The Social Media Cesspool

I’m sharing a book excerpt from Lessons from the Sidelines today! At the end of September, my time and focus will shift to serve those in my Mighty Network. I’d love for you to join me there even if you haven’t had a chance to purchase a copy of my book yet. I can’t avoid Facebook altogether, because it’s a large part of my day job, but thanks to an amazing Chrome Browser called Kill News Feed I learned about from Alysa Bajenaru I’m reducing my social spaces and establishing a few boundaries as I shore up spaces where Spiritual abuse is once again creeping up. Connect with me on my writer’s page on Facebook, Instagram, and my Mighty Network.

Excerpt from Lessons from the Sidelines

Personal Convictions

Social media is an online journal. Our Twitter and Facebook posts are logged as website links. Even after you delete your posts they’re
archived in Google’s database. Generations may very well likely learn about us and determine our character based on what we posted on
social media. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
While it’s hard to label social media as much more than a cesspool most days, I do believe that we all have the right to speak out about
our personal convictions. I know from personal experience that King’s words are true. In the hardest seasons, I’ve looked around for someone to simply say, “Hey, mean person on a noisy platform: you need to do some reflecting on your words and actions instead of attacking my friend.”

How can we expect others to do what we are unwilling to do? I’m the mother of two biracial sons, and it’s important to me that they know they have an advocate online. Whether they read my responses to racism and hateful messages now or in the future, it’s deeply important to me that my sons see I addressed cruel words, images, and Scriptures taken out of context and used to justify hate.

I’ve seen the harm cyberbullying causes. Unchecked, cyberbullying is decimating a generation. The 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance
System department of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that an estimated 14.9 percent of high school students were electronically bullied in the previous twelve months. Furthermore, 42 percent of Generation Z report that social media has a direct influence on how they feel about themselves while 39 percent report that social media affects their self-esteem.

It’s important to choose our words and engagements wisely. That person who is clearly only repeating the talking points of the latest
crazy clickbait headlines floating around isn’t interested in a conversation. The person who only cares about his or her own opinion and informs you that yours is wrong using belittling statements is also likely not worth your time. However, if you can engage someone by asking questions and keeping your language neutral, supported with well-researched information, you don’t need to worry about how you are representing yourself to the person you are engaging with; it’s
about standing up for your convictions and for the other people that person may be attacking.

No matter how appropriately you may frame a conversation, you also need to know when to walk away, and that may mean leaving the argument before the other person is done calling you names, using vile language, or attempting to smear your reputation.

Choose your engagements wisely. It may not be worth the public commentary. In some cases, you may want to reach out privately and tell someone who is under attack that they are not alone. Tell them they have your support. They will understand why you can’t say something publicly. It’s good to remember that you can’t expect others to do what you are unwilling to do yourself.

Where’s the Line?

We all have to decide for ourselves when to speak up and when to stay silent. It’s likely that, as you pray about this over time, God will nudge you to speak out on certain subjects. While you may risk looking hypocritical or having to defend your convictions, it’s always about your heart. If God encourages you to speak up, you need to do so, and you still have the choice to do so in a loving and respectful way.

Why This Excerpt?

This winter, as I prepared to submit my final draft of Lessons from the Sidelines to my editor I prayed over every word. I sent the chapters to beta readers who asked clarifying questions and offered fantastic ideas to enhance the reader’s experience.

With some chapters, I smiled and closed a document confident I’d said everything I was supposed to say about a subject. There were other chapters that needed to end because there is only so much space with multiple topics to cover. Finally, there were chapters in my book that highlighted subjects explaining the personal lessons God has taught me as I’ve wrestled personal convictions on a subject. I brought in other people’s views in many of these subjects to create space for everyone to develop their own opinion. Social media boundaries fall into the last category.

A (not so) Funny Story

Editing a book is an intense process and since this was my first full length project with over 85,000 words I’m sure I didn’t use the most efficient method. However, I did what worked for me trusting my editor would help me take things over the finishline.

