I am assuming that anyone caring to read this is a Christian so I will forgo the obvious things like speaking kindly. Like not calling people or the things they believe "stupid," and similar sentiments. I am assuming we all know that even when we disagree, especially publicly, it is far better, and even commanded, that we be kind and speak with words that will provoke healthy discussions rather than irate reactions. So I won't even go there more than this brief paragraph.
However, someone has said that if we all "just speak like Christians" none of these problems below would arise. I don't believe that's true. In the first place, Facebook is an open forum—at least until someone gives you a reason to block him, and that will always be after the damage has been done, damage you really had nothing to do with at all. But since the troll caused the problem on your post, your name will forever be linked with something ugly.
And second, what one might say to a close friend might not be how he says it to a mere acquaintance, yet nothing "un-Christian" has been said. (More on this below.) So let's be careful about making unfair judgments. "Where there's smoke there's fire," may be true, but there is a world of difference between a cozy fire in my fireplace and arson.
So here goes: Mistakes We Often Make on Facebook
1. Forgetting that hundreds, maybe thousands, of people, many you do not even know, will see your posts. Whenever a friend comments on your post, it might very well show up on all his friends' newsfeeds with the heading "So-and-so commented (or liked or reacted to) this post." Multiply the number of friends you have by the number of friends they each have and the number is staggering. In addition, your employers, or your spouse's employers, or places you have applied to for work or enrollment can also see your posts. Be careful what you say, how you say it, and the private information and photos, especially of your children, that you put out there. (Sexual predators drool over these innocents and sometimes have enough information to take action.)
Discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, (Prov 2:11).
2. Forgetting that there is no tone of voice or natural face expression on Facebook. Those emoticons don't cover all the bases either. What you say tongue-in-cheek is usually the opposite of what you mean, but someone out there—maybe several someones—will take you seriously and be horrified. And most will not question you personally, but spread what they think you believe or the character they think you have shown to your reputation's possible great harm. When the Onion and Babylon Bee, both of which are known to be satire, are taken seriously, you can be sure it will happen to you, too. Unfortunately, even warning people at the outset seems to do no good, because people do not read everything. We have created a culture that loathes anything requiring more than a thirty second attention span so they just skim right past your warning.
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Col 4:6).
3. Thinking you need to comment on everything. You don't. It's sort of like regular conversation—if you have something pertinent, helpful and encouraging to say, then do. Otherwise, be quiet.
And I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. (Matt 12:36).
4. Failure to stop and think first. The immediacy of Facebook may be its biggest danger. It's so easy to just type in a gut reaction and hit enter before considering the possible fall-out. I have seen some wonderful people, who would never had allowed their frustration to show in person, say some truly hurtful things on Facebook. Please re-read #1-3.
A fool's lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. (Prov 18:6).
5. Inserting yourself into a conversation in which you do not belong. If someone particularly asks "older people" for advice, if I see something harmful to a good person's reputation, or if I see something dangerous (especially as a retired law enforcement officer's wife), I will put in my two cents' worth. But when young mothers thirty to forty years younger than I are sharing experiences, I usually bow out. It would be completely irrelevant to today's culture, and look like an old gray head who just wanted some attention. And never, ever, pontificate about something serious that you have never experienced. "I would do this if it were me," is not true. Frankly, you have no idea what you would do since it has never happened to you before.
The tongue of the wise utters knowledge aright; But the mouth of fools pours out folly. (Prov 15:2).
6. Whining about the trivial—because compared to the rest of the world, most of our issues are trivial. When all people see of you is this constant whining, they believe you must be a weak, spoiled, ungrateful, overgrown baby. No one wants to hear it after the first hundred posts, and really, you do not want people to think that of you because it is probably not true! Here is the test. Go to your personal page and read all of your posts (not direct posts to your timeline, but YOUR posts) one after the other. Pretend they are posts of someone you do not know. What is the pervading image that those posts leave? Does it sound like a whiner, a big grump, a materialistic drama queen, a self-righteous prig? I guarantee you, if you are honest with yourself, you will be more than a little embarrassed.
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Prov 31:17, 25-26).
7. Thinking you can actually change someone's mind in a Facebook discussion. If you just enjoy a debate, then OK, provided you are careful of all the other things we have discussed, like who might see your comments and any damage they might do to a weak soul. But don't be so naïve that it affects you emotionally when people ignore or disagree with your carefully reasoned out comments. Our culture has reached the point where most people make decisions based upon emotions rather than logic and data. If these things weaken you spiritually, scroll right on by.
It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling. (Prov 20:3).
8. Failure to use the delete button. If someone posts something inappropriate, delete it from your newsfeed and tell Facebook why when they ask. If someone makes an unkind or ugly comment on one of your posts, delete it. If they persist, unfriend them. Would you continue to call that person a friend out in the world, face to face? In fact, if you are going to post at all, it becomes your responsibility to monitor your posts and keep them clean and beneficial to others.
Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them; for the things which are done by them in secret it is a shame even to speak of. (Eph 5:11-12).
9. Ganging up on those who make spiteful comments or disagree in an unpleasant manner. I have seen it again and again. Someone posts a perfectly innocent comment or observation and someone else comes in with something that can only be described as hostile. So what happens? Others come rushing in to put this miscreant in his place. Bullying is a pretty good description of what goes on as each "defender of the righteous" verbally assaults the one who dared say anything "mean" to their friend. No one seems to get the obvious—that this poor soul is somehow damaged, probably by mistreatment himself or an emotional crisis he is presently going through, or he would never have reacted in such an antagonistic way. Will "taking him down a peg" fix the problem? No, it will not. It will only add credence to what he already believes about "so-called Christians," as he would define them. Our Lord certainly did nothing of the kind and taught us to follow his example, showing kindness to our enemies. How can you ever hope to reach the soul of a person to whom you have returned exactly as you received? Your best chance is by treating him kindly, not ganging up and throwing stones.
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. (Luke 6:27-28).
10. Thinking you always have to bring up the opposite side of a discussion "to add a little balance". The one posting thought that particular side of the issue was the one that needed addressing the most at that particular time. When you begin your, "Yes, but…," the people who might have benefited from his point, will now feel perfectly comfortable ignoring it. You may have undone a lot of good that could have been done because you decided that it was your job to set things right. Would you have done the same thing to the apostle Paul when he said, "Being therefore justified by his blood?" Would you have run in and added everything he left out of that verse? Would you have done it to Jesus when he quoted Hosea saying, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice," when everyone knows the Law certainly did require sacrifice? The practice of bringing up only one side of an issue for emphasis is perfectly Biblical and the wise will understand that and allow it to work.
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Gal 6:3).
If I sat here long enough I could come up with a dozen more, or perhaps they would all be variations of #1-3. I have been on the wrong side of too many of these things, and I imagine you have seen yourself staring back at you on at least one point. I hope this helps us all to remember who we follow—especially on Facebook. Social media can be a good tool, but it can also be a tool of the Devil.
That no advantage may be gained over us by Satan: for we are not ignorant of his devices. (2Cor 2:11).