May Brings Change

sfimagefilmIt’s time for an announcement – one that you’ll be hearing more about in the next few days.

But first, I should provide some background.

Over the last decade, I have been a writer (and sometimes editor) for Hollywood Jesus.  Basically, that position meant that I would work my normal job during the day, but pull a Clark Kent once in a while and run off to appointments in the 90210 area code and nearby areas. Of course, that allowed me to meet and interview some really incredible people and have an insider scoop on what was coming out of Hollywood (before you ask, I haven’t seen the new Star Wars film).

At the same time, Hollywood Jesus was undergoing a behind-the-scenes transformation that had been in the works for a number of years. While I had an idea what was going to happen, I just continued doing what I had done all along—reading, reviewing, and asking questions to people who were playing a role (in one way or another) for making Christianity known to the rest of the world.

February 15th of this year brought an official notification that the long anticipated changes were going to finally happen. At this point, I needed to consider and pray about what the next step was.  The answer came sooner than I planned.

Less than a week later, I was at Kohl’s with my family shopping for kids’ clothes. Suddenly, my phone started vibrating as if it was possessed. But it wasn’t a phone call.  Instead, a number of writers from a Facebook group I was a part of were chatting.  It seemed that they wanted to create a new site that embraced a vision that integrated faith, dialogue, and discussion–and they were working on what it should be called. The ideas were flowing fast and furious and my phone was paying the price as a result. So while the rest of the family was trying on clothes in the dressing room, I added some ideas while trying to control my laughter at the comments (note: it didn’t work).

The group seemed to be enamored with the word screen, so I played with the idea a bit.  Suddenly, I remembered an issue regarding the computer maker Lenovo that was currently making headlines.  It seems they were in trouble for secretly adding an adware program called Superfish to their lower-priced computers. What if we kept the screen idea and added ‘fish’ to the end of it? I thought. Quickly, I pulled out my phone and wrote, “Screenfish (as opposed to Superfish),” adding later that screen=movies and fish=faith (think of the early Christian symbol plastered on the backs of cars even today). A few of the folks liked the idea, but I wasn’t able to continue the conversation due to my phone battery going to zero. The next night, I whipped up a quick logo idea and before we knew it, the idea was born.

Of course, there was a lot of behind the scenes work that would take place, but it’s almost time to fully unveil the curtain on ScreenFish. You can sign up for the newsletter at right now if you’d like.

Please note that I’m not calling my time with Hollywood Jesus non-beneficial.  Far from it. I learned so much from the opportunity that it cannot be adequately written about–how to interview, how to look at pop culture through a different lens (take a look at the book Eyes Wide Open by William Romanowski), how to dialogue with people about Jesus instead of browbeating them with the Bible, and how to rock a fedora like founder David Bruce did.  But there is a time to step away, and that time is now.

I hope you’ll join me on this new journey—and become a part of the discussion. The internet is a great place to acquire information, but it’s also a great place to talk about issues and topics (trolls notwithstanding).

Faith and film are always intertwined. Come be a part of the unraveling process!


Eleven Discoveries Upon Turning 40

40Turning a year older usually means a cake, presents, and possibly an off-key a capella chorus of waiters and waitresses intent on embarrassing you. However, a birthday can also change one’s view of life. That seems to be the way it is when a person transitions form 39 to 40. I know, I know . . . it’s an age that is often so scary that folks avoid using the number itself, instead choosing to remain stuck on 39 for decades.

Something happens, however, when a person reaches that milestone year in their life. My birthday was on Saturday and it was like I had somehow awoken wiser. Maybe it’s due to that 3 in my age becoming a 4. I’m not quite sure. But it makes things a lot more significant all of a sudden.

So, in fashion to the style of the Internet these days, here are a few words of wisdom that I’d like to share with you about life:

* Make your days count. I now understand how long the Israelites roamed the wilderness as they waited to get into the Promised Land. Forty years is quite a long time! It’s important to make a positive difference in the lives of those you come into contact with. Life is way too short to harbor grudges and stay negative about any/everything around you. Otherwise, you’re the one stuck in the wilderness.

* Don’t work so hard that you forget to see, admire, and appreciate the finer things in life. You only get one crack at living, so take the time to spend playing games with your kids, acting goofy, or even singing one of your favorite songs at the top of your lungs (you might want to try the latter in front of a mirror first, but that’s completely your call).

