner. Being a Christian psychiatrist, I know there are many Christians who have genetic depression, mood swings, ADHD, OCD, or even schizophrenia who can now live happy, productive lives for Christ because of the invention of medications that correct the chemical imbalances that cause these disorders, much like insulin now allows diabetics to live when throughout history they died, or allows people with hypothyroidism to live instead of dying or being severely debilitated. I get so angry when I see ignorant, self-righteous, uneducated Christians say on facebook or other sites that it is a sin for Christians to take psychiatric medications. They are killing people who believe them. If you choose to believe something so absurd, you have a right to remain ignorant, but don’t insist that others agree with your ignorance and imply that if they don’t, they are not as spiritual as you think you are.
2. DON’T BE “SUPERSPIRITUAL.” The great Christian philosopher, Francis Schaeffer, who went to be with the Lord in 1984, wrote about how Satan uses “superspirituality” in Christians to further his evil causes. God wants us to be truly spiritual, practicing love, joy, peace, patience, meekness, gentleness, and other examples of the Holy Spirit’s influence in our lives. Superspirituality is when a believer, or a pretend-believer, acts more spiritual than others, preaches at them, brags about his or her spirituality, and quotes Bible verses with everything he or she says like biblical band aides, instead of using them when appropriate like Jesus did. To use the internet not only to keep up with our own communications, but also to be a good influence for Christ, we must PRACTICE Christ-likeness, not preach it online or shout it in a condescending manner.
3. DON’T GOSSIP. I hate it when a Christian sends out a general email to a large group of people or puts on facebook a prayer request to pray for her unsaved neighbor who is living in sin, or for someone’s impotence problem or temper outbursts or other negative things. If a Sunday School class has a prayer list that all agrees to share their own personal requests for the other group-members to pray for, that is wonderful and perfectly fine. But don’t put personal information about anyone, without that person’s permission, in any public correspondences or else you are committing one of the seven sins God hates the most—gossiping. Proverbs chapter 6 lists the seven sins God hates the most, and number one is an arrogant look—thinking yourself better or more spiritual than others, and among the other six are sewing discord among the brothers, gossiping, stretching the truth, impulsively rushing to do evil, and murder. Christians sometimes think that because they do not commit adultery, which does make the ten commandments but is not in the top seven list, they are somehow spiritual even though they commit four or five of the top seven sins, including on the internet.
4. DON’T BE OVERLY WORDY. Narcissists write on and on about themselves until the reader wants to puke. Christ-like believers use the internet to listen as much as to share, asking the people you email how they are feeling and doing as well as sharing briefly your own thoughts and feelings that you would like to share with the other person.
5. NO MASS MAILINGS. Christians like to find information—often wonderful information—or cute jokes or inspiring poems or other generally good and informative things, and then send them out to their entire mailing list. I have done this myself prior to getting some legitimate complaints from personal friends who do not want their email addresses getting out to everyone on my entire email list. Share these wonderful things with people one at a time, or people who have given you permission to share their email address with the others on your mailing list, but not to people who value their privacy. And whatever you do, do NOT end it with a guilt trip like if they do not pass the information along to their own mailing list they are somehow “breaking the chain” of God’s work or something. How arrogant. Are you God?
6. BE COMPASSIONATE AND EMPATHETIC. It is hard to share feelings on the internet. In person, people can see the genuine concern and love on our faces when we share personal things with each other. On the internet, things can get misinterpreted more easily, or we can give pat answers rather than practicing Christ-likeness. Jesus said to weep with those who weep. If someone is grieving a great loss, and you quote Romans 8:28 out of context, for example, telling them, “Oh well, all things work together for good,” or “Well, it must have been God’s will,” rather than doing what Jesus said to do, which is to show empathy and weep and grieve with them, then you are applying biblical band aides and offending brothers rather than being of benefit to them. Solomon said that a brother offended is harder to win than defeating a strong city. Romans 8:28 is a great verse, one I have used many times in my psychiatric office, but in context, not to discourage grieving. In fact, Jesus said in the beatitudes that people who weep and grieve are blessed by Him, because their grieving and weeping will bring comfort.
7. DON’T FLAME. Flaming is an internet term meaning an exchange of inflammatory remarks to each other in anger. If someone hurts you, Ephesians 4;26-27 says it is perfectly fine and not a sin for you to feel angry, and the Bible even encourages you in various places, even in the Old Testament commandments, like in Leviticus 19, to share your anger appropriately with the person who offended you, but not to get vengeance or to hold grudges, or you give Satan a foothold in your life. So when you are angry at someone, think and pray about it before you decide prayerfully what would be the most godly way to share that anger, or whether it might even be better not to in certain circumstances, rather than reacting in anger and saying things in an inflammatory manner that you may very well regret later—FLAMING.
8. DON’T BE GULLIBLE. The middle verse in the entire Bible is a verse in Psalms that says “Put not your trust in man.” Don’t automatically believe information on the internet or people who communicate with you via the internet. Most human beings lie. Most information on the internet is untrue or at least partially untrue. Patients come to see me and tell me information that I know is scientifically false, so I ask them if they found it on the internet. If they say yes, then I tell them that if it was on the internet it must not be true. I am being facetious, of course, because some information on the internet actually is true and helpful, but I am making the point that they should not be naïve and believe any information on the internet or any person on the internet. Many evil people use the internet to take advantage of others sexually, financially, or in other ways. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
9. DON’T BULLY OR PUT UP WITH BULLYING. Sadly, in this era of declining morals, some teens or even adults use the internet to bully other people, getting a kick out of it somehow. They insult someone directly or on social networks where the insulted people can read insults about themselves. This is a horrible thing to do—stealing a person’s dignity and reputation. If you have done it, repent and never do it again. If it is happening to you, contact authority figures who can stop and punish the bullies.
10. CHECK YOUR EMAILS OFTEN. If you choose to use emailing to communicate with your friends, like I myself have, then it hurts someone’s feelings if they communicate something important to you and you have not responded even days later. If you use the internet, check your emails at least daily. I check mine several times a day, sending or receiving a dozen or more emails a day with my prayer partner, friends, family and associates. It is a wonderful privilege to be able to so easily stay in touch with a larger group of people than would be possible if I had to call people on the phone, which can be time consuming and frustrating if they are not available to answer the phone. I still use the phone, of course, and texting by phone, but can stay in touch with more people in less time by the wonders of the internet. It is a blessing. I have friends even in France, Israel, Australia, Sweden and other countries that I can keep up with via email. In fact, my prayer partner is a French psychologist who lives in Paris, and we email each other almost daily.
11. DON’T SEND MESSAGES USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. I have made this mistake before myself. But when emailing someone, if you use all capital letters they feel as though you are shouting at them.
12. BE HELPFUL TO OTHERS. If someone is new on the internet, help him or her. Be patient and teach him these rules to keep him from embarrassing himself. Pray and look for other ways to show Christian love on the internet. Look for people to help or encourage. Sometimes I just sit down with my computer and pray a few minutes—I even read my Bible daily on the computer—and then think of two or three people you can send a brief word of encouragement. Sometimes it is just, “Hi, I was just thinking about you and prayed for God to bless you today in a special way.” There have been many times when I felt temporarily down in the dumps because of some loss or tragic event in my life, only to be encouraged by a positive email sent by a friend thousands of miles away who had no idea I needed his support at that very moment.
GOD USES THE INTERNET through us sometimes. Pretty cool, right?
Listen to the full conversation and Dr. Meier's suggestions: Segment 1 and Segment 2