The Power of Language on Social Media

Do we comprehend the power behind the language we use on social media?

"Words are a form of personal expressiosn. . . . They reflect what kind of person we are." -Charles A. Didier

Photo by Dawid Liberadzki

Language is powerful—especially our language on social media. A single word has the power to influence people and their feelings, for good or bad. Elder Charles A. Didier reminds us in his talk “Language: A Divine Way of Communicating” that we often do not realize the implications of our language choices, but that the consequences of destructive language are devastating.

Social media allows us to share the gospel, connect with friends and family, and record our lives, but it can also be a breeding ground for contention. Elder Didier warns that our “words can be distilled drop by drop like a poison, or eat away like a cancer.” When we join a politically sparked conversation online, we should remember to keep our language motivated toward charity, sharing messages of hope and peace instead of statements of despair and hostility. As carriers of the Holy Spirit, we have the ability to speak, like Paul, “with the tongues . . . of angels” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

In the virtual world, it can be tempting to speak harmful words to others when our face is hidden behind a username; however, we must strive to keep Christ at the center of our language, even when we are online. After all, our words say a great deal about our character. As Elder Didier points out, “Words are a form of personal expression. . . . They reflect what kind of person we are.”

The next time a controversial topic enticingly invites online dialogue, let’s remember to allow the light of Christ within us to shine through our language.

Read Elder Charles A. Didier’s full talk, “Language: A Divine Way of Communicating.”

Source: lds.org

—Olivia Snow, Mormon Insights 

feature image by william iven

Find more insights

See what Church leaders have said about language in For the Strength of Youth’s section on Language.

For more insights on language and communication, read Jennifer Grace Jones’s Ensign article “No Corrupt Communication.”

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15 Comments

  1. How true this is! I’m reminded of the phrase “have courage and be kind” from the new Cinderella movie. It does take courage to be true throughout all areas of our life. With courage and kindness we can reflect the Savior in our physical lives and our digital lives. Thanks for the great article!

  2. I totally agree! Many people hide behind profiles or anonymous user names on social media and use them as an excuse to be rude or personally attack other people. I believe that technology often makes us feel more distant from other people and Satan tries to convince us that distance is an excuse to say things we wouldn’t normally say to people. Remembering that everyone we talk to, even on social media, is a son or daughter of God helps to remind us how to treat them. Thanks for a great post!

  3. I remember learning in one of my classes that language is the one thing that you can’t fake for very long; either it becomes real or you slip up and use pieces of your old language that give you away. Even when we’re behind a username, the language we use will eventually become a part of us. For all the damage that corrupt communication can do to relationships, I’m not sure it can ever quite compare with the damage it does to us.

  4. Agreed! Social psychology calls this deinviduation, and it’s so harmful. People start saying things they would never say to another person’s face and it causes a lot of problems.

  5. The quotes used in this article by Elder Didier are powerful, and made me curious enough to read the talk, which was presented in 1979. Thirty plus years later and the thoughts in that talk are still relevant today. I appreciate how it was used to help provoke thoughts on appropriate online discourse. What a wonderful way to use guidance from the past to help guide the future.

  6. Sometimes it is really difficult to remember to stay kind on social media when it’s so easy to write one’s opinion without thinking how it may affect others. I agree that we need to be conscious of our actions at all times, even if no one is watching.

  7. This is a very important topic. People need to treat each other with kindness and respect in all forms of communication. Great article!

  8. I’m in a position where I conduct myself online with near-anonymity on an almost daily basis. I always remind myself that there’s someone on the other end of the screen, just like me. No matter how heated or charged the debate gets, I never want to conduct myself in a way that could drive away the Spirit.

  9. This article is very timely. In the world today, everyone is a publisher thanks to Facebook and Twitter. This is obviously a wonderful thing—for the most part. I think in junior high and high school it should be a requirement to take an Internet etiquette class, something that will teach us all how to interact more tactfully on social media.

  10. So true! I think it is so important to remember that people are watching; they can see what you post online on any social media platform. It’s a great opportunity to share the gospel with friends and strengthen members, but it is also dangerously addictive. I think remembering that we stand as witness of Jesus Christ at all times will help us to see social media more as a tool to be used to spread the gospel and less as a popularity contest.

  11. I tend to be more crass on social media than I am in real life, but recently I’ve been trying to remind myself to always be kind. I remember how badly words can hurt, so why would I want to do that to another person? It can be harder to decipher a joking tone when you’re reading something off of your screen, so even an innocent joke could be something that really hurts another person’s feelings. I want to be an example of Christ, and that should include social media. Great insight!

  12. What a true message! Thank you for writing on such a timely topic and for applying it specifically to online communication. What we do and say when no one will know say a lot about us.

  13. This is an important principle for our day and age. Maybe what that heated political conversation on our friend’s post needs is someone to speak with charity in order to change hearts and minds. We live in a time in our country and in the world in which humanity seems to fight each other more than we can manage to compromise or resolve issues. We could all use an added measure of love and understanding as we speak about these issues. That may be the only way to really resolve the problems!

  14. I know I am guilty of not always being kind on social media. The distancing effect that occurs when we communicate with others on the Internet is definitely a real thing, and sometimes I have to imagine, “Would I say this to someone’s face, in person?” before I realize that I’m abusing the gift of language because I’ve let my emotions rule my responses. With the prevalence of mudslinging and “flame wars” whenever there’s a disagreement on the Internet, I am always pleasantly surprised when I observe or participate in a debate that doesn’t devolve into name-calling and profanity.

  15. This is such a relevant article for today’s world! I see political fights on social media all the time and people’s comments really do say a lot about their character. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we should always speak with love and respect towards others, regardless of our political stance or theirs. We should promote laws that help us follow Christ’s example and advocate truth in the right situations.

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