* Read a book once a month (if not more often). In this day and age, we’re so accustomed to having information dispensed to us in lists, memes, emoji, and 140-character screeds that people a century ago wouldn’t be able to decipher. So why not give a book a chance? (As a bonus, pick up a classic work and spend time with it.)

* Put down the phone, tablet, or other electronic device once in a while. I share a birthday with my now 13 year-old daughter. She needs to have me spend time with her that’s not dependent on me tapping on a screen and zoning out for longer than I think. So does the rest of the family, come to think of it… (Note: this goes for eating at a restaurant as well–I cannot tell you the number of families I’ve seen that are all on their devices simultaneously or playing with the digital kiosk-thing at the table.) People are way more important than checking your Facebook feed for the 25th time or trying to better your high score on Crossy Road (in case you’re wondering, my best is 234).

* Be spontaneous. Over time, we tend to get quite predictable in life. We go to the same places, do the same things, take the same path to the same destination. It’s time that you changed things up on occasion. Instead of running out and grabbing some takeout from the burger joint, go to a Thai place. Or, better yet, craft a dinner that will leave people floored. Go to the park and shoot some hoops (or go swing on the swings). Pay for someone else’s coffee at the local store. Ditch the movie stars on the DVD and go look at the actual stars outside. The possibilites are endless!

* Dare to dream. Do you still have hopes and aspirations? Hopefully, those fires haven’t dimmed in the light of juggling competing time demands. Take some time to write them down, then start the process to make them happen!

* Take up a new hobby. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn origami. Or learn to play frisbee golf. It doesn’t have to be something huge, but you can liven up things with a simple addition to your free time. And if you don’t have any free time, why not? Consider ways to build some into your life.

* Enjoy the company of family and friends. Life isn’t meant to be lived in a vacuum. Instead, it is to be enjoyed with other people. Find a community event to attend (or even create one of your own!). Have some folks over for dinner and games. Live life while you have the chance to.

* Remember the value of faith. The writer of Hebrews (11:1) says that faith “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Even though it’s great to do all the above things, we should take time and reflect on what the future holds–both here on earth and after we die. If you’re not sure about that last one, Jesus talks quite a bit about what happens. We would all do well to consider His words.

* Make a difference in someone’s life. One of my personal aphorisms is this: “If you don’t think anyone in the world loves you, take a look at your Facebook account on your birthday.” It’s a very easy way to be reminded that you do matter to people. It’s also a great reminder that you’ve made a difference in the lives of others. We can always go a step further, so think about what that might look like for you–then put it into action.

*  In order to make certain things happen in life, we often sacrifice parts of who we are upon the altar of conformity. When we do this, we’re robbing ourself–and others–of who we are. Always strive to get better–more patient, less angry, eager to smile, increasing in joy, abounding in love and respect. But at the same time, don’t forget to remain true to who you were created to be. Life without you wouldn’t be the same!

I’m hoping the next 40 years are going to be fantastic ones. It’s going to make each day a unique adventure that I share with each of you!

Beyond A.D. and Episode 2 of A.D. (Mini-Review)

ad“A.D. The Bible Continues” premiered last Sunday and did quite well in the ratings.  In fact, it was the highest rated show on television on Easter and even found itself as the #1 trending topic on Twitter (#ADTheSeries). One unique thing the producers of the show are trying is a web-only companion program called “Beyond A.D.” It’s filmed every Tuesday night in Valencia CA for the next 11 weeks and is similar in style to “The Talking Dead,” a webshow for “The Walking Dead” (Note: if you’re in the area and want to be in the studio audience, let me know, as I can get you a link for tickets). Each half-hour episode will feature a faith based guest, a celebrity, and a musical act.  Hosting the show is Jason Kennedy from E!.

I drove down to Valencia for the opening taping of “Beyond A.D.” last Tuesday and had a chance before the show to talk with two of the evening’s special guests–Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner and Israel Houghton.  Warner told me that he loved the first episode of “A.D.,” noting that it generated “amazing dialogue” in his family. The show “A.D.” isn’t just trying to depict what Christians believe, but it causes people to look internally and see where faith lies. I asked him about the importance of dialogue, especially in the internet age; Warner noted that the reason dialogue is extremely important is because “we want to tell our opinions” instead of listening to others.

