Loving your social media neighbor

July 21st, 2015

We’ve all had those opportunities: Someone has posted a controversial photo, a seemingly racist/hateful status update, or attached a right-or-left wing extremist “article” or propaganda-like video that clearly lacked credibility. You ask yourself, “Do I comment and start another Facebook Feud (Twitter Tango or Instagram Instafight) or do I technologically bite my lip and move on?

A Samaritan and a Jew

In Luke’s account of the life of Jesus, the author describes a time when Jesus addressed a similar scenario. Once again, Jesus was being hounded by religious leaders searching for bait that would be tweet-worthy or even make Buzzfeed’s Trending category.

Luke narrates that the religious law expert sought to “test Jesus” asking him, “Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?”

Jesus knows his antics. This isn’t the first smart alec he’s encountered nor will it be the last. He defers to the Old Testament writings, questioning, “What does the law of Moses say?”

The religious expert correctly responds by essentially saying love God and love your neighbor better than you love yourself.

After Jesus affirms his answer, the religious leader goes down swinging, questioning Jesus one last time, “But who really is my neighbor?”

Jesus goes on to tell a story about a man who is now known as the Good Samaritan, a man that portrays who Jesus ultimately would be to humanity: a lover of his enemies, those who were dead-set against him and everything he stood for. This Good Samaritan placed his enemies before himself in his finances, time, reputation and personal reservations among others. Picture an African-American man helping an injured leader of the KKK during the '60s. This man disregarded the cultural norms of his day and the potential anger he had towards this person for the sake of his enemy’s wellbeing as a human being.

So what does this have to do with social media?

Loving the tweeter next door

Loving our neighbor better than we love ourselves is difficult. After working 50 hour work weeks or going more than full-time to school while juggling family or dating relationships, taxes, groceries, bills, insurances and car maintenance, it’s easy to forget to pay a bill let alone love our neighbors.

Even more so, I think social media poses an imaginary divide between us and our neighbors. For some reason we seem to not see the people we engage with on Twitter or Facebook as human beings on their phones or computers. Instead, there is digital barrier between those we interact with on social media, between our screens and theirs.

Sometimes I wonder: If Jesus had come to earth in the 21st century instead of the 1st century, how would he have answered that same religious leader’s question (assuming that religious leader was born alive in the 21st century as well)? How would he say the great commandments, loving God and loving our neighbors, should affect the way we engage with other people on social media?

While I’m still thinking through what this looks like on a practical level, here are some tips to better love your social media neighbor:


  1. Weigh. Consider whether it’s even worthy of a response. In a month, six months, a year, is the content of this post going to matter? Will my response have a lot of negative impact on those who are viewing it? If so, do I respond in a public post to them that everyone can see? Or do I write them a loving message or text? Or do I call and/or set up a time to talk with them in person? 
  2. Wait. If I find myself doubting whether or not I should respond to a post or even write something myself, I type up a potential draft, save it, and walk away for awhile. Whether it be an hour or a day, I know I need to be sure about what I’m about to post. 
  3. Ask. Find someone that you trust to be honest with you (not your gossip girls but someone more like your spiritual correctional officer) and ask them to look over what you’re considering posting. Ask if they think it’s wise and beneficial. More often than not, I ask my wife to look over a potentially controversial blog post or comment, not because I simply don’t want to offend someone — sometimes people need that — but because I want to ensure that what I’m saying is wise, beneficial for the person(s) I’m engaging with, and has God’s kingdom in mind.

Tyler Saldaña is a pastor and writer in Issaquah, Washington. This post originally appeared at TylerSaldana.org.
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