In his book Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living, retired United Methodist Bishop Rueben P. Job uses John Wesley's three general rules to give Christians a guide for living a faithful life. The book is published by the United Methodist Publishing House.
The rules from Wesley, the founder of Methodism, are simple: "Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God."
These rules also apply to how we live our online lives in social media. The Rev. Dan Gangler, director of communications in the Indiana Conference, expanded on Job’s ideas in his article “3 Simple Rules for Social Media.” Michael Rich, communications coordinator in Western North Carolina Conference, did the same in his article “Social Media – 3 Simple Rules.” Both advise ways to follow the rules when using social media.
Rule #1: Do no harm.
Job writes, “To do no harm means that I will be on guard so that all my actions and even my silence will not add injury to another of God’s children or to any part of God’s creation.” Doing no harm means respecting the cultures and life situations of those with whom we minister.
When we engage with others online, we may forget that living, breathing people with thoughts and feelings are on the other end of the digital conversation. With almost 70 percent of all communication being nonverbal, we may easily misunderstand what someone is trying to convey or how another interprets our intentions. It is easy to focus so much on proving a particular point that we cause unintended harm.
When engaging in social media activities, take the time to discern both the intention and the potential consequences of online engagement:
- What is the intent of the post? Does it show Christ’s love or does it focus on judgment and condemnation?
- Do I speak disparagingly about anyone involved? Do I try to use facts and opinions to manipulate others to my viewpoint?
- Could this post “do harm” to the reputation of Christ, the church or another person or organization?
- Could someone interpret the post as harmful, offensive, rude or distasteful?
- Does this interaction recognize each person involved as a “loved child of God – a recipient of love unearned, unlimited and underserved – just like myself”?
Rule #2: Do good.
Job writes, “My desire to do good is in response to God’s invitation to follow Jesus, and it is in my control. I can determine to extend hospitality and goodness to all I meet.” Doing all the good we can means to engage others proactively in a way that “nourished goodness and strengthens community.” Assess every word and act to determine if it brings God’s grace and goodness to others.
Read more at UMCOM.org
Article written by Eric Seiberling