There are some similarities to the role of Peter in leading the apostles and Warner’s role of playing quarterback for an NFL team. For him, it was being a leader in any way he could. Both of the roles have amazing responsibility due to the fact that they’re representing something bigger than themselves. There’s great risk and great challenge, but where else would you want to be? Warner added, “I didn’t take [the role of leader] lightly–I wanted to impact people.”  The biggest lesson Warner has learned from the book of Acts is a simple one: What are you willing to do for your faith?

Israel Houghton and I chatted about music for a few minutes–he shared that the role of music in a show like “A.D.” is vital.  In fact, it becomes an additional actor in the presentation. You could look at the score with the wrong music and not be as moved.  With that, however, comes an immense temptation to force emotion when it’s not necessary or overdo it.  Houghton likened it to going on a mission trip and having such a great experience that upon your return, you talk to others “in an amplified way just because you’re in tune with what happened.” The problem is that most folks weren’t on the trip with you and don’t fully understand. Thus, you have to take yourself out of the situation when composing a tune, knowing that a single violin note can carry as much (or even more) weight than a massive buildup of noise.

“Beyond A.D.” offers a recap of the preceding week’s episode and takes time to answer viewer questions sent via Twitter.  A sneak peek of the upcoming show is shown, followed by a musical number by that week’s guest.

I have seen the second episode and will briefly say that there are some extremely powerful scenes in it–especially involving the disciples as they try to make sense of Jesus’ death and disappearance from the tomb. There’s still an error with the placing of the nail marks in Jesus’ hands, but I didn’t find it to be overly jarring. Caiaphas and Pilate are at odds with each other and the relationship becomes quite precarious. It all builds up to a rather shocking ending that provides a glimpse of the trouble the disciples will face while Jesus offers them hope before He returns to heaven.

“A.D.” will be shown tonight from 8-10 PM on NBC (8 PM encore presentation of Episode 1; 9 PM for tonight’s episode).

“Beyond A.D.” is available now to view online at this link:  Look in the audience shots–you might see me with my hat!

A Reason to Celebrate

adApproximately three months ago, I sat in a hotel ballroom in Pasadena CA as Mark Burnett and Roma Downey talked about an upcoming project called “A.D. The Bible Continues.” After their success with “The Bible” series a number of years earlier, I had one question for them.

Why now?

Mark’s response was telling: “We simply couldn’t make it fast enough.” He then mentioned how fortunate it was that NBC was going to air the premiere on Easter Sunday. I agree wholeheartedly with this, as “A.D.” looks like a game-changer in the realm of faith-based programming.

Are there differences from “The Bible?” Absolutely. There is zero carryover from the cast of the History Channel miniseries–all roles are played by different individuals. Instead of Diogo Morgado playing the titular role of Jesus, Juan Pablo Di Pace handles the role. Downey leaves her role as Jesus’ mother to Greta Scacchi. The rest of the cast is unique, as it’s reflective of the world today. As an example, the apostle John is played by Babou Ceesay from the country of Gambia, while Mary Magdalene is portrayed by Chipo Chung–a native of Zimbabwe.

After watching the first episode, it’s clear that Burnett and Downey have learned a lot about producing a show in the aftermath of “The Bible.” The production values are better; the pacing is more crisp; the acting is more convincing (Pilate [Vincent Regan] and Magdalene stand out); and the overall effect leaves a strong impression on the viewer.

Of course, one of the knocks on “The Bible” from evangelical viewers was that it took far too much liberty with the source material. I’m happy to report that “A.D.” corrects this in a big way. There is one questionable section at the end with an angel pulling out a sword (no ninja angels here), but for the most part, the episode is true to the Gospel retelling of the crucifixion and accounts in the Bible about the hours afterward. There’s violence, as you might expect, but it’s not as drawn-out and gory as either “The Bible” or The Passion of the Christ. This allows for a snappy episode that sets up future episodes well.

You may notice that I haven’t talked about Jesus so far. That’s because Di Pace doesn’t get to do too much other than confront Pilate and Caiaphas with steely reserve, hang on a cross, and die. What he does with the role, however, provides a sense of purpose that Morgado was unable to reach with his portrayal in “The Bible.” This allows the backstories of Caiaphas, Pilate, Leah, and Claudia to take center stage. It’s really intriguing stuff and helps to flesh out the tension that was in the air during those three days of the Passover.

