Can Your Content be Weaponized?

King Saul directing the Hebrew troops

Words and images can hurt. Those originating by our friends and family can hurt more. And those that have the supposed backing of religion can be devastating. Curate your digital ministry’s content to prevent these kinds of scars. This article goes into various ways your well-meaning content can lead to pain.

Remembering Sadness

Facebook had a feature called “Year in Review” a while back. It showed you some of your most popular posts as a highlight of the year. The problem was that often those posts received attention because they were heartbreaking. Mothers saw pictures of their unborn children lost to miscarriage. Friends saw posts of pictures of friends they lost to cancer. People saw photos of their previously whole family before divorce tore them apart. There were many cases where the most popular memories were painful ones. Consider how your congregation will feel around specific holidays and post appropriate content. Remember that for every few people celebrating, there is one mourning a loss.

Avoiding Sidewalk Preaching

Most churches frown upon the idea of a sidewalk preacher, yelling about doom and gloom. I imagine you and your church want to promote the message of the Gospel. You promote love and forgiveness above all things. Many passages of scripture can be taken out of context to shout a message of hatred and exclusion. Avoid posting content that could be easily converted to a message of anger. Yes, we know unforgiven sinners face an eternity of suffering in Hell. But until that day occurs, strive to save everyone with demonstrations of Christ’s love. Echo these sentiments on your website and social media presence.

Discouraging Unwarranted Interventions

Often times people will feel too exposed to shout to the masses. Sidewalk preachers seem too radical. Yet the same posture in the comfort of their own home feels safe. Avoid giving people fuel to post and share information about their loved ones. First, I am not social worker. But interventions should occur only when many people observe destructive behavior. Not when one person feels goaded on by an out-of-context piece of scripture found on the Internet. Do not provide the fuel for someone’s anger to shatter a family. Encourage your audience to seek professional help first.

Action Item

You will not get every social media interaction right. But do what you can to not get it wrong. Consider every way your message can be twisted. I am not saying to not stand behind scripture. But please do not choose controversial pieces to start an online debate. Save more confrontational verses for one-on-one conversation where you can explain the cultural context. Do not provide a well meaning member the ammunition to create a big “church hurt”. Because scars left by the church, be it in person, or digital, leave deep wounds. Provide content that promotes love and healing as often as possible.

This article was partly inspired by The Big Web Show #144 Design for Real Life with Eric Meyer

Photo courtesy of Free Bible Images

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.