Earlier this summer, our family made a pilgrimage to the ultimate summer vacation destination, Disneyland. As we navigated the crowds, I noticed a common trait among our fellow mouse-eared tourists. With the exception of a few overstimulated toddlers and stressed-out parents, everyone around us was smiling and laughing. The strangers...
From political arguments with family and friends, time-sucking Facebook snooping, unhealthy comparisons, and TMI moments, most of us have witnessed the ugly side of social media. But what are the driving forces behind what we share, write, and comment on, and why do we feel the urge to compulsively check social networks several times a day? Whether we post frequently or rarely, strategically or not, now is a good time to assess our motivations for making our mark online.
Social media has become a modern-day idol for many, but the root of this addiction is nothing new. It’s an ancient sin delivered in a modern approach.
Three Questions to Ask Yourself About Social Media
Sin can be traced back to pride, and we know it’s rearing its ugly head when we’re thinking too highly or too lowly of others or ourselves. Unfortunately, social media is a great means of fueling the teeter-totter of self-worth. One moment, we’re overly confident, humble-bragging about ourselves, and the next, we’re beating ourselves up, feeling worthless.
Pride is a vicious cycle that never satisfies, and like all sin, it has the need to be fed regularly.
Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:12-14)
So how can we discern our errors as we use social media? How can we use it so our words and thoughts are acceptable in God’s sight? Here are three searching questions we can ask ourselves about this modern medium:
1. Does my confidence depend on it?
At different points throughout the years, I’ve been drawn into the virtual world where it’s easy to create a persona of confidence. But it was all a charade. I didn’t actually like myself, but I temporarily received the attention and approval I felt was lacking.
This unhealthy approach to validation is all too common for people who fear never getting noticed or being forgotten among the “more valuable.” For the self-confident, it’s just as easy for the desire for praise to grow and consume at an alarming rate.
While it may seem normal for anyone to want approval, there’s a fine line between needing encouragement and desiring self-glorification. Whether we have too much confidence in ourselves or not enough, the problem remains: We’re not putting our full confidence in who God is, who he made us to be, and how he views us as his cherished children.
Not to us, Lord, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness. (Psalm 115:1)
The Bible calls us to be humble, give God the glory, and boast only in him. Sure, we can share thoughts, humor, experiences, and the like, but social media doesn’t give us a free pass to be self-glorifying.
In Philippians 4, Paul tells us to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, which filters out many of the posts we see and create ourselves. Before posting, we should consider whether it will be encouraging to viewers and honoring to God, or if it’s feeding a desire for attention.
If it’s the latter, we should remind ourselves through God’s Word of the position we hold through Christ, one that should humble and astound us. We are sons and daughters of God and his servants, granting us both freedom and responsibility. So let’s take time to step away from the computer or phone and think before we seek attention.
2. Does it keep me from loving others?
I wish I could say I haven’t made snide remarks, wrong assumptions, and quick judgments about things people share, but I have. It’s ugly, it’s mean, and it’s sin. It’s something the Lord has been calling me out on over the years, and with his help, I’ve become slower to share unnecessary opinions with others offline about judgments I’ve made online.
The Bible talks a lot about the tongue and its power to curse or bless others. Proverbs 12:18 says, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
The mind and heart transfer sin through our fingers as we type words of condescension, pretension, and disrespect. But as we’re told in Colossians 4, our conversations should always be full of grace and seasoned with salt. Kindness, respect, and wisdom should saturate every form of communication, especially because our words are a witness to unbelievers.
There are times when we should address concerns with the author of questionable posts in a gentle and loving way, but we should take a humble step back before we react in self-righteousness. Our sin has been graciously and miraculously washed clean by Jesus’ blood and righteousness, so let’s seek to show that same grace to others, listen before we respond, and love as Jesus loves through our patience.
What may seem witty or hilarious to us in the moment can cause permanent damage in the long-run. We may be able to delete some comments, but the memory of what we’ve said will remain. As David sang in Psalm 141, may we ask God to set a guard over our mouths and keep watch over the doors of our lips.
3. Am I holding myself accountable?
Social media is often a platform for pride, disappointment, jealousy, and anger. So we seek to act with self-control and hold ourselves accountable for what is said and done behind the false security of our screens.
- Do our words, thoughts, and actions reflect God’s light and wholeness, and do they bring him honor?
- Are we building others up or tearing them down?
- Are we basing our worth on the opinions of man or God?
- Will the things we’re tempted to brag about ultimately matter in the scheme of eternity?
Social Media in Perspective
We may feel alone, misunderstood, and trapped by our sin, but Jesus is the only way of escape and true freedom—from the opinions of others, ourselves, sin, and, ultimately, death. He purchased our freedom at the costliest price, his very life, and took on the unbearable, the unbelievable, and the impossible for us at the cross—
All so we might taste life without the shackles of sin, even within social media, and know eternity in his presence.