Don’t miss this premiere–you’ll be hooked from the outset.

“A.D. The Bible Continues” is a 12-week miniseries that airs on NBC at 9 PM on Sundays, starting on Easter.

Typing Before Thinking

Rodin's The ThinkerAs human beings, we’ve been blessed with the ability to think, reason, and process through many subjects and situations. Sometimes we get easy things to deal with, like whether to make oatmeal from scratch or pour a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Other things, like our reaction to technology that allows us to send texts by merely blinking our eyes, might be a different story. But as more and more of our daily allotment of news, culture, and entertainment is pushed to the internet (such as this post, for instance), people increasingly want to make immediate reaction to whatever is seen.

And why not? In this day and age of people wanting to have their material seen by as many eyeballs as possible, numerous websites and blogs have resorted to various methods to entice clicks. Top 10 lists, quizzes, misleading headings, and the infamous title-that-tells-a-sappy-story-in-two-sentences-and-uses-the-word-I-which-is-a-no-no (used by tons of sites, including a pet food blog that gets tons of exposure for posting viral videos that don’t even involve pets) are examples of how it’s done nowadays.

The problem is this: when opportunities arise for conversation (particularly on controversial topics), we, in general, have forgotten to think before we speak.  This is something I struggle with daily. I do admit that having a computer screen in front of me makes things 1000% easier than verbally talking to someone as I can type something, think about it, and edit (if necessary) before hitting the send button. Verbal words aren’t as easy to take back.

Yet I see on a daily basis that when a topic or news story of interest is posted, people will start typing without thinking. That almost invariably gets them into trouble. Someone will misread or misunderstand the comment, take offense, and fire off a response that starts something. Or multiple people will read the comment wrong and gang up on the person. The person’s next step then becomes critical as to how the situation will end:

  • Sometimes the commenter will respond, clarify their position, and make things better for all.
  • Sometimes the commenter will respond, clarify their position, and make things worse (or exponentially worse).
  • Sometimes the commenter will respond, attack one or more of the responders, and make things worse (or exponentially worse).
  • Sometimes the commenter will apologize and the responders will attack for the boneheaded comment, then stop.
  • Sometimes the commenter will apologize and the responders will forgive, then stop.
  • Sometimes nothing will be done, and the comments will stop.
  • Sometimes nothing will be done, and the comments will get worse.
  • Sometimes it will turn out that the original comment was intended just to troll others, which is a bad situation in its own right, especially for a Christian to do.

Of course, there can be more options that these, but you get the idea. One—just one! act of typing without thinking can potentially lead to a whole lot more than the typing person bargained for.

And yet this happens all the time.

I’m reminded constantly when I’m anywhere near social media or a blog of what James shared in the Bible:

Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison (James 3:4-8 NASB).

The tongue has been called a lot of things, but a fire is extremely appropriate when it comes to the words we say or type. Here in water-starved California, one spark set off in the wrong place is enough to trigger a blaze that can consume thousands of acres of woodland. If the winds are heavy enough, the fire can move fast enough to make its containment extremely difficult.

In the early days of the Internet, once a comment was posted online, it was impossible to take back. There simply wasn’t a delete option. Thus, extra caution had to be taken before responding to what felt like a criticism of one’s choice of activities for the upcoming weekend.  Thankfully, most forms of social media now have an edit feature or the option of removing the post altogether (and in all cases, the nuclear option of deleting the whole account).

While having the ability to take a mulligan on comments is well and good, it is not foolproof. Nearly all electronic devices also have the ability to collect a screenshot of what the user is viewing at any given time. This means that if you were, in anger, to post a comment that was rude, crude, and socially unacceptable, leave it up for 2 minutes, then decide to remove it, there’s the distinct possibility that somebody could in those 2 minutes take a screenshot of the comment and save it for potential use at a later point in time. Sadly, this happens quite a bit in real life.  Typing without thinking gets people in significant amounts of trouble, ends marriages, disintegrates friendships, causes people to lose their jobs (even from global companies), and much more.

James was definitely on to something.

