Would You Say That in Real Life? A Key to Social Media Success?

I appreciate the people I interact with on social media. Rarely has anyone been unkind. However, I often see articles about social media behavior with the theme, “Please Be Civil!” and “Stop the Hating!” The writers come from a place of disquiet because they feel harassed when they see unhelpful, angry posts. That’s understandable.

Here is what I try to do to help my social media outlets remain an oasis:

  • Avoid hot topics. I “get” that some might think I’m a coward, disingenuous, shallow, or worse, for not stepping into the steamy pot of political goo. But here’s how I see it: offline, I have people to talk to about hot topic issues. We understand each other and can converse when we both agree and disagree. For me, stirring the pot with people I don’t know as well is not productive. So why go there?
  • Don’t challenge the debate team. Those spoiling for a fight are the ones who will look “bad” in front of thousands of people by making rude comments aimed at you or your beliefs. They won’t diminish you unless you take the bait. Don’t do it.
  • You won’t change anyone’s mind. Whether on or offline, the lure of arguing is that you think you will change hearts and minds. I fell for this trick too many times in my younger years. I’m not sure I ever changed anyone’s mind, but I alienated people, sometimes fracturing relationships beyond repair. Truly, this price is too high for minimal effect.
  • Resist jumping into someone else’s argument. Sometimes people commenting on my posts will venture into politics when that was never my intent. I let them have their say, but I stay out of these disputes.
  • Don’t hold anyone responsible for statements made by others on their social media. I’m in contact with all types of people, so I might not be in 100% agreement with every response. The older I get, the less offended I become by opposing viewpoints. It’s hard to understand others at times. Looking for offense, both online and off, will guarantee high blood pressure and never peace.
  • Remember you are not anonymous. Before posting, ask yourself if you would make the same comment in real life. Your keyboard doesn’t have an invisibility cloak.

Your turn:

How do you keep peace on social media?

Do you disagree with me? I promise not to argue if you do!

Do you like my approach, or do you enjoy the debate on social media?

What tips can you offer?




55 Responses to Would You Say That in Real Life? A Key to Social Media Success?

  1. Brennan McPherson July 27, 2017 at 3:39 am #

    Completely agree with this post. And honestly, if everyone in the world behaved according to these few simple principles, more than just social media would be very positively impacted.

    I think one of the key points is, “You won’t change anyone’s mind.” Idk about everyone else, but as I grew up, the Christian culture I lived in pressured me to “speak out” against other’s opinions. I can’t name a single time actually doing this was helpful. And, like you, I hurt a lot of people before realizing I needed to change my behavior/tactics.

    I heard a snappy little quote just yesterday. We Christians have come to define ourselves too much by what we’re AGAINST. Instead, we should define ourselves by what we’re FOR–namely, Jesus’ death and resurrection. The difference is huge. Should Christians be divisive, or welcoming?

    1 Corinthians 13 answers that perfectly, I think.

    “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

    Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

    So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 27, 2017 at 6:57 am #

      Brennan, thank you so much for sharing these wonderful thoughts. I hope everyone will see your words and take them to heart.

  2. Vicki Deem July 27, 2017 at 4:06 am #

    I agree with most of this. I do believe when something is morally or ethically just wrong, it is sometimes necessary to speak out. It isn’t necessary to be argumentative, but it may be necessary to speak truth kindly.

    • Brennan McPherson July 27, 2017 at 4:22 am #

      Social media is just not the place for it. It’s public, impersonal, and is an easy medium for misunderstandings to crop up in. Scripture says if someone is doing something wrong, go to them first, in private, in person, to speak to them in love.

      • Brennan McPherson July 27, 2017 at 4:24 am #

        Or at least. . . so says the guy typing on a blog comment section (social media). 😉

        • Vicki Deem July 27, 2017 at 5:34 am #

          If it is a private act or has limited impact, then yes, the correction should be private. I’m referring to movements on a grander scale. Human trafficking, for instance, or genocide. It’s been said that the only thing necessary for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing. Ezekiel and Jeremiah hardly kept their speaking out quiet and behind the scenes. It may also be necessary at times to distance oneself from such things as rampant hatred and intolerance by a group you would otherwise be identified. To say, yes I am a (whatever) and I don’t agree with this position.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 27, 2017 at 7:04 am #

      Vicki and Brennan, I appreciate your exchange. And yes, we have to speak out at times. This makes me think of how we prayerfully need to decide how and when to speak out, and what way to speak out that will be the most effective.

