Skip to site content

Those Thoughtless Social-Media Wounds Aren’t Easily Bandaged

A lot of time and effort had gone into creating a resource.

It had been honed, refined, shaped and adapted over a period of several months after the initial version had been finished. Finally, it was ready to be released and there was some positive feedback.

But there were also some people who made critical comments about the resource on social media.

The critical comments were not about the core message, nor were they about the concept. They were complaining about one small aspect of the resource.

It was not as if they said, “We like these aspects of the resource, but wonder about that one…”

They simply complained about one aspect of the resource and had nothing positive to say about the rest. They denounced the whole thing because of one minor part of it.

For those who had invested time, creativity and effort into the resource, it was incredibly disheartening that some people could not see past the one thing they did not like and were not able to write anything positive.

It was even more disheartening that the people who felt critical about it decided to post their comments on social media for all to see rather than speaking privately to those who had created the resource.

The delight at what they had created had been replaced by misery and disappointment. And the good work that had been done felt tarnished by the negativity.

Maybe the people who wrote the negative comments were simply thoughtless, or maybe they gave less thought to what they wrote because they wrote on impulse. The impact, however, was the same.

The story above could probably be told many times over, perhaps with minor adaptations, about how people respond negatively and critically on social media to what others have created.

You could replace “resource” with “cartoon,” “book,” “website,” “blog” or “video”; you could replace it with “TV show,” “film” or “song”; you could replace it with “politics,” “philosophy,” “spirituality” or “morality.” It would still resonate as true.

Somehow, we have reached a point where it is deemed entirely acceptable to be negative about what other people think, create, do or say and even to insult and get personal in the critiques.

And those comments wound in ways that cannot be easily bandaged.

In days gone by, before social media and the internet were even embryonic thoughts in the minds of those who created them, comments intended to be seen by others were usually printed or broadcast on TV or the radio.

And what was said was usually moderated because people knew they were subject to the laws of libel and defamation.

In law, the main defenses to libel and defamation are truth or that it was an honest opinion, and the impact of libel could be reputational or financial with recompense awarded accordingly.

For some reason, nobody seems to apply these laws to what someone splashes across the worldwide web.

Have we lost our filters of decency? Have we stopped thinking about the impact of our words on other people?

Do we think that those who are the subject of vitriol or ridicule are immune to the effects of our comments? Are we less thoughtful and now are thoughtless?

The worst thing for me about the story at the start of this column is that it is a true story and relates to something created for churches to use. Christians made those negative comments.

Christians are not perfect; we make mistakes. However, it saddens me when we flaunt those imperfections in full view of the online world without thought.

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared on Lear’s blog, Nukelear Fishing. It is used with permission.

Nick Lear

Nick Lear is a regional minister of the Eastern Baptist Association in the United Kingdom.