A Shortage of Grace on Social Media

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Older readers might remember the “Spy vs. Spy” cartoons, where the good guy and the bad guy were virtually identical. Social media is a place where the good guys can become bad guys.

Contributing Writer
Steve Sorensen

Most of my social media revolves around three topics: hunting and the outdoors, Christianity and theology, and personal friends and family. Although hunting can become political, I try to confine political posts to private groups of like-minded people, as much as I can.

Even with my cautious use of social media, it’s impossible to avoid conflict. A while back I commented on Tim Tebow’s effort to play tight end in the NFL. I said even if he fails to develop pro-level skills at that position, it might open other opportunities. That’s how life often works. One door leads to another.

Totally positive, right? Nope. The attack came quickly through a Facebook private message.

“Tim will always be a winner.” (We agree there.) “U…always a loser.” (Whoa! Suddenly it’s about me, and it gets worse.) “Go hide like a coward and kill something to feel like a man you’ll never be.” (It had been almost two years since I had killed anything, but failed to notice my diminished masculinity.)

No big deal, but it’s the coward part I don’t get. This message came from a person who totally hides his identity on Facebook, but I’m the coward? Are people nuts? Short answer: Yes, and such people thrive on social media.

I’ve learned a few things about social media. Here are five of those lessons.

1. Social media — Where we say we hate it, but we act like we love it.
Several years ago I was on a discussion forum about hunting. Forums are similar to Facebook groups. Someone commented about social media, and everyone agreed they wouldn’t be caught dead there because it was full of idiots. I asked, “Do you guys realize that when you log in here, you’re on social media?” Nobody did. We all say we hate social media, but we act otherwise.

2. Social media — Where brevity and clarity don’t play well together.
You can be brief, or you can be clear, but you can seldom be both. That’s why I click “Like” a lot. I wish friends a happy birthday. I compliment a guy on the deer he shot. Before responding to something you disagree with, ask yourself, “Is that my issue?” And “Can I be helpful?” Otherwise you embroil yourself in endless debates with people who have poor reading skills.

3. Social media — Where we’re slaves to our preconceptions.
A few years ago I published an article that allowed a newsmaker to speak for himself. The publisher shared it on Facebook, and I took a barrage of incoming verbal missiles. Why? Most people read to form a response, not to understand. Social media worsens that problem.

4. Social media — Where not much is redemptive.
Here, I’m using a theological term. Social media is powerful, but it seldom has power for good. Facts often don’t matter, even to social media fact checkers. A couple of years ago I shared a post I knew to be false, pointed out why it was false, and cautioned others against believing the falsehood. Facebook awarded me a “Facebook Jail” sentence. The warning that I better not do that again — the equivalent of a social media ankle bracelet — was only recently dropped from my Facebook profile.

5. Social media — Where good guys become bad guys.
Social media is social, AND very much anti-social. Rather than bringing us closer to unity, it encourages people to parade their fallen human nature. So, limit the amount of time you spend in that wasteland. While you’re there, participate wisely. I’m trying to take my own advice here.

I’ve made mistakes on social media, you have too, and we’ll all make more. No one has a perfect performance, and many people try to be divisive. Social media requires grace, to use another theological term. If social media can be redeemed, it won’t happen through algorithms. It will happen only through gracious people. Let’s start on the hunting pages.

When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He is a field contributor to Deer and Deer Hunting magazine, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.

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Steve Sorensen of Russell, PA is an award-winning writer whose column, The Everyday Hunter®, offers hunting tips, strategies, insights and occasional humor. His byline has appeared in the nation's top hunting magazines and he is a field contributor to "Deer and Deer Hunting" magazine. Steve is also in demand as an event speaker, presenting programs on do-it-yourself Alaska moose hunting, whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and eastern coyotes, with new programs coming. E-mail him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com to invite him to speak at your next sportsman's dinner (or to tell him where your best hunting spot is).