The Internet has brought us many wonderful things: Netflix, long-distance classes, creative collaboration, opportunities to support small businesses, Russian dashcam videos.
One of these great things is social media. We can be instantly connected to people from all over the world, whether they are personal friends or just really interesting people. We can share experiences, learn from one another’s unique perspectives, and, most importantly, share the truth of the gospel. But along with these positives come negatives.
If you use any kind of social media, you’ve seen it. Maybe you’ve even done it (I can’t say I haven’t). The long post that starts with some sort of cute quip such as, “Warning: Rant ahead” or “Time to dust off my soapbox” (what is a soapbox anyway?), and then commences a long, impassioned tirade against this thing or that, peppered here and there with snide remarks directed at “haters,” and finished off with a healthy dose of sassy hashtags.
What usually happens after is comments filled out with “Amens," “Preach its,” and folks who throw in their two bits hoping to some of those sweet Internet karma points. Now and then somebody’s racist uncle or tree-hugging college roommate will draw their sword and spark a book’s worth of back-and-forth that accomplishes nothing. But if we're honest, it sure is fun to read. In the end it fizzles out and people stop caring or are distracted by a tasty recipe video.
I’m trying my best not to turn this article into a soapbox rant myself. Trust me, it would be very easy. What I hope this article does is caution us against empty arguments and encourage us to love our neighbors in a meaningful way.
Here are three things that soapbox rants on social media do not do:
Ranting doesn’t change anyone’s mind or help the issue
When you rant on social media, two kinds of people will reply: those who agree with you, and those who have their minds made up otherwise. If someone has their mind made up about something and they disagree with your post, they will either simply ignore it or comment for a while before moving on to the next thing on their to-do list. Yes, now and then you will see someone who is open-minded enough to at least say they’ll give the matter more thought, but this isn’t a common occurrence. So you are left “preaching to the choir” or wasting your time with people who will disagree no matter what you say.
When all is said and done, ranting on the Internet cannot replace taking action in the real world. Anyone can win an argument on social media as long as they argue better than the other person–and there is always someone who can argue better than you.
Ranting doesn’t make you look good
Oh, the thrill of posting a rant on the Internet. The flurry of likes and shares, the applause in the comments, maybe even the loss in friends and followers that just proves you struck a nerve–it is so exciting. Then the high wears off and you’re left reminiscing about the time you posted that thing.
You will get three types of people responding to you. The first are those who agree with you. They will read some of your post, drop a like or maybe an “amen,” and move along. The second are the ones who disagree with you. They may ignore you, comment an opposing view, or unfollow you. The third are those who, whether they agree or disagree, immediately hide you from their feed because they don’t need the negativity and drama. I’m the third type.
So how do each of these people view you? If they agree with you, you look just like them. If they disagree, you may be an enemy. If they belong to the third group, you’re just annoying. No matter who it is, you don’t come out looking good. Furthermore, it does nothing to better your reputation.
The only person who thinks you look good in that rant is yourself. There is a word for this: pride.
Ranting doesn’t make Jesus Christ look good
How many times have I made the mistake of saying something in a rant and tried to pass it off as Christian? Too many times.
Christians are, among other things, agents of positive change in the world. We are called and commissioned to bring the gospel to sinners in a way that reflects God's grace and love, even when we are hated for it. This does mean that sometimes we take a stand and speak out against wickedness. But there is no room for grace in a soapbox rant.
What do people think of your God when they read your rants? Whatever they think, they do not see a God of grace. They do not see the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, or self-control that comes from fellowship with the God of the Bible. Instead, they see a God whose children are frustrated, angry, complaining, and all too often hateful.
As I said, there is a time for speaking against wickedness, but a rant does more harm than good. If there is something in the world you want to see changed, get out and work. Be the hands and feet of Christ, not His computer keyboard. Replace the thrill of an online debate with the joy of loving your neighbor. Exchange your desire for likes and comments for the approval of your Heavenly Father. Stop dwelling in frustration and complaints, and abide with Christ.