Think Before You Post
Ten things to think about before you hit “publish” on your next blog post, status update, comment, or tweet.
Written by Kevin DeYoung | Wednesday, June 11, 2014 Something is wrong if your blog seems to be caught up in the perpetual celebration of Festivus. Do people get more from your posting and tweeting than the daily airing of grievances? Doesn’t James say we are supposed to beslooowwww to get angry? (James 1:19). Then why are you so ticked off all the time? Have I become obsessed with defending my territory in my little corner of my little internet fiefdom? Am I still hanging on to bygone battles?
I have been blogging—almost every day, normally 5 or 6 days a week—for five and a half years. I never imagined this would be a significant part of my ministry. I never thought many people would read what I wrote. I never thought I would write as much as I do. When I starting blogging at the beginning of 2009, I never, ever, ever thought I would still be doing this in the summer of 2014. Others have been going at this longer than I have, but still, five years is a long time in blogger years.
And in these five years I’ve had plenty of occasions to reflect on the nature of blogging, the possibilities of social media, and the pitfalls of everyone being connected to everyone else all the time. I made fun of bloggers until I started a blog. I made fun of Facebook and Twitter, and now I’m on both. I fit the demographic of Gen Xers and Millennials who spend too much time online and exert too much emotional energy in keeping up to date on the latest internet scuffles and kerfuffles.
I’m thankful for blogs and tweets and posts and embeds and links and all the rest. God is no Luddite when it comes to defending his name and proclaiming the gospel. And yet, on many days I would be thrilled if all digital sound and fury disappeared and we went back to the slow churn of books, phone calls, journal articles, newsletters, and (gasp!) face to face conversation.
But we won’t and we aren’t. So we need to think about how to post, what to post, and when to post. As Christians, we need to be more prayerful, careful, and biblical about our online presence. After more than five years of blogging—less than that with Twitter and Facebook—and having gleaned lots of wisdom from others and having made lots of mistakes myself, here are ten things to think about before you hit “publish” on your next blog post, status update, comment, or tweet.
1. Is this idea, question, or rant only half baked? One of the posts I’ve always regretted was the one several years ago on where are all the Lutherans. I didn’t expect the post to get much attention. I was trying to ask a question I had asked in my head many times. I should have kept the question in my head, or posed it in a more private setting. The question wasn’t bad, and through the post I came in contact with some good Lutheran brothers. But as a blog post, it was half-baked. I was asking that question for myself without considering that some people might give me an answer!
The internet is public space. As such, it is not the place for every crazy thought or personal revelation you’ve ever had. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with putting out certain ideas tentatively, in hopes that your thinking can be sharpened and refined. But don’t pull things out of your mental or emotional or experiential box that you may want to put back later. If you want to spill your guts and be completely raw and try out far flung new theories, keep a journal.
2. Have I considered that anyone anywhere at anytime could see this? When I started blogging I knew people might read it, but I never seriously considered how public a post could be. After my second day of blogging a friend emailed me, “Wow, people are actually reading your blog. Very cool. But just remember this is going out there to everyone and people are going to see it.” At that time my friend was only talking about dozens or maybe hundreds of views. But his admonition was apt no matter the scale. No matter how many followers or friends you have, no matter how many subscribers, no matter how micro or macro your normal traffic, you have to consider that anything you put online can be seen by almost anyone on the planet. Are you sure you want to post that picture, slam that person, share that secret, make that accusation, go on that hilariously caustic riff?
Years ago, while speaking on the emergent church, I got a question during Q/A that I never should have touched: “What do you think about so and so?” Unless you are prepared to tell the world that so and so is your best friend and his ministry has meant the world to you, almost nothing good can come from answering questions like that. After trying to qualify the critique that I knew was about to come out, I strung together a sentence that was uncharitable and over the top. I wasn’t wrong to disagree with the person in question, but I wasn’t careful in how I voiced my disagreements. A few days later my slipshod statement was being broadcast far and wide on the internet. Eventually, I talked on the phone with the person I had pontificated about. We had a nice conversation and I was able to apologize for being careless. I learned the hard way—but at least I learned it early on—that anything said in public can be heard by anyone else.
3. Do I really know what I’m talking about? One of the great things about working on my PhD is that I can see more clearly how hard it is to really, truly be an expert in something. The internet is full of amateurs who think they are experts. That doesn’t mean you can’t voice an opinion about the Hobby Lobby case without being a lawyer or that you can’t explain the Bible without a seminary degree. It does mean that we should at least pause before posting to consider whether our brilliant manifesto is anything more than opinion rooted in speculation, based on hearsay, buttressed by a 45 second Google search.
4. What if I run into this person later today? Let me share another lesson I learned from an early blogging mistake. One of my first posts was a snarky jab at another author I disagreed with. A few days later I was speaking at an event and saw that this person’s colleague and friend was at a table across the room. As soon as he saw me he made a straight line for my table and proceeded to dress me down for my snarky post. It was not a pleasant experience, in part because few people like this sort of confrontation, and because this man’s friend had a point. For me as a no-name blogger it never registered that this big-name author I was tweaking was actually a real person. I never considered that he might get wind of my post, or that he might have friends, or that he might have a wife and kids, or that he might be having a bad day, or that he may be in the midst of profound grief, or that he might have had a much harder life than I’ve have, or that this famous pastor or author or leader or athlete was just like me in most ways, or that he could get in contact with me, or that I could meet him or someone close to him at anytime.
Again, there is nothing wrong with disagreement, even sharp disagreement. Even satire has its place. But you shouldn’t be a bigger man behind the keyboard than you would be across the table from someone. Ever since this painful experience in the early days of blogging, I’ve tried to think with every polemical piece “Would I say this same thing if he or she were in the room with me right now?” Although I’m sure I’ve still made mistakes, and some people still think I’m too polemical, that simple question has helped me think much more carefully about how I say what I say and whether I should say anything at all.
5. Will I feel good about this post later? Boy is it tempting to send off that witty retort in the midst of the battle. Dropping the bomb can feel so good. But it is often unwise. Why do we think that the biblical injunction to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19) applies to everything else except the internet? ...Read the rest at the Aquila Report