  3. Carol Ashby July 27, 2017 at 6:16 am #

    Some people will hold you responsible for what others post. I was mostly an observer on Facebook when my job discouraged it, so I had an almost blank slate when I started writing fiction. Nothing there would have provoked an argument. I avoid some Facebook problems by not allowing others to post on my timeline. Timeline looks like I agree. Comments on what I post myself are obviously by someone else.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 27, 2017 at 7:09 am #

      That’s a good suggestion, Carol. At one point someone was posting to my wall every day — HUGE posts. My wall turned into his wall. When I asked him to limit his posts, he said, “I’m offended,” and unfriended me before I could answer. This wasn’t someone I knew at all, and had no connections to publishing. Still, I felt badly that I had offended someone. At the same time, his reaction showed me that he wasn’t a good Facebook “friend” for me.

  4. Melissa Ferguson July 27, 2017 at 6:24 am #

    It’ll be interesting to see if this post on avoiding hot topics is somehow a hot topic itself…:)
    As for your stance, I generally agree. I tend to follow the rule, “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things love.” Too many hot topics are not only nonessentials but distractions from what is really important.
    I don’t want to waste my chance reaching open ears on a soapbox about any issue less important than the transformational power of our loving God.

    I appreciate what Hooper said Lewis, “By 1963 Lewis had won the respect of the entire Christian family–whether Catholics or Protestants–by his adherence to ‘the enormous common ground’ of essential Christian beliefs, and by his refusal to involve himself in the sectarian squabbles which characterize so much of Christian writing” (Readings for Meditation and Reflection). And considering Lewis’ immense reach–and depth!–I’d say it ain’t bad to follow his blueprints ;).

    Follow the prompting of the Spirit first, of course, but yes, I often find discussing hot topics on media does nothing but fuel fires of division.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 27, 2017 at 7:10 am #

      So true, Melissa. I think Christians agree more than disagree. We must strive to remember that.

  5. Edie Melson July 27, 2017 at 6:32 am #

    Tamela, this is a great post! I probably like it because it’s exactly the way I approach social media myself. There is another positive to this way – specific to Facebook – that comes from refusing to engage with the controversial things. On Facebook, those topics almost completely disappear from your newsfeed. FB uses a complicated edge rank algorithm to decide what shows up in your feed. When you avoid interacting with a topic, then FB decides you aren’t interested and quits putting those posts in your newsfeed. Thanks for sharing your thoughts today!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 27, 2017 at 7:11 am #

      Fabulous information, Edie. I really appreciate your opinion and support, especially since you are a friend as well as a known expert on social media. Thank you.

    • Melissa Ferguson July 27, 2017 at 7:37 am #

      How interesting, Edie! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Susan Karsten July 27, 2017 at 6:34 am #

    This was very well-said. Thank you.

  7. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 27, 2017 at 6:41 am #

    Great article, Tamela.

    Another thought – it’s not smart to talk about righting a specific wrong if you intend to take action and do something about it. You’re just giving the enemy a warning.

    Fair warning, perhaps?

    Nah. If you find yourself in a fair fight, you came unprepared.

  8. Rachel McDaniel July 27, 2017 at 7:25 am #

    Wise post, Tamela! In my earlier experiences with social media, I had engaged in hot topics, voicing my argument with well-researched facts, but the outcomes had never been positive. Actually, it was the reverse. It was exactly like you said, it changed no one’s opinion. And I’ve often wondered if my words were even read. Total waste of time which left me emotionally exhausted. Not worth it. Not beneficial. At my hubby’s advice, I never entered into those arenas again. What I thought to be helpful was to pray for the people involved. Because honestly, it’s has to be a God-thing to reach these ones anyway. 🙂

  9. Beverly Brooks July 27, 2017 at 7:33 am #

    Great post!
    My favorite take-away: I am not anonymous … both warning and comfort.