Perhaps it’s a good idea for us to take a few seconds after typing our thoughts out about something (controversial or otherwise) to reflect on what we’ve written:

  • Maybe we can check it for spelling and grammar errors, making sure the caps lock is not on (screaming tends to be frowned upon in real life, you know).
  • Maybe we can check it for possible factual errors (sometimes, a simple Google or Bing search is all that is necessary to prevent having to type a future “I’m sorry” post and have to deal with potential issues).
  • Maybe we can see if our comment responds accurately to the person’s original statement.
  • Maybe we can see if our response is one that is going to build others up instead of tearing them down (see Ephesians 4:29). Even if we have something negative to say, we can do it in a way that is helpful, respectful, and constructive.
  • Maybe we can pray for the message to make the connection God needs it to make in the lives of those who read it.
  • Maybe we can take a deep breath and count to 10 before clicking the Post button.
  • Maybe we can do all of these things—every time.

As ambassadors of Christ, people are watching you at all times, waiting to see how you live life Sunday-Saturday. They’re also watching online to see how you live your virtual life.

Make sure the two match up, one keystroke at a time.

Starting Over

Reset ButtonSometimes hitting the reset button leads to better things. It certainly does on my cell phone when it decides to act wonky and refuses to respond to my commands in a timely fashion. When the Blu-Ray player at our house chooses to freeze in the middle of a movie (ironically, it happens during the film Frozen, to the chagrin of all three of my daughters), a quick reset will normally fix the issue. My computer at work is notorious for this, but at least it automatically saves my work in advance, giving me one less thing to be concerned about.

In life, however, we often don’t take the opportunity to push the reset button and start over when necessary, even if it means stopping for a quick break to do so. We’re too caught up in our lives. We’re concerned about the ramifications for others. We’re concerned about what others will say about us.  If we do it, it’s half-heartedly.

Christians celebrate the reset button of Easter every year, as Jesus’ resurrection from death offers a chance to start anew with life and get going on a path that winds closer to him. It’s a choice, however—one that takes place on a moment by moment basis. We always have the right to return to the old way of doing things and making comfort our friend. But that’s not supposed to be the case. In fact, Jesus stated that anyone who puts their hand to the plow and looks back isn’t fit for service in the kingdom of God. If we sit back and reminisce too much on what was, we can’t be useful for what can be.

To that end, I look at this blog as sort of an opportunity to start over. I’ve been writing some in the time since my last post, which has been quite a while. But I don’t want to look back.

Too much has been happening in the world lately that has to be talked about.

Too much has to be called into question.

Too much has to be dragged into the glaring spotlight and made known.

Too many black eyes are being given out (even after Easter Sunday).

The plow is being pushed and we have to be ready for what is going to be happening.

Thus, I’m pressing the reset button on the No More Black Eyes blog.  Hopefully, I’ll never have to hit it again (but I reserve the right to smack it another time if need be).   Let’s commit ourselves to making today (and each day) a good one in our words, thoughts, and actions.

Black Eye #003 – Social Media Gone Awry

Typing on a keyboardSocial media (SM) has, in recent times, established itself as a force in modern society that will not go away.  When something significant happens in the world, you can bet that one or more social media outlets will be talking about it immediately, often faster than traditional forms of print, radio, and television (if you’re not sure about this, check out this article about the death of Whitney Houston).  As a result, people have an unparalleled ability to interact with each other in ways beyond a simple phone call.  Postings can be rich with multiple forms of media (pictures, links, audio clips, etc.) and can reach around the world multiple times in their lifespan.

With great power, however, comes great responsibility.  A single posting or comment has the potential to be used for good—or for more nefarious things.  This, for some reason, seems to be an issue with followers of Jesus, and even the most well-intentioned folks can give him a black eye or two through their words.  James put it well when he compared our speech (or shall we add ‘keyboard usage’) to a spark that sets off a forest fire: “By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell” (James 3:6 Msg).

