Are You Being Too Transparent?

Have you seen the show Blue Bloods? Great show—I mean, how can it not be with Tom Selleck? Do I hear an amen??—that focuses on solid family connections and deals with tough, current issues. The most recent episode made me sit back and go, “Wow. I needed that reminder.” So I’m going to share the gist with you, because it’s something we all need to keep in mind.

In the show, Tom Selleck plays Frank Reagan, the police commissioner of NY. His father was the commish before him. His eldest son is a detective, his daughter a D.A., and his youngest son a policeman. In the episode, “Loose Lips,” the daughter of Selleck’s D.A. daughter is turned down by the college of her choice after they discover Tweets from her saying hateful things about one of her teachers. Then  Selleck’s dad, the former commissioner, is at an event having a private conversation with a friend, telling him how they did things in his day. As you can guess, it’s not politically correct. Unfortunately, a waiter records the conversation on his smart phone, then posts the video online—and all H.E. double hockey sticks breaks loose.

So what does that have to do with us? Just this: thanks to social media, it’s never been easier to share our thoughts and opinions about the world with the world—or to have other people share them. I enjoy using social media to share what’s going on in my life and to keep up with others—like my younger brother and his family who are at Disneyland as I write this. However, like the girl on Blue Bloods, I’ve been known to post a rant or two. And what I realized watching the show was that we writers too often lack something important with social media that we have with writing…


Those people who read what we’ve written, then help us make sure it’s not only well written but that we’re not saying things in a way that can hurt others. Or ourselves.

I can’t count the times I’ve read posts, tweets, pins, blogs and so on that blast frustration and anger. I’ve seen it from Christians talking about other Christians, from congregants talking about churches, from authors taking about publishing and/or and the people in publishing, from people talking about how much they hate their jobs or bosses or spouses or politicians or…whatever. I can guarantee you that people who are considering you for something–be it a job, a publishing contract, a writing opportunity, as a writer they want to read—will check you out through social media. So ask yourself: “After reading what I put out there, will these people want to have anything to do with me?”

Yes, we want to be transparent and honest, to share our struggles and joys, but let me give you a caution that my father whispered to me long ago—one, frankly, that I keep whispering to myself:

Not every thought that comes into your mind needs to be shared.

Especially not in a public forum like social media.

Because, my friends, once you put something out there, your words can gain a life of their own. And if they’re angry, hateful words, there’s just no taking them back. Not even by deleting them. And the hard truth is that what we write often doesn’t reflect so much on the object of our posts as it does on us.

And the Lord we serve.


23 Responses to Are You Being Too Transparent?

  1. Sunni jeffers October 29, 2014 at 5:15 am #

    Excellent reminder, Karen. It’s too easy to feel complacent and safe when, in fact, we are living in glass houses when we participate in social media. “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing unto you, O Lord.” Don’t recall where that comes from, but it is true–always.

    • Jeanne Takenaka October 29, 2014 at 9:10 am #

      Sunni, that’s one of my favorite verses, and one I pray often. It comes from Psalm 19:14. 🙂

  2. Richard Mabry October 29, 2014 at 5:18 am #

    Karen, Excellent reminder (and we, like you, are Blue Bloods fans). Beyond the obvious warning to think twice before hitting the “enter” or “send” buttons, there’s another consideration–politics. We all have our beliefs, and some of them are quite strong. I feel free to express mine, but try never to denigrate differing viewpoints.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Rick Barry October 29, 2014 at 5:35 am #

    Wise words, Karen. You’ve voiced a truth I have thought more than once, but never put into words: Some Facebookers’ online posts dampen my enthusiasm about meeting them, let alone purchasing their books. Ill-considered remarks online really can equal shooting one’s self in the proverbial foot. Those impressions can haunt a person’s reputation long after the individual forgets making them.

    In other words, too much transparency doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance at success. 😉

  4. Vannetta chapman October 29, 2014 at 6:06 am #

    A very timely reminder! I have “un-followed” more than one person for this very reason. When using social media I try to use my dad’s admonition as a guide. You know the one. “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

    • Joe Plemon October 29, 2014 at 6:42 am #

      Your father’s admonition was the same as my mother’s. One she not only taught, but lived. Maybe that’s why I still wince when I hear–or read–verbal attacks.