  10. John de Sousa July 27, 2017 at 7:51 am #

    E.M.Bounds once wrote “It takes 20 years to make a sermon because it takes 20 years to make the man.” I have been amazed in times past that detractors could not see the brilliance (in my mind) of my arguments. I have now come to believe that people are more convinced by the ministry of God’s presence in the heart of a believer who takes the time to sit with them, empathize with them and ask them thoughtful questions that allow them to reflect and perhaps come to the knowledge of the truth in the process. If not, they at least have a memorable encounter with the heart of God. Speaking the truth in love, a word fitley spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

    • John de Sousa July 27, 2017 at 7:57 am #


    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 28, 2017 at 7:06 am #

      I agree — so true! People want to be cared about. Social media serves a purpose, but like anything, has its limitations. Nothing like having a personal “real life” relationship.

  11. CJ Myerly July 27, 2017 at 8:00 am #

    I agree with this so much. It’s easy to start an argument through social media when your hiding behind a screen, but it doesn’t do anything but alienate.

    I sometimes read comments of opinionated posts because I’m fascinated and curious, but I don’t respond. I think as a writer I like to see other people’s perspectives so in a way I enjoy seeing it, but I’ll stay on the sidelines and keep my own posts positive.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 27, 2017 at 8:34 am #

      Bring on the popcorn!

      Yes, I do think some people on FB thrive on debating and witnessing debates. Let them have their fun. Like you, I hope to stay positive.

  12. Amanda Wen July 27, 2017 at 8:15 am #

    Thank you for this! To keep myself sane on social media, I have a brief list of things I will post about (funny kid moments, mostly) and a long list of topics on which I will remain silent (politics is #1, #2, and #3!). I’ve found it’s just not worth the stress.

  13. Kristi Woods July 27, 2017 at 8:21 am #

    Nodding my head in agreement, Tamela. Your approach and mine mirror each other. Social media presence presents opportunity for friendship forming and ministry. It’s that simple for me, although that’s likely not everyone’s focus. I’ll add that intonation is easily missed online, causing more of a flurry than often needed. During his early years in the Navy, my husband communicated with me via email only. (This was before the days of social media and instant access – the Dark Ages, right?!) We found ourselves on the brink of a tempers-flaring, roaring-red argument, but a simple phone call solved it all. I misinterrpreted his intonation. Oh, the power of communication…..

  14. Damon J. Gray July 27, 2017 at 8:37 am #

    WOW! A flood of responses. Awesome! Since so much of what I’d wanted to share has already been said, I’ll just offer this: My new mindset for ALL social media is to continually ask myself, “Why and in what role am I here? Is what I am reading and what I am saying in line with that reason and role?”

  15. Tamela Hancock Murray July 27, 2017 at 8:38 am #

    I’ve had the same issues with email sometimes! Thank you sharing, and for serving. When a member of the Armed Forces serves, so does that member’s family.

  16. Robin E. Mason July 27, 2017 at 8:43 am #

    YES YES YES and SO MUCH YES!!! if i feel the need (rare) to address an issue i will do so on my blog. either way, i do not engage in debate for reasons you stated. Tamela, thank you for your post!!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 27, 2017 at 8:55 am #

      Thank YOU, Robin. A blog is an excellent solution to share your heart. I see a blog as being read primarily by people with a genuine interest in what you have to say beyond being a literal stream of news and opinions from random people online.