Those are stinging comments that should not be overlooked by anyone, from the newest Christian to the pastor of a long-established congregation. Christians are supposed to lead from the forefront by their example, not react in ways that belittle and divide.  As a result, there are a number of procedures I try to follow whenever I add anything to the world of social media.  I heartily encourage you to add to these in the comment section, since I know I’m going to forget something:

* Social Etiquette 101
When commenting or posting, it’s important to make sure to follow basic rules and procedures in order to make sure your voice is heard properly:
A) If a comment is directed at someone, use the @ symbol to designate who you’re talking to.  Otherwise, the assumption is that the comment is for everyone.  I’ve even used @Everyone: when directing discussions that have gone off-topic or have become heated.
B) Make sure to use your best grammar and spelling skills in all posts and comments.  Otherwise, you can delete the post/comment and try again (with Facebook, you can edit comments using the pencil icon at the right of the post—but you can’t do this on phones yet (I’m sad about this).  It bothers me to make a mistake, so I will make a second comment stating the correction, then make the changes when I can get to a regular computer, deleting the correction notice).  It doesn’t take long to do a simple check before submitting something.
(Example: “I couldn’t breath.” – Incorrect | “I couldn’t breathe.” – Correct)
C) Writing an entire post or comment in all capitals is verboten.  Don’t do this—ever!  Not only is it universally considered shouting, it’s an easy way to not only get your message skipped or ignored, but can also get any future posts and comments blocked by people who might need to hear them.  When you consider using all capitals for part of a comment, think about how others will read and react to it.  There are other ways to emphasize a point.  I rarely will use capitals, but *will* put words in asterisks to make a point (see what I did there?).
(Note: The same goes for overt use of punctuation.  One exclamation mark or question mark is fine.  Thirteen is way too many [and improper grammar, to boot])
D) Emoticons are okay to use and can be used to help another person understand intended sarcasm or happiness.  Just don’t overuse them!
(Example: You don’t really need that.  😉 | You don’t really need that. )

* Verify Your Sources (if applicable)
When in the heat of the posting moment, sometimes rationality is the first thing that gets lost.  If you quote a source about something, verify it beforehand.  The same goes for statistics.  Otherwise, you risk someone else reacting to misinformation and passing it on to their network, starting a chain reaction that is difficult to stop.  You should also have on Internet speed dial and should use it in every circumstance possible.

* Know How to Defuse Potential Issues
Some of us have a deep inclination to attempt to start discussions on controversial topics (politics, for example) or enjoy adding fuel to an already raging inferno.  It’s okay to discuss these things, but be ready to tone it down a notch if it seems that things are spiraling out of control.  Discussions and even personal attacks can be handled in a loving and prayerful manner, becoming valuable ways to bring someone closer to God.  Really, they can.  Know how to make it happen. And remember what James had to say!

* Watch Those Forwards, Reposts and Retweets!
One of the more subtle problems online involves resending material that may or may not be true.  After checking with Snopes, consider whether if posting such material is going to encourage, build up, annoy, or start a heated flame war.  I personally find reposts (on Facebook specifically) to be lazy, guilt-inducing, inaccurate, and, most of the time, simply not useful.  Specifically guilty are those ‘pictures’ that are simply words or stories with a “Repost this” or “99% of you won’t have the guts to repost” comment.  As a result, people who pass these on to me are often blocked from posting future items to my News Feed.  On Twitter, it’s not as a big deal, since links a the prime form of communication—but it’s still important to check them before sending out a retweet.  Consider who the post was sent by as well—we all know those who we can trust.

* Threadjacking and Spamming are No-Nos
The word threadjacking refers to interrupting a comment stream in order to post something completely unrelated.  For example, if a number of comments are discussing the fastest car on the market today, a threadjacking comment would be, “Black Friday is the absolute worst day of the year to go shopping for bedding.”  It’s annoying at best and, if constantly done, can lead to others blocking your posts and future comments.  Spamming, on the other hand, is threadjacking intended to promote a cause or group.  To me, this is the bigger issue.
An example of the latter: I routinely ask questions on my Facebook page in order to generate discussion.  A few days ago, I inquired which of the seven dwarfs from Snow White people related to the most.  After three good replies, a fourth popped up that said (in essence): “I don’t relate to any of them.  However, I do relate to this band!”  It was followed by a link to the band’s home page.  Thankfully, the next few comments returned to the question at hand.  When I asked for the spamming to stop, the offender replied, “That’s the best part of Facebook—free speech!”  They were correct, but not within a thread they had no reason to spam.  Causes on FB can be promoted in separate posts with no issues whatever.  A page can even be set up for them.  But they have no place in an organized conversation.  And yes, the result was a blocking of the offender.