Two weeks after sending Harmony my draft COVID restrictions hit our area and our family’s hard-earned spring break getaway was postponed indefinitely.

My attention turned back to book edits. I had a few meltdowns, including trying to convince Harmony at one point that we should cut the marriage chapter completely. As a compromise, since a book for wives really should (supposedly) address marriage, because Harmony is an amazing editor and friend she coached me through two rewrites of Chapter 4 in those final days of editing.

It would be impossible to minimize the stress levels in those weeks before turning in my book to the publisher. Illinois was on complete lockdown. I continued working close to full-time hours, we were in the early days of the pandemic uncertainty and restricted from leaving home except to go to the grocery store while also figuring out online schooling for work and our boys. We couldn’t find many staples including toilet paper and rice. Even Amazon was delaying shipments of necessary items.

On top of battling daily uncertainty, I was wrestling with the emotions that welled up from reliving the early years of our marriage, and then Ahmaud Arbery’s video showed up followed by the news of Breonna Taylor, followed by the video of George Floyd.

It wasn’t only the videos that appeared. In addition to those gut-wrenching stories of lives taken too early once again, the pattern started.

The Social Media Cesspool Pattern:

  • Information and video about a black person being murdered by a white person appears on the news
  • Questions about police handling are raised
  • Then the justification begins starting with reminders that the “real issue” for true Jesus followers is abortion.
  • Statements of black lives matter being destructive as an institution start
  • Then the hate rhetoric and whataboutsims start:
    • The black person has a history so that somehow justifies the current situation
    • The black person resisted being hunted down in broad daylight by white people who are citizens so obviously it’s his fault
    • The black person was sleeping and woke up startled and answered the door abruptly this is her fault
    • The black person knew bad people. This is their fault
    • The insistence that “blue lives matter” is the real priority
    • My new favorite – Cops who shoot sometimes “choke” so they have to shoot a lot of bullets- while also hold the person’s shirt
    • Black person is mentally ill, it’s not the police officers’ fault they choked the person
    • The black person was riding a bike they should have known better
  • This vitriol is compounded by weaponizing Scripture- usually, Romans 13 (for reference see this article from The Baptist News on how people use Romans 13 out of context).
  • These statements are followed by accusations of calling Christians Marxists
  • Celebration of white people conducting physical violence to protect property and harming black people
  • Next statements justifying actions by one group and demonizing the actions of the other side simply because “the law” says it’s within the “rights” of police to “protect”
  • And of course, there is the refusal to engage in conversations when it’s pointed out that people are ignoring the ACTUAL laws (read the Bill of Rights)

There are seven laws in the Constitution written with the expectation that people receive a fair trial. Yet time and time again we see that our citizens “trial by jury” plays out in the court of public opinion on social media with rumors, lies, and facts that aren’t applicable to the horrors on the videos that take human life.

Judging one side by its most violent participants and the other side by its least violent offenders is the language of Oppressors

Labeling for Personal Comfort and Condemnation

In a recent article titled Today’s mob mentality politics: Just deny it, and keep moving Justin E. Giboney, president of the AND Campaign wrote:

Public discourse won’t improve unless we take the time to listen with humility, rather than being dismissive and pridefully self-defensive. Most proponents of social justice aren’t seeking to spark a Marxist revolution. We’re tired of seeing people traumatized and murdered in a country that consistently has shown a lack of concern for Black people. Sensible people who dislike cancel culture aren’t upset about groups not playing nicely with blatant racists and sexists. We’re upset about the blacklisting of non-conforming voices based on an arbitrary and ever-expanding list of taboos — a list that’s built not on American consensus, but on the white, Western sensibilities of cultural elites and academics.

Reductionist binaries got us here; they won’t provide the real solutions needed to fix things. It’s time for people in both parties to promote justice and moral order. This moment calls for leaders who are compassionate and brutally honest. Those willing to make arguments against their immediate self-interest if it means dismantling false narratives and healing the nation. Those who are willing to admonish their side publicly when necessary. Those who aren’t looking for validation from any ideological tribe and don’t melt in the light of examination and transparency. Those willing to forgive, listen intently and be truthful.  

