People like to share their opinions. I imagine it has been this way as long as people have been around, but technology has presented us with endless ways of sharing our thoughts. Scroll through any form of social media during an election, exciting sporting event, or important news story, and you are sure to find opinions. Maybe more than opinions. Quite possibly you will find strong opinions. If the person were to be speaking those same words, it would likely sound a lot like yelling.
So. Much. Yelling.
In my communications classes I learned about the various components of the communication cycle. The biggest components of any form of communication are the sender, message, and receiver. People are very good at sending a communication message via social media.
But social media is not designed very well for receiving messages.
It seems like it is–if people weren’t reading and liking and retweeting statuses and tweets, people would stop posting them. There’s clearly some sort of receiving going on, but truly listening is a different matter. Even slight disagreements that take place on social media quickly, sometimes immediately, descends into a shouting match.
Because social media is not designed for listening well–with grace, understanding, and mercy.
It’s very easy to skim a comment, pick up the key words, and fire back a response.
But real communication shouldn’t work like that.
Especially for people who are aiming to be more like Jesus.
Jesus did a lot of talking, it’s true. He spoke to giant crowds of people, smaller gatherings in houses, to people on the street–he did a lot of message sending.
Yet it’s not hard to imagine that Jesus was also a pretty good listener. He listened when people told them their ailments and asked for healing. Jesus gave thoughtful answers, which are only possible through careful listening. He wasn’t rash or hasty. Though his responses weren’t always what people expected or wanted to hear, they were ultimately what needed to be said–but with very little yelling.
The next time something controversial is happening in the world, I would love to see an empty news feed. Not because people don’t care about what’s going on in the world, but because they’re out listening, engaging in face-to-face conversations, which will always tell us more than words on a screen. All the CAPITAL LETTERS, bold font, and italics in the world can’t convey as much as facial expressions and tone of voice.
This is why it is doubtful you will find posts for or against gay marriage here, impassioned pleas for or against a certain political party, arguments for or against certain theological viewpoints. It’s not because I don’t think these topics are worthy of discussion, or that I don’t hold my own beliefs about them, or that I don’t enjoy discussing them.
These topics are of the utmost importance–but I don’t need to yell at you about them here. I may offer thoughts, wrestle with things, but I don’t want or need to yell. I want my communication and my listening to always be covered in grace, understanding, and mercy. I want to be able to speak the necessary words, and to truly listen to what others have to say. I want and need to hear others’ stories, because I can learn from their point of view, and perhaps they can learn from mine as well. And when it comes to topics where there are deep emotions, strong opinions, and stories I may not be aware of, all of those things are much more easily done offline.
We could argue for days about whether or not Jesus would even have Twitter or Facebook, much less what he would be posting about. I may not be able to learn about how to communicate from Jesus’ social media postings, but I can learn a lot about my own postings from his words I do have.
Til next time…
p.s. What do you think Jesus would tweet?