  17. Margo Carmichael July 27, 2017 at 9:12 am #

    Well, I think a little courteous debate can be interesting and enlightening.
    We all come to our conclusions for various reasons.
    *I think we can sometimes give reasonable people new reasons for new conclusions.*
    But again, only with courteous debate.
    And if we’re not coming to agreement, we can always just say, “Well, we differ :)” and leave it at that.
    Or skip over their post with love and respect.
    But I’ve also seen people who are totally unaware or uncaring of the verse about seven things God hates, ending with “he who sows discord among the brethren.”
    Discourteous opinions, spoken in snarky, superior ways they would never speak in a living room full of friends.
    In college, I heard a politician say in a speech, “Neutral countries would not have the *luxury of neutrality* were it not for the strength of the United States.” Everyone cheered except for my neutral Dutch friend sitting beside me.
    What really makes you not be neutral is when a 50-year-old-woman you should know better, courteously disagrees with you, and she has already voted for her beloved candidate–at least, she isn’t a apathetic–then she says,
    *”Who is Ben Ghazi?”*
    They walk among us! They vote! They help create policy our children will have to live with for a long time! But where do they get their news?
    Sometimes, we need to speak up courteously about issues, yes, on social media. I do believe we can sometimes change minds.
    And with the Lord in us, and our talent for writing, we could change the world, as the Lord leads, not only with our stories, but with courteous letters to our leaders. Donn Taylor often writes good letters to the editor. I believe we are running out of time.
    Here’s another issue to consider: An article I posted the other day on social media involves robots! Zuckerberg and Bezos disagree over whether or not AI is going to be a problem. Bezos thinks regulations should be set in place ahead of time.
    My question is, what if robots start publishing books according to plot points and emotions fed them? They could be some competition. Fodder for stories–and letters?
    Maybe we differ. 🙂

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 27, 2017 at 9:57 am #

      Great comments, Margo.

      Interesting how your Dutch friend reacted, by the way. We seldom see ourselves as others see us.

      When I was a journalism major, we were trained to be quite careful not to reveal our true feelings when reporting. But that was a different time and place, when most people got their news from one of three networks, and one daily newspaper. Opportunities to consume news reported by professionals occurred once or twice a day. Now I get a constant stream from five or more news sources online and more on television. I deliberately watch news from sources coming from a different viewpoint than mine but I’m all too aware it’s easy to tune in only to what you agree with, so you never hear another view.

      However, voter ignorance has always been at issue, because many people can and do drop out, ignoring all news sources. This is an issue that will never go away because we are so different from one another.

      The only way I can see to “improve” this is to go back to the original concept of voting in America, to limit the privilege to rich and powerful men. As a woman, I say, “No thanks!” to that but do my part to be as informed as I can.

      God is in control, anyway.

  18. Samantha Bayarr July 27, 2017 at 9:44 am #

    I guess you can lump me in with the “cowards” because I do not engage in political discussions or anything controversial that others may post, and I NEVER post it myself. I agree that everyone is entitled to their own opinion even if it doesn’t agree with mine, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to join in.
    I’ve had occasions when Facebook “friends'” have started fights on their pages and it shows up in my feed, or they’ve spouted off absolute hate on their pages, and to those, I simply (very quietly) cut them loose from my “friends” list.
    Also, if I post something and someone puts a hateful comment, I very quietly bump the comment and do not respond. I think to comment or join in on these discussions opens you up for the hate to be turned onto you if you don’t comment in their favor. Instead, I pray for those people that they will calm down and get along.
    Thank you for such a wonderful post, Tamela

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 27, 2017 at 10:02 am #

      So glad you enjoyed the post! St. Teresa of Avila cautioned her nuns to say little amid a large group of people. Astounding that her advice from the sixteenth century applies to social media today!

  19. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 27, 2017 at 10:14 am #

    It might also be prudent to remember that your employer may be monitoring your social media posts, and if you say something that goes against company policy, you can lose your job (especially if you ID yourself in your profile as an employee of that company).

    Also if you ever find yourself in any sort of legal dispute, your entire social media history can and will be used against you.

    Finally, remember that deleting a post you wrote in anger and then regretted does not make it go away. You only have access to the from end of your social media account; what may remain on the parent company’s servers and in their archived storage is not under your control.

  20. Wendy L Macdonald July 27, 2017 at 10:28 am #

    Tamela, I agree with your words of wisdom. This post reminds me of the time you wrote the following on your blog: “Some of my proudest moments are when I remained silent.” Amen to wisdom.
    My verse of the day, Proverbs 3:17, says this about wisdom: “Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace.”
    Your posts are helpful and pleasant too. 🙂
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

  21. Niki Slováček July 27, 2017 at 10:30 am #

    To many people on Social Media use their keyboards to be bullies. They act and speak in a manner they would never if a human was in front of them.
    I keep my circle small for this reason, but it doesn’t solve the problem.