The Hill

Putting My Family First

A nine-minute video of a black man being choked to death played out of a loop on national television and former football players whom my husband coached immediately decided this was the time to tell him that he needed to leave the country as he was prone to criticize the government for their responses in these situations and wasn’t a patriot.

Not only did these white men choose to verbally harass my husband during his season of lament but they then attempted to excuse their verbal abuse as somehow justifiable due to their personal knowledge of the black experience. Friends, I cannot express to you the layers of exhaustion, isolation, and frustration that pile up when you are in the middle of mourning, fighting your own fear, attempting to process horrors with your children, and then you see your husband taking time to offer his perspective to those who should be comforting HIM because they are sending around videos of Candance Owens and announcing that this is the black voice people should be listening to.

What I Learned from George Floyd’s Death

In the earliest days after George Floyd’s death, a flood of memories welled up as I read response after response from friends and family members on social media. I remembered conversations early in our marriage with landlords who suddenly said they rented homes I’d viewed after meeting Ordell. I remembered Ordell telling me about interactions he had with faculty on campuses and terrible encounters with rude and nosey people in our community. As I read post after post on social media I discovered that in twenty years very little had changed.

As those who call themselves Jesus followers minimized or ignored his words to love our neighbors (see Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:30-32, Luke 10:25-37) choosing instead to share propaganda videos or accuse people of lacking souls it only confirmed that this is why the Church as an institution is rapidly losing public trust.

Brené Brown says, “shame kills empathy and empathy is the foundation of love and justice.” I won’t assume it was shame that caused lack of empathy. It seems to me that more than anything pride and power were more at play than anything else, however that’s not for me to judge.

Whatever the emotional impact of watching a white man smirk into a video camera while kneeling on the neck of a black man who cried out for his mother for 9 minutes is I’m not sure. What is the layer of trauma added when three other police officers helped him commit murder? What denial happens to justify when citizens hunt down another man while 911 tells them not to engage the man fighting for his life? I can’t explain this away from Jesus followers.

I also couldn’t stay silent. In those early days those speaking out were few and far between. Those who wanted to speak up felt ill-equipped and I had just written about my personal social media convictions. I said, “It’s good to remember that you can’t expect others to do what you are unwilling to do yourself.” I spoke up because it’s what I would want someone to do for my husband and children if I couldn’t.

I needed to speak up and point people to resources other than the awful lies that the Church was sharing. Someone in our friend circles needed to be a voice for the voiceless where the Church was once again silent. Someone needed to speak the truth into a sea of lies spun by the Church. Someone needed to show that it wasn’t only non-believers that could show empathy and compassion in a time of crisis. Someone needed to call out spiritual abuse. Someone needed to remind people that the Church it is supposed to be a place where all are welcome and unity is the goal. Someone needed to affirm those who WERE speaking out in healthy ways and encourage them to continue.

What I’ve Learned Since May 2020

There are more people longing for less extreme political polarization than were once willing to speak out. Kaitlyn Schiess may have summarized it best, “A generation of young Christians are weary of the political legacy they’ve inherited and are hungry for a better approach.”

Political power is an idol in this country and for many in the Church. It’s something many are willing to risk their reputation for and will eagerly compromise the law for as well as previously held ethical lines.

Every day we have the choice to allow our theology to frame our political ideology or for our politics to shape our theology. There are amazing resources to help with this, many that have become available since COVID hit and many others that will release soon.

I believe if you have to choose one filter this political season you can use these four questions offered by Kaitlyn Schiess:

• What is this asking me to love?
• Who is it asking me to fear or hate?
• What kind of “good life” is it describing?
• Do these line up with what Scripture tells me?

Looking for a great resource? Check out Holy Post Podcast

Lessons from the Sidelines front cover final

As the wife of a football coach, Beth Walker encourages women whose families are in the public eye to pursue their own callings even as they support their husbands’ careers and ministries. Through her own personal stories as well as interviews with other women who are also living just outside their husbands’ limelight, Beth shows it’s possible to do both.

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