Sep 292014 5 Responses

Stop Breaking the Ninth Commandment on Facebook

Why doesn’t the ninth commandment apply to Facebook?

It seems as though Facebook is a morality free zone in which good people feel liberated to post or share any information which they like no matter the level of truthfulness. And even if an idea or story is proven false, there appears to be no sense of regret or shame that one has promoted something untrue. (See: Don’t Be a Social Media Hypocrite)

So what if every day my child recites the Pledge of Allegiance to begin her school day (it’s a law in my home state), let’s post something that laments the fact that schoolchildren are no longer allowed to say the pledge.

Who cares if our political opponent didn’t really say what the edited version of a video makes it sound like he said, let’s post it anyway because he really is evil.

Even though we don’t know what the actual person looks like so we don’t know if this picture of them is real, let’s share the post because it will prove our point.

Every day, good people are sharing bad things on Facebook without any sense of hesitation.

Of course we all get things wrong. As much as I try to fact check my writing, on occasion people send me a correction showing how I got something wrong. Mistakes happen. (See: Five Types of Social Media Jerks)

However, there is a difference between making an honest mistake, admitting it, and correcting it, compared to lazily reposting and sharing information of which we have no proof of its accuracy. And if it isn’t accurate, we take no responsibility for our involvement in promoting a falsehood.

The ninth commandment says, “And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (See: Why We Don’t Need the Ten Commandments On The Wall)

Notice the Biblical text doesn’t say, “You shall not lie.” Nearly every translation says, “You shall not bear false witness.” The image is that of a courtroom. A person is on the stand, under oath, giving testimony. To lie is to say something false with the intent to deceive. But to bear false witness is to say anything that is not true.

Many people feel justified in the midst of their bearing false witness, because they believe they are not lying. They are not willfully and knowingly telling a falsehood with the intent to deceive. However, they are bearing false witness. They are proclaiming ideas as truth when they do not fully know them to be truthful. Not only is it possible that their words are false, it is probable that they are false.

This is wrong for everyone, but is egregious for a Christian.

Christians are supposed to promote truth. It’s tied to the commands from God to love others. Truth is meant to flourish in the climate of love.

We are to:

  • rejoice in truth
  • worship in truth
  • love the truth
  • obey the truth
  • speak the truth
  • be freed by the truth

At the centerpiece of the Christian gospel is the concept of truth.

We cannot treat it lightly.

It is an affront to God and an assault on humanity for us to willfully misrepresent the truth.

One of the byproducts of someone who has received God’s grace is a desire to live in the truth. We want to speak it, believe it, trust it, and promote it. (See: The Anatomy of a Rumor–Living Truthfully in a Facebook World)

However, far too often we play loose with the truth—especially on social media. This must stop.

Ironically, the most dangerous piece of information is any story or idea which confirms what we believe.

We must verify, especially when something proves what we think is right. The reason for this is that we are more likely to be deceived when something confirms our beliefs. Our desire to say, “See, I told you so” is so great that without wisdom we will quickly attach our names to things which our false. We must slow down and seek the truth.

Here are four steps to obeying the ninth commandment on Facebook:

1. Research before you share. Many Facebook hoaxes are easily exposed with a simple Google search. Several websites exist for the sole purpose of listing hoaxes and reporting what part of a story is actually true. Before sharing something on Facebook or with a friend, simply research the topic.

2. Focus more on being truthful than proving your point. Opinions come and go, but character is not easily regained. While we all make mistakes, reposting falsehood shows people you do not respect the truth. It is not long before people stop believing your posts and stop believing you. (See: Learn to Communicate Like Facebook)

3. Whenever you make a mistake (and you will), admit it and apologize for it. We all make mistakes. We might believe something to be true or might fail to do the proper background work and we can quickly attach our name to something not true. Whenever this happens, admit it. People love honesty. They understand mistakes. By admitting it and apologizing for it, you show others that you care about the truth. (See: Remember This When You Make a Mistake)

4. Freely share disagreements about ideas but never attack a person’s heart. We can disagree with others without hating them. Most of the people who hold different opinions than we do are not evil. We make a grave mistake whenever we allow a differing opinion to color how we look at a specific person. Whenever we attack a person’s heart, we are defining the whole person by one idea. This is rarely an accurate description of the person. This is bearing false witness about them.

The truth matters. Social media is not a neutral ground upon which we can loosely say whatever we want without care or concern for others or the truth. We must honor the truth through the words we type or stories we share with the same intensity that we would guard our reputations.


5 Responses to Stop Breaking the Ninth Commandment on Facebook
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