@stickyJesus: Loving Your Online Neighbor

By Rachel Stone, blogger at Eat With Joy!

Anyone who has spent much (or even little) time online knows that people can be tremendously mean on the Interwebz, and that there’s a lot of trash in them there Clouds. At the same time, though, the Internet can connect us to other people–whether that’s to people we know from “real life” or people we’ve ‘met’ virtually–and that can be a tremendous source of encouragement. I value greatly some of the friends I’ve gotten to know through writing and reading online.

{Though I will confess that I’m *really* looking forward to meeting some of them in person.}

Because, really, nothing can replace face-to-face. Sharing food and wine and all that.

Whatever your level of social media involvement–or whatever your opinion of such involvement–there’s no denying that Twitter, Facebook, blogging, and other forms of online media are tremendously powerful: if you’re in doubt, consider the role they played in the Arab Spring.

In their new book, @stickyJesus, Toni Birdsong and Tami Heim offer a primer on using social media as faithful Christians–a hard-copy extension of the resources already at their website, @stickyJesus. I have to confess, there was much in this book that raised my eyebrows. I get a little scared when the Bible and Jesus are used as a models for leadership/business/influence, etc.; I just do.

This line was especially cringe-worthy:

“The Holy Spirit is the global positioning system (GPS) you need to operate online. He is the Power Source that will keep your heart fixed and ministry fruitful. He makes your life and God’s Word sticky to the rest of the world. So don’t log on without Him.”

But, getting past some of the gimmicky cheez ball stuff {mmm, Cheez Balls!} I have to say I would have loved to have this book a few years ago, when all the social media I now use regularly seemed really mysterious and when I may/may not have engaged in some less-than-polite online behavior–like too much self-promo, not enough reciprocity, listening, etc.

Bottom line–loving your neighbor online is not unlike loving your neighbor in real life: it’s about listening at least as much as speaking, seeking to encourage, doing unto others…you get the idea. This book is kind of a Christian version of How to Win Friends and Influence People for the digital age, and if you’re a person who spends a lot of time online, it may be worth it to log off for a bit and read this.

{But my idea of a good response to trolls and haters is some gently snarky humor. Answer a fool according to his folly, anyone? That’s in the Bible, too.}

*delighted to be posting as part of the Patheos Book Club!*

Rachel Stone is a blogger whose writing has appeared in places like Christianity Today, Her.meneutics, The Progressive Christian, Catapult, The Suffolk Times, Creation Care Magazine, and Flourish Magazine.   She has a book related to her Eat With Joy! blog coming out late this year or next year with InterVarsity Press.