Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Although most Christians exchange gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, a few traditions celebrate with gift-giving on the Feast of the Three Kings, or Epiphany, which is January 6. According to the Gospel of Matthew, three Magi (wise men or kings) traveled “from the East” following the star of Bethlehem and bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
They were hardly practical gifts for an infant born among livestock and have been interpreted symbolically. So I’m going to continue the tradition by considering what the gifts of the Magi can mean for social media, and especially for those of us who blog.
In modern times gold is the most recognizable of the three gifts. Throughout the centuries it has been a symbol of value and wealth. So scatter nuggets of value in your blog. Depending on your blog and its audience, that can be useful information to solve readers’ problems, interesting facts or insights, or simply original and entertaining writing. Whatever it is, offer something you enjoy writing and your audience will enjoy reading.
Frankincense and Myrrh are resins made from dried tree sap. In historic times they were used for various purposes, but today are mostly used as ingredients in incense and scented oils. Of the two, frankincense was more valued for its sweet scent, which myrrh is bitter.
The social media Magi would advise us to always be sweet in our blogging, leaving readers with a pleasant fragrance rather than spoiling our nuggets of helpful writing with an odor of rudeness. That’s not to say we can’t criticize something or disagree with another person’s opinion, only that we should be polite about it. A rational argument is always more convincing than a nasty attitude.
That extends to other forms of social media. A good deal of nastiness can fit even in the 140 characters of a Twitter update, but resist any temptation to be snarky. And bloggers should moderate comments to preserve the sweetness of their blogs. I’ve seen otherwise excellent posts spoiled by spam and flame wars in the comments. Again, disagreement is permissible, but rudeness is not.
Myrrh is also used in fragrances but in the past it was valued as a preservative and for its medicinal properties. (It’s still used in toothpaste and mouthwash today.) It was even used in embalming, though I’m not suggesting your blog should become a resting place for dead ideas. Far from it!
Better to think of myrrh’s medicinal and preservative uses. Nothing on the Internet ever quite disappears, so be sure that whatever you post has staying power. If someone reads your blog posts a year later or finds a comment or status update you left ages ago, it may not be fresh—it may even be wrong and out of date—but it should still be something you’re willing to attach your name to. Circumstances change, but if you post thoughtfully your mistakes will more likely be charmingly old-fashioned than stupidly wrong.
Pay attention to the accuracy of details. Do a little research. If you write based on the best information that was available at the time, your posts will remain interesting, even if they are later shown to have been incorrect, and can be repurposed as observations about how quickly the modern world changes.
With this metaphor in mind, I’m thinking about blogging in the new year and looking for nuggets of interesting information, handled with kindness, and researched and written to have staying power. That’s a tall order, perhaps, but I look forward to the challenge.