Social media, Facebook specifically, has its advantages and disadvantages. Facebook is a great means for sharing pictures, selling items, making prayer requests and sharing updates about what is happening in our personal lives. It’s great for sharing highlighted updates. Am I right? I mean, c’mon, who displays the dimly lit portions of our realities?
That’s a topic for another day.
While many of us frequently use Facebook for several reasons, I don’t recall seeing a list of Facebook etiquette rules we should follow. It is easier to remember the golden rule of treating others how you want to be treated when interacting with someone face-to-face, but common sense is frequently disregarded when interactions are through Facebook. Why is that? Sure, you are protected by a computer screen, but don’t forget that eventually you will see some of your Facebook friends in person.
So, not having a Facebook protocol handbook and as someone who has experienced a few traumatic events during her lifetime, I have compiled a list of three basic tips to consider when posting on your friends’ pages or your page:
1. If you can type it, you can pray it.
When we are experiencing a rough time, we turn to our social media friends requesting thoughts and prayers anyone may have to spare. In return, those friends will comment, “Thoughts and prayers” or “Praying for you” or “T&P” … but let’s be honest: how many of us have typed “praying for you,” but then go about our day without giving that friend’s situation another thought? I will shamefully raise my hand, as I have been guilty of this — it’s not my proudest moment. But I cannot be the only one. Could you imagine if every single person who said they are praying for you, actually prayed for you? Imagine shaking the heavens with so many prayers for someone’s situation? So often the act of typing is a substitute for prayer for so many. FYI, “Praying for you” in a Facebook comment is not an actual prayer. If you have to choose one — typing to let someone know you are praying for them or actually turning to the Lord in prayer — I would prefer the latter. Not to contradict myself, but I will admit when I request prayer on Facebook, the comments are comforting. It is nice to know my friends see my need and respond to it. Take note: although I receive reassurance when I see that my friends say they are praying for my situation, my comfort is marginal. Please actually pray for me in that moment. If you can type and pray, then great, do that! However, of the two, please actually pray. Please.
2. Ensure the primary people involved in a situation are aware of the situation.
We have all been there: we see the premature posts for prayers and sympathies for a situation that JUST occurred. You do not want to be the person that offers someone sympathies, when that friend has no idea they have even lost a loved one. When my dad was murdered in 2011, I did not find out immediately, although my younger sister and I suspected something was going on, it was too difficult for our family to tell us. Eventually, we did learn about his death. During the two-hour car ride back to my hometown, I opened Facebook to distract my mind. I did not think about being flooded with notifications from friends offering their condolences. Looking back, had I opened the app while at work, I would have found out on Facebook about my dad’s death. His body had not even been taken to the morgue and people were posting about it on Facebook. While the messages and posts were sincere, the timing could not have been more terrible. I am pleading with you: please allow family members time to process the news and tell other family members before posting about it on Facebook.
3. Be sensible and respectful to others, please.
Point #3 sounds like common sense, but when you’re from a small town, like the one I am from, you learn that some adults thrive on being involved with the event in any capacity. When we lost my mom in April, sadly, a disrespectful situation occurred. There were three full days between her passing and her funeral. Most of the time during these days was a blur, but we will never forget the family members who stayed with us at the funeral home until closing, the food we received, the vast support we received at Mom’s house and on social media. It is rather easy to discern someone’s intentions in these moments; it’s also noticeable were the “prayers for me and my family” Facebook posts, which incidentally were posted by people who did not even speak with my mom when she passed. The same ones who just months prior to her death were so ugly towards her. It is these posts that leave you scratching your head; you cannot help but to think they are for attention. A lot like a news station quick to cover a story, people will share devastating information on Facebook. Sharing the hot piece of limited information increases their activity on their account and makes it appear as if they are involved. It is in these times, just as in face to face interactions, when saying nothing at all is best. If you did not speak with the deceased or person involved prior to the incident, please be respectful to them and their family and continue to keep your distance.
Do not get me wrong; I will continue to request prayer on Facebook sometimes. Actually, my three-year-old has surgery coming up, so if you could please remember him and his surgeon in your prayers. Typing that you are praying for a situation isn’t bad if you actually pray, but please do not type that you’re praying if you have no intentions of doing so. When someone experiences hardship, please be mindful of your timing. I beg you to ensure they are aware of the situation before you publicly expose it on Facebook. And lastly, please maintain respect for all those involved. It’s pretty simple.