  22. Sheri Dean Parmelee July 27, 2017 at 11:16 am #

    Tamela, I agree with your posting. Many people use social media as their personal soap box but I prefer to use it to keep up with rarely-seen friends who live far away. A little civility goes a long way!

  23. Erendira July 27, 2017 at 12:52 pm #

    Tamela, I agree completely with your post. I’ve had my share of stepping into ‘goo.’

    I like knowing what people think about certain things. It informs me about their worldview, and moreover, whether or not it is a biblical worldview at that.

    The stakes are really high when it comes to the kingdom of God. I find that lately, my hot button has been centered around the topic of Bible translations, and when I hear about anything related to that, I am quick to react, finding myself at a crossroads: do I enter the conversation as I see a “friend” walking into what is a sure pit into the ground, risking my own feet stepping into goo?

    What I’ve ended up doing is to exclusively display my groups in my feed because it became terribly oppressive to my soul to lurk in the wilderness of opinion and corrosive commentary about the faith. (To think there was a time in ancient history when the world was much worse than it is today. Enough for God to throw it under the sea!)

    So now, as I prepare my new homeschool year, I am centered on scrolling through homeschool groups exclusively or writing groups. Those two topics seem safe right now, and add value to my current life focus.

    As chapter 1 verse 18 says in Ecclesiastes: “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.”

    The more we know about others and the world, the more we find sorrow.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 28, 2017 at 6:56 am #

      Continue to cast your light where you can! And let us pray for those who live in sorrow — some don’t even realize it.

  24. Bryan Mitchell July 27, 2017 at 1:17 pm #

    This article made me think of “trolling” and how desensitized and detached society has become with social media and the advancements in technology. Everybody’s head is down interacting with mediums rather than each other. I don’t blame technology for societal issues though; the underpinnings of hate and its many forms was engrained in us before we were ever born. Some tend to that hate more than others. Wiser people remember to breathe though the sky seems to be falling.

    I think it is better to be still and let the Holy Spirit speak to you before jumping into an online frenzy, or any frenzy for that matter. Choosing words carefully while discerning if those pearls are being cast before swine is obviously necessary. Yet, we need to shine truth on those who need it, especially the young; otherwise, look where they’re turning to.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 28, 2017 at 6:59 am #

      Wise words, Bryan. Recently I walked with my daughter through a college hallway. Only one person out of about ten wasn’t engaged with a phone. No one looks at each other in passing now. It made me sad.

  25. Rebekah Millet July 27, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

    YES on all your points! There’s so much negativity out there that isn’t necessary, people just looking for a fight. My hope is that by staying positive on social media, I can draw people toward God by making them wonder, “Why’s that girl always happy?” 😉

  26. Rebekah Dorris July 28, 2017 at 7:11 am #

    Great post, Tamela. I’d love to publish it on my Facebook but I’d hate to alienate soapbox-situated friends who disagree! Whew ~ talk about chicken! 😀

    I especially appreciate you sharing that you haven’t always been so circumspect. That’s encouraging for those of us who haven’t always either. 🙂

    God bless!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 31, 2017 at 11:58 am #

      Rebekah, my “thank you” is hearfelt, even if a bit belated! Have a wonderful day!

  27. Linda Riggs Mayfield August 11, 2017 at 10:08 pm #

    I have a pastor friend whom I knew in college (long before we both became grandparents) but with whom I only recently reconnected through mutual Friends on FB. We live thousands of miles apart geographically and that’s a good metaphor for where we stand theologically and politically, as well. He has “changed camps” and now claims to be as intentionally liberal as possible in both his politics and his faith. He takes pride in posting memes that will provoke as many conservatives as he can, then he impassively mediates the discussions. He has quite a cadre of wildly disparate followers from his old life and new one, so the discussions ARE interesting: someone always “takes his bait.” Too often, however, someone gets so riled that I sincerely hope they wouldn’t react like that in person! I see what he’s doing, and sometimes play along, but in good humor and often a smile emoji. One day this week, it just got to be too much, and I posted “I don’t want to be provoked today. :-)” If I were wiser, I would do that more often on a few other sites, as well. I guess it’s never too late to start. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get New Posts by Email

Get New Posts by Email

Each article is packed with helpful info and encouragement for writers. You can unsubscribe at any time with one click. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!