I raised some questions last week about the Facebook “friend” who posted a vulgarism and couldn’t (wouldn’t?) delete it. Well, far be it from me to turn away from a custom-made bulletin article, so allow me to elaborate a bit.
I will not embarrass the “friend” in question by naming her; suffice it to say for our purposes that she is an elderly woman who would seem to have absolutely no personal contact with me, my family, or anyone at East Hill.
As I type it is 2:32 p.m. on Thursday. The friend in question has posted 87 times on Facebook today. That is not an estimate or an exaggeration. That is a hard count. Her interests range from contemporary Christian music to abortion to animal cruelty to Trump-bashing. (I probably should have started with Trump-bashing, as that is what she seems to be most passionate about.)
I call it “scatterposting,” and if it becomes a meme-worthy term in 2020, remember you heard it here first.
A scatterposter is the internet-age equivalent of the old-fashioned blabbermouth. There are some important distinctions, of course. On the positive side, the discussions are not face-to-face, meaning you can detach yourself at any time. On the negative side, your audience is not limited to actual acquaintances; you can share with, potentially, the entire World Wide Web.
I find scatterposting extremely annoying, but I could say the same about magnolia trees, sneakers worn with suits, and Florida Georgia Line; that doesn’t mean any or all of them should be illegal. But unlike the other annoyances (except, perhaps, FGL), scatterposting has spiritual implications, which I offer for your consideration:
Scatterposting gives the individual a false sense of importance.
It’s an attention-grab, pure and simple. No one would fault someone for informing everyone of important life events, remarkable accomplishments, or even a remarkably beautiful entrée. But telling the world that you have yet another opinion that must be heard smacks of egotism. Remember, it is the meek that will inherit (Matthew 5:5), not the loud or the forceful.
Scatterposting forces your way into others’ lives.
Agreed, we sign on to a certain amount of this when we waded into the social media pool. We wouldn’t agree to “friend” someone if we didn’t care about their life. But one who imposes on that trust with incalculable demands for attention reminds us of the annoying 7-year-old at the family gathering — poking and prodding everyone within reach until he finally gets the affirmation he desires. It’s a fine line, granted — being connected but not being intrusive. We wage that battle with actual, face-to-face friends all the time. But with face-to-face, it’s much easier to see when we have crossed the line. They simply tell us, or else they just quit coming around. Online, typically we resort to the Proverbs 26:4 approach — don’t answer, and maybe the scatterposter will go away. Good luck with that.
Scatterposting makes dialogue impossible.
The person under consideration here is a good example. There is no attempt to engage others. There is no defense offered. In some instances, it is unclear even if she supports or condemns the topic under consideration. It’s the equivalent of throwing chum in the water — the exact opposite of being “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19). Fortunately, because of the previous point, few people are willing to engage anyway. Comments are basically limited to “You go, girl!” and “You’re an idiot” — neither of which is likely to advance the cause of understanding and mutual respect. Far better, surely, to pick an article or video truly worthy of attention and curate a civil, intelligent discussion therefrom. But then, that requires listening to other points of view. And that’s not always a popular option.
Scatterposting makes accountability impossible.
This business started because I wanted the friend to remove an offensive post. It was vulgar, and Christians should be above such things (Ephesians 5:11-12). She could not remove it, because she could not find it among the dozens of other items she had posted. (She found it later and still did not remove it. Oh well.) But if you spread a hundred messages a day, you cannot possibly account for the accuracy, decency and importance of every one of them. As Solomon said, “Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2).
Scatterposting robs you of a real life.
I don’t want to sound unsympathetic. I strongly suspect the individual in question is on her laptop 16 hours or more a day because she has little else going on. But if so, it is not entirely beyond her control. Facebook friends are not real friends. Cybertalk is not talk. We need real human interaction with real humans. There is work to be done (John 9:4), and none of us is exempt. Cups of cold water need to be handed out (Matthew 10:42). Apples of gold need settings of silver (Proverbs 25:11). Young people need mentors so they can become mentors themselves one day (2 Timothy 2:2). Instead of fooling ourselves into thinking we can make a difference in the world, instead we should be trying to make a difference in the real lives of real people. You can do it. But you probably can’t do it online.