Social media’s death of a thousand cuts

Over the past couple of years, I have had a front-row seat to the public execution of neighborly love.


We inflict upon our neighbors an ancient Chinese torture every time we hit send on a negative post. It is called lingchi, or death by a thousand cuts.

While lingchi was an actual method of slow slicing to cause a lingering death, the phrase “death by a thousand cuts” has come to be known as a lot of small, bad things happening, none of which are fatal themselves, but which add up to a slow and painful demise. (

That’s what is happening to civility in our culture. It is dying the death of a thousand Facebook posts and tweets.

On social media, people no longer have to be polite or courteous to each other unless they agree on a subject. If they disagree, all bets are off.

The new rules say it is OK to publicly degrade someone based on a political disagreement. It is OK to publicly question a person’s integrity based solely on differing opinions. Apparently, there are extra points for degrading someone who has chosen public service as their vocation.

And if you can be mean and degrading in a funny manner — snark — you can become a social media star.

I don’t believe it is supposed to be like this.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is asked to name the most important commandments. He names two, one which is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)


The Bible says love is patient, kind, doesn’t envy or boast, it isn’t proud or self-seeking, and it doesn’t keep score. The Bible says love doesn’t dishonor others.

The Bible says love protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.

The Bible apparently didn’t know about Facebook or Twitter.

Over the past couple of years, I have had a front-row seat to the public execution of neighborly love as administrator of the Henderson County Now Facebook page. We get around a thousand comments even in a slow week and many of them fall into that realm of “makes me wince, but doesn’t go far enough to warrant being banned.”

All those hateful comments have taken their toll on my attitude. I have trouble thinking as favorably about my community as I once did. Those comments have sliced off a piece of what used to define me.


I hope you will think about who you may be cutting next time you hit send.

Author: Michael

Working in the newsroom, I had a front row seat as the internet just about killed newspapers. I knew I had to either evolve or risk becoming insignificant. So I changed. I learned how to build websites and blogs, and I used social media to go to my readers. Now the goal is to use what I've learned to honor God and serve my community.

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