In recent days I have seriously considered unfriending a couple of my Facebook friends because of this issue. I usually don’t write about it unless I’m ranting, but this time I’m saying it calmly:
Christians really need to stop sharing.
Not our money, time, or possessions – we should continue to model grace by our generosity – but we need to stop sharing conspiracy theories, biased rumors, unverified accounts, and false news.
Unsure if you’re doing this? If your story sounds too crazy to be true, it probably is. If the website you are linking has headlines that sound like they were copied from the grocery checkout lane, you’re probably guilty. (I’m looking at you, “Scientists Capture Raw Footage of UFO.”) If it qualifies as an “urban legend” (usually a lie that got told enough that people started believing it), you probably shouldn’t post it as fact.
Come to think of it, if you’re unsure, be above reproach. Don’t share it at all. If you don’t have substantiated proof, you are a gossip. That is sin. Worse, it’s down-right lying.
Beyond the fact that there is a sin issue, Christians do serious damage when they are careless about what they share on social media.
We diminish our credibility. Cry wolf often enough, and no one will listen when a real wolf is attacking the flock.
We develop cynicism. Discernment is a commendable and even biblical quality, but continuous falsehood can generate an unhealthy credulity that doesn’t even bother to question before assuming error.
Most dangerously, we devalue our claim of truth. The message we send by posting these lies is that truthfulness isn’t important enough for us to warrant a two-minute Google search. It says we are gullible enough to accept any unverified rumor only because it confirms our presupposed beliefs. Needless to say, that’s not very helpful when we then share the message of Jesus.
As people are overwhelmed daily with more information than they can process, they become increasingly selective in what they pay any attention to. If we are going to share our message of truth effectively, we should be careful not to first disqualify ourselves by sharing those that are false.