Recently, a guy named Bart in the band MercyMe said something on Facebook that earned him a jackpot of Jesus Jukes.
What did he say?
“Also for you Greenville, Tx folk. We are not doing our Xmas show this year. Taking a break.”
Guess which part of that status update people lit up? It’s not the lowercase x in “Tx,” although I personally never mess with Texas. It was the “Xmas.” Here are a few of the comments people posted:
“don’t take Christ out of Christmas. i know it is easier to write but please dont X HIM out”
“Dudes, how can a Christian band remove the Reason from Christmas?”
“Xmas, really? I would think you would want to keep Christ in Christmas! Im disappointed!”
“i do not care if it is a tweet or not, it should not be done…shorten your tweet elsewhere”
“CHRIST IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON.. Shame on you Bart..”
“Bart you may want to get your twitter publicist to apologize to your fans that they messed up.Abbreviations help at times but not when it comes to Christ…”
Merry Christmas Bart! Oh man, there were some crazy comments left, as well as some that were very supportive pointing out what the X means in Greek. But ultimately, I don’t even think those were that bad. Lately, I’ve started to see a lot more of what I call “Facebook Feeding Frenzies,” or 3F. (It’s like the less fun version of 3D.)
In a Facebook Feeding Frenzy, someone posts a status update and then Christians materialize out of the mist like death eaters in the Harry Potter books to attack it. We post comments that build on each other, constantly amping up the cynicism and hate until we reach a fevered pitch. But there are a few things we need to remember about the 3F:
1. There is no context.
Sometimes I’ll write something on Facebook or Twitter and someone will immediately say, “That was horrible, I need more context.” How on earth am I possibly supposed to say something and explain context in an appropriate, clear, easy to understand way in 140 characters? I have less space than that last sentence, which was 141 characters. Facebook gives you more room, but even then, it’s not easy to establish context in a status message. Let’s show grace because sometimes we can’t see the context in the mediums we’re on.
2. It’s difficult to critically analyze an idea someone typed in line at a fast food joint.
Don’t read every status message or tweet as if the person was writing you from their home library, while sitting in a deep leather chair, smoking a pipe and producing the most well thought out, delicately crafted thought. Bart was probably grabbing lunch and punched something out on the fly, you don’t need to break the sentence structure down like you’re diagramming it in the third grade.
3. Seed the clouds, don’t chum the waters.
As the writer of the status message or tweet, you do have a responsibility. This is not just about how people respond to your statuses, it’s also about how you create them. I learned that by failing a post I wrote about Jessica Simpson. I have this theory that sometimes musicians start with a gospel album and if that goes well they eventually work their way up to pop music. If pop doesn’t work out, they head to country and then might even come back to Christian music. I used Jessica Simpson as an example because her first album was gospel and wrote a satirical post that asked, “She’s headed back to us, are we ready to take her back?” In the comments section, folks said some really hurtful things about her and her family. Midway through, someone commented, “I hope Jessica Simpson never sees this post.” That was a punch in my face, which I deserved. I might not have written those hurtful things, but I created an environment where other people could. When you tweet or update your status, try to start conversations that seed the clouds for ideas, like a meteorologist seeds the clouds for rain, instead of chumming the waters for sharks. You can steer conversations certain ways with the kindness of your words and ideas. (I don’t think MercyMe failed at this one by the way, but I have. Often.)
4. Don’t complain, unfollow.
Recently, someone on Twitter threatened, in a polite way, to unfollow me because I tweet too much. I emailed them and politely encouraged them to unfollow me because once you have 10 followers, it is impossible to tweet in a way that satisfies everyone’s personal acceptable daily quota of tweets. You also have the power to put an end to tweets you don’t like or facebook status messages you don’t care for. Telling someone they tweet too much is like saying they use too many words in a cell call YOU made. Just unfollow. It’s an easy solution.
5. Be a Christian online.
Sometimes we act like the Bible says, “Love your neighbor, except online. That doesn’t count.” It doesn’t say that. It actually says, “If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?” I want to be different. I want us to be different. Mean is normal online. Cruel is common. Let’s live uncommon virtual lives. The Bible also says, “Pray for those who persecute you!” Let’s be honest, how many of us have ever prayed before responding to a Facebook status or a blog? I can probably count my own times on one hand. Let’s not be like that. Let’s not be jerks. I know that is deep wisdom and probably belongs on a mug or at the bare minimum a painting of a lighthouse, but there it is. Let’s not be Christian jerks online.
I like MercyMe. I think they’re great and listen to a lot of their music. I even like their facebook/twitter publicist, who I believe is named Barry and has a mustache. Hopefully Barry did not get fired for saying “Xmas.” But if he did, I hope he still manages to have a happy holiday!
Have you ever bumped into a facebook feeding frenzy or other occurrence of Christian virtual attitude?