* Dirty Laundry Stays in the Hamper
When people get emotional, they can be somewhat irrational about the things they post.  There are places to handle situations that are of a personal nature.  Social Media is not one of them (note the word ‘Social’ in the title).  When dirty laundry gets aired, it happens in one of two ways:
A) A massive avalanche of pain and frustration comes out, burying anyone who reads it.
B) Vaguebooking occurs.  If you’re uncertain about that term, vaguebooking refers to posts that are general enough not to say anything yet are intended to make someone post “Huh?” in an attempt to provide a reason to share the dirty laundry.  An example would be, “One of the worst days of my life” or “Needing to go for a long drive in my car.”
The best thing to do, if you’ve got laundry to air, is to avoid SM entirely and go right to the source to deal with it.  Asking for prayer is cool, but you should be guarded in any responses.  If you’re reading the post, be careful with your words and comments (if you so choose to respond).  Requesting for the poster to delete the post is fine (which they should do), but please be respectful in asking.  If you can ask in ways other than through a SM post everyone can read, that would be the best.  Your well-intentioned comment could be viewed the wrong way by people and subject you to negative comments.

* Images Have Rights, Too
One of the recent trends in social media circles is the proliferation of images that are copyright protected on people’s accounts.  Admitted, a large part of what is on Facebook and Pinterest is cannibalized by others—this makes original material a premium you should take advantage of.  However, if an image has an obvious copyright notice on it, you shouldn’t post it on your feed.  This goes for comics out of newspapers as well—no matter how interesting or timely they are.
But just because an image doesn’t have a notice on it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily okay to use.  There is a principle called Fair Use that dictates what images are okay to use and in what particular situations (a good explanation can be found here).  It’s pretty tricky to tell what’s acceptable, even for bloggers.  Simply put, if you got the image (or article) from a certain site, it’s common practice to give the site credit for the item in the form of a thank you or a hat tip (sometimes abbreviated as h/t).  Err on the side of caution, though.  And ask yourself, “If that image was mine, how would I feel about people reposting it without giving me credit?”  It’s a great example of the Golden Rule Jesus shared.

* The Sword Works Both Ways
Christians have an uncanny ability to encourage someone who is down with a well-timed verse of Scripture (or one of those ‘word pictures’ I mentioned above that doesn’t say ‘Repost this’).  At the same time, they’re able to hurt and do worse things through untimely usage of Scripture.
I know.  I’ve done it myself. One person who was struggling got a verse in 1 Timothy from me a number of years ago that said, “You were running the race so well.  Who cut in on you and led you from the truth?”  Sadly, that person wasn’t seen at church after that.  The sword worked both ways.
So when using a Scripture passage, consider the potential ramifications of it (and, if the post will be sent out en masse, how others will react).  Then select accordingly or comment in a more appropriate matter.
Also, contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to use a Scripture reference in every sentence.  Many people will skip over them anyway (sadly).  Instead, it may be better to paraphrase the idea in an impactful manner.

* Reread Your Comment
Too often, people tend to respond or post out of sheer emotion or, even worse, from the wrong mindset (jealousy, anger, hatred, judgmental attitudes, etc.).  Get in the habit of giving your comment or post a quick reread to make sure it says what you intend it to say.

* Pray About the Comment
Again, this should be a standard thing to do.  Whether it’s for a particular person, the group reading it, or someone who may see it randomly, you owe it to them to pray.

* Count to Ten
Sadly, SM doesn’t have the luxury of an undo feature (such as Gmail has with its ten-second option to undo the sending of an email) once something is sent.  Sure, you can delete it if you’re quick enough, but you never know if, in those few seconds, someone saw the post.  Why not avoid the sinking feeling in your stomach by counting to ten (maybe twenty?) before releasing your words into cyberspace?

* Keep Exercising
Simply put, don’t run away from the world.  Instead, keep an open eye on current events through the lens of the Bible.  Get educated about issues from a non-biased standpoint if possible (and that may not be an option these days).  I only post about current events if I can validate the source from at least two (2) sources.  It eliminates a good percentage of bias, but also establishes credibility on my part.

* Do it for Love
Remember why you’re here.  Don’t withhold good from those who deserve it when you have a chance to do something about it.  Share in love.  Remember that potentially millions of eyes are watching your words and (fairly or not) judging you on them.  Make them count!

Social Media is great, but it’s not as easy to use as people like to think.  It can, however, be an incredible ally in making the Jesus of the Bible known to the world.

What do you think?  Any suggestions/tips you can add?  Do you think I’ve completely lost it?  Comment away!