  5. Sondra Kraak October 29, 2014 at 6:17 am #

    Thanks for speaking the truth. It’s so important for us to be encouraging to each other and speak words that lift others up and point them to Jesus. We’ve all made the mistake of posting in the moment of our emotion only to regret it later. If I see a pattern in people of posting negative or angry comments, then I’m inclined to unfollow them. If I see something that’s posted out of character, I give grace–something we all need.

  6. Mindy October 29, 2014 at 6:29 am #

    As a college freshman and a baby Christian, I memorized Psalm 19:14 as a prayer to guard my tongue and heart. I thought by now I’d have it mastered. But, the Christian life isn’t as much learning new things, but practicing what we already know. Thank you for the wise and gracious reminder.

  7. Davalynn Spencer October 29, 2014 at 6:37 am #

    How true – and vital! Today we can see what Jesus meant when He warned that what is whispered in the ear will be shouted from the housetops.

  8. Henry McLaughlin October 29, 2014 at 6:56 am #

    Karen, thank you for this awesome and very timely reminder.

  9. Chris Storm October 29, 2014 at 7:10 am #

    I warned my kids about this very thing before sending them off to college. “Be careful what you post, you might run for President of the U.S. one day.”—“But, Mom, I’m a Bio Major.” — “Yes, Dear, but you are so smart and so adorable and you never know what God has planned for you.” (I didn’t add this last thought–try not to screw it up.)
    Meanwhile, I am still practicing the art of the mouth filter and haven’t mastered it yet.

  10. Kathy October 29, 2014 at 8:21 am #

    That episode got my attention, too. Thank you for challenging us on this point.

  11. Nancy J Farrier October 29, 2014 at 8:37 am #

    Excellent blog, Karen. So often I find myself wanting to rant on social media. After all, I’m in the right and should tell people. Instead, I try to pause to pray and remember that anyone can see what I put out there. I loved your dad’s words of wisdom. Well said.

  12. Natalie Walters October 29, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    Great reminder, Karen! Several years before social media infected the masses my little girl told me, “Mama, our words our like toothpaste. Once they come out, you can’t put them back in.” 🙂

  13. Gail Helgeson October 29, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

    AMEN! Wise words.

  14. Marlene Anderson October 29, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    Excellent post. Thanks for reminding us to think twice about ranting and raving anywhere – anytime. Stop and think before you speak.

  15. Wendy Macdonald October 29, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    Thank you, Karen, for this sobering post. I’ve often wished I had an editor for my Facebook and Twitter page to help me with grammar. You’ve introduced a whole new angle.

    Amen to your Tom Selleck comment. I had a crush on him before I met my husband. I’m a one-man-woman—so Tom’s history now.

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

  16. Virginia October 29, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    I saw that show and loved it. The transparency point is a worthy one. Also, what struck me about that episode was the argument at the dinner table – different viewpoints settled by the closing comment, “I love you Pop.” It so exemplified Jesus’ teaching, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Would that we could all write episodes like that.

  17. Joe Plemon October 30, 2014 at 5:22 am #

    A preacher in our sleepy community was recently imprisoned for a shocking crime. Front page headline sort of stuff. Then the FB vitriol kicked in, which, in some ways, was even more shocking. “They ought to ________ him.” I couldn’t believe what people–some of whom I know–were saying. Sort of an e-mob mentality.

    Not following the crowd was wise long before social media, and is still relevant today.

    Thanks, Karen, for this challenge. We can indeed be too transparent.

  18. Karen Ball October 30, 2014 at 10:28 am #

    Thanks, all, for your thoughtful responses. I so appreciate the spirit you bring to this amazing task God has given us.

  19. Sydney Avey October 30, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    Love Blue Bloods. Loved that episode. I learned a form of this lesson in Public Relations 101. Don’t say or do anything you would not want to see in the headlines of your local newspaper. It’s an excellent integrity check. That said, a well written rant that reveals the vulnerable side of a polished public persona can be very refreshing, as long as the focus in directed inward, (“Ouch, I have to admit that hurts.) not outward (“You people are all mean, spiteful sons of questionable parentage. Go pound rocks.”).

  20. Linda Rodante October 30, 2014 at 6:08 pm #

    So timely. Just felt the conviction of the Lord on a comment I made to a post a few days ago. Also one I posted on my blog. Yes, would love to get the words back and say something not so…biting. Or foolish. Thanks for the post.

  21. Leslie Payne October 31, 2014 at 6:55 am #

    Excellent post as well as a great example of how story can be used to make us evaluate our own actions. Thank you, Karen!

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