Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Maybe we’re in our pajamas. Maybe it’s 3 a.m. Maybe we’re not even in town.
But in our new world, these are no longer limitations.
For example, in this little corner we gather any time, from many different countries, to memorize scripture together. We come to encourage or share a photo or ask a question (what does “portent” mean in Psalm 71:7?).
It’s online community. It’s relatively new to us all. And it’s quite an opportunity.
With only a keyboard and screen, we can type out love for God and others from wherever we are to any person with internet connectivity. While online encounters should never replace in-person ones, they are legitimately useful in our modern lives, a positive addition to our global neighborhood.
Here are ten tips to make the most of your online community:
1. Be you
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, have lots to say or little, you now have a turn to talk. Your voice—be it quiet or loud—has never had greater opportunity to be heard as widely as now. So be authentic and give what only you can—you and how you are seeing the Lord in our world. Stay within boundaries of comfort, safety, and appropriateness when you share, but do be real.
2. Genuinely listen
Turn up the volume to hear what others have to say. It’s tempting to quickly scan what others write, but tune in to their stories. Listen to their comments. Hear their hearts. Just because they can’t see whether or not you’re paying attention, read thoughtfully anyway.
3. Talk back
One-way communication doesn’t create community. If you want to establish relationships, leave a grateful comment after reading an encouraging post. Answer a question on Twitter. Message a Bible verse that would be helpful. Skype for back and forth conversation.
And don’t just say you will; do it. If an online friend shares a prayer request on a forum, pray as you read so you won’t forget. Or type out your prayer and email it out to them as well as up to God.
5. Go deep
Invest in a handful of online friends that you truly connect with by giving them extra attention. Nurture a smaller community within a larger one, such as the small groups of six in the Soli Deo Gloria community. Stick with the same blogger’s link-up for several weeks until you recognize who’s who.
6. Spread wide
Just as with face-to-face friends, you can only go deep with a few, but you can say a kind word to many—a quick “like” or “Happy Birthday” on a Facebook page keeps connections alive. I communicate with just a few words to many Spanish-speaking friends in El Salvador (thanks to Google Translate).
7. Accept limits
Monitor your time online; don’t sacrifice in-the-flesh companions because you’re tied to your iPhone. Don’t publish what you might regret; online words are documented and permanent. Slow down to respond; just because you can reply immediately doesn’t mean you have to. Honor confidences shared privately. Create appropriate boundaries with opposite-sex relationships.
8. Take it offline
Surprise an online friend with a card in your handwriting or a small gift via snail mail. If you’ve established a trusted relationship, and an opportunity arises, meet in person at a conference or restaurant or church. Talking online is good, but worshiping side by side—hearing each other sing praises or praying together—brings you even closer.
9. Be a resource
Recommend relevant sites, software tools, Pinterest boards to others who can benefit from them. Retweet helpful links. Welcome newbies to an online group you’re already in. Post helpful book reviews on sites like Amazon or reading groups like Goodreads.
10. Above all, love
The greatest command applies online as well as off—love God, love others (Matthew 22:36-39). Let this question be the final one you ask before you hit send or publish: “Am I loving God and loving others with these words?”
Our advancing technologies continue to provide new mediums to nurture friendships and build faith. Now that we’re online, let’s stay connected . . . for God’s glory and each others’ good.
Share your experience with online community. What social media do you use for community? Have you met online friends in person? Please leave a comment below.