While bumper stickers, yard signs and Facebook posts are liberties we cherish as free speech, none of these change hearts and minds when it comes to the cause or candidate we champion …personal relationships do.
The fall political season is in full force, and with each year seeming more polarizing than the last, this year is no exception. In pre-social media days, we only had bumper stickers and yard signs at our disposal to passive-aggressively show our allegiances. But to share our personal opinions or have a debate with someone we actually had to talk to the person- either face to face, by phone, or sit down and rant over email. Each of these options usually allowed for more reasoned outcomes because saying something to someone’s face takes a little more tact, picking up the phone was work, and by the time an email was written one would have had some time to cool off.
Enter social media into the mix, and it’s tremendous growth just since the 2008 campaign season is astounding. Let’s focus on Facebook specifically. In September 2012- just last month- this platform exceeded 1 BILLION active users. This number is up from just over 100 million in 2008 during the last presidential election.
What was once an echo-chamber for digitally savvy progressives is now a virtual street fight among all political persuasions where the loudest voice does NOT win because everyone’s just shouting over each other.
Where a bumper sticker may result in a stolen hub cap or keyed side door, and a yard sign’s fate may have been to end up missing or smashed, Facebook posts have much higher consequences- none of which are usually for the greater good, let alone convincing anyone your candidate or cause is something they should believe in (unless they already agree with you).
To change someone’s heart or mind, at least for the long run, a personal relationship built on trust is required.
The same is true for sharing your faith. And if anyone has been a little over-zealous with social media posts at times, both politically and in my personal Christian journey, I have- so I’m writing from personal experience here. In recent weeks and months I have scaled down my political rhetoric to almost nothing, and the major motivator for that decision was so that my credibility would increase when it came to sharing the hope I’ve found in Christ with others.
If you consider American voters are split 50/50, by sharing your political views in an obnoxious or derogatory manner you’ve just lost credibility with half the people who’ve seen your post. Now for my fellow Christians reading this- imagine trying to share your faith with the 50% that disagree with you. Think they’ll listen or take you seriously?
So what’s the answer? Just as in personal communications, think before you “speak”- or post. Consider who may be hurt by what you say. I’m not against standing for truth and making a point- but a reasoned, humble spirit is necessary to demonstrate to people there may actually be substance behind your stance- and not just empty political rhetoric. Or in the case of sharing your faith- impersonal proselytizing is not equivalent to caring, heart-felt, believable evangelism.