Social Media Lies

Social Media Lies

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16

A while back, someone posted something on social media about me that was critical of my performance as a physician. My name wasn’t mentioned but it was unmistakably about me. I’m sure this person didn’t think it would get back to me, but it did, quickly. It was unfair and it was unkind. Most of all though, it was untrue. This individual simply had no idea what he or she was talking about. I know how social media works though. Once something is posted, that idea is inserted into the minds of those who read it. Once said, it’s repeated as someone’s truth. I wanted to fight back, to object, to defend myself. In the end though, I just had to let it go, because I couldn’t scrub it from the internet. Once it was said, it was out there.

Slander is like that. Once I say something evil about someone, that idea is injected into the minds of anyone who hears it. To erase it is more difficult than simply deleting a comment. Once you hear something terrible, you can’t unhear it. As angry as I was about this incident, I had to reflect on how I talk about others. That slanderous individual never meant for me to read what he or she posted on the internet. Yes, social media was a poor choice for a place to vent, but it was simply venting. What if my every impulsive comment about others was posted online for all the world to see? Would I be comfortable with everyone around me knowing everything I said about them when I thought they couldn’t hear me?

Today’s passage is a reminder to watch my tongue. In the passage, God demanded that the Israelites speak only the truth about each other. Their system of justice was based upon the honesty of those who’d witnessed a crime (Deuteronomy 19:15). If two or three people said you did something bad, you were guilty. This only works if everyone speaks the truth. If the Israelites began lying about their neighbors, the entire system would fall apart.

It’s not that different for us. If someone says something evil about another, and then convinces a few others that it’s true, then it’s reality. Whether it’s really true doesn’t matter, because it’s out there. In such an environment, lies are devastating.

My words don’t exist in a vacuum. I can’t simply say whatever I feel like, pretending it doesn’t hurt the individual about whom I’m speaking. Even if it never gets back to them, my words can be caustic, causing irreparable harm. Words are weapons, and if I’m not careful, I can be guilty of the same inflammatory behavior that once infuriated me on social media.

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