My guess is that your Facebook feed (or insert favorite social media platform) is similar to mine. Its full of family pics and comical memes, selfies and advertisements, religious positions and political positions.
Social media presents opportunities to connect with old friends and to update your current ones. It can serve a very practical and helpful purpose.
But there’s an ugly side to social media.
Many are constantly ramming their political memes down their social media networks’ throats. (I have no particular agenda on that. Both sides are guilty.) Others take so many selfies with fishy lips you wonder if they have any self-awareness at all. Parents post multitudes of pictures of their children, singing their children’s praises (and by extension their own praises). At least one person in my social network is in the Mediterranean at any given point in time, leaving me to feel as though I’m the only one who goes home for another night of routine. Still others relentlessly use their network to grow an awareness around their personal business or brand. Some I know are obsessed with the idea of becoming Insta-Famous or going viral. And don’t get me started on those annoying bloggers and their excessive hubris!
The practical effect is that we are constantly bombarded by the ambition, excitement and materialism of hundreds or thousands of friends. Our emotions are constantly overtaken by jealousy, loneliness, depression, anxiety among any other number of dissatisfied feelings.
It has become a regular and healthy habit for many to unplug completely from social media because of the toxic nature of all of the noise and nonsense.
But there is something to be learned about ourselves from our social media behavior.
At the very core, our Facebook and Instagram profiles are personal newspapers. We post about and share things that we want others to know either about us or about things that are important to us. There is no exception to that rule.
It is a sad reality that the most important thing to so many of us is a selfie.
Social Media is a Glory Machine
In the most basic sense a post or share on Facebook is a call to attention. Its a call to attention of your family vacation, a call to attention of your promotion at work, a call to attention of your clean living room, a call to attention of how cute you dressed your little girl, a call to attention of how attractive you think you look in the current filter on your phone.
By calling attention to something, we try to make known its worth, or at least, its perceived worth in our own little mind. Essentially, the entire point of social media is to bring attention, value or perceived worth to something – to bring glory to it.
You think you look good today? Take a selfie and call people’s attention to it. Why not? You’re really important to yourself, and probably to a lot of other people right? Our social media stage builds ego like little else.
How many likes did you get? How many loves? How many shares? Maybe if I come back in five minutes I’ll have some more likes and shares. Bam. Just got a like!
(Please build my ego by sharing this article. Or don’t share it, and I will wallow in self pity at the lack of attention to my hard work!)
As believers, many of us are well familiar with I Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do (including posting on social media), do all to the glory of God.”
Our prerogative as believers is not to call regular attention to ourselves but to call attention to God and his greatness in our lives.
In Scriptural terms, glory is tied up in value. John Piper writes it this way on his blog Desiring God:
“Glorifying [God] means feeling and thinking and acting in ways that reflect his greatness, that make much of God, that give evidence of the supreme greatness of all his attributes and the all-satisfying beauty of his manifold perfections.”
After reading Piper’s definition of glory, I reflect on how ugly it is to glory in ourselves as we often do in our little social media world. We make much of ourselves. We give evidence of the supreme greatness of our own attributes (said tongue-in-cheek).
In reality Scripture reveals that we are filthy, desperately wicked, and needing redemption. If we would only attempt to reflect a little reality in our posts, we’d find that we must show ourselves for what we are, lost without God, deserving of hell without his mercy, hopeless without Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Only a smidgen of reality in our posts would bring God glory. But here we are bent on bringing glory to ourselves.
Consider Using Social Media to Call Attention to God and His Greatness
In those little moments, when you think to yourself, ‘Oh, this would be a great Tweet!’ Instead of directing the attention to yourself, consider how you can direct the attention and glory to God.
Has God given you strength and health to run that marathon? How about giving him the credit in your post. Did God bless you with sweet children? How about in your next post giving God the glory for his creative design in human life and blessing to your family. Does your next meal look too delectable not to share? How about thanking God publicly for his delicious beauty. Are you excited to have gotten the job? Give God a public shout out for his grace in your life.
After asking yourself some probing questions, maybe you decide, no, this post is all wrapped up in personal pride and ambition. Perhaps, you would opt not to share it, or better yet, perhaps you shape your mind and heart in such a way to understand what God is doing in that moment. Perhaps, your desire to share on social media can be a sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in you. And instead of sharing something to build your personal ego, you share something to glorify God.
Be Wary of Your Own Pharisaical Judgment
There’s a good chance in reading this blog article, you were thinking of one or two people in particular who drive you crazy with their self-absorbed posts. Everything they post is about themselves! They are so self-important! Its disgusting!
Romans 2:1 says this, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”
I’d venture to say that all of us in our social media activity have fallen victim to our own self-importance and absorption. Its part of the human experience to be prideful. In previewing your own motivations behind your posts, you’re likely to begin assuming you know the motives behind another person’s post. You’re likely to start passing judgment. There is something about the ongoing Christian life that induces our sinful tendency to be self-righteous.
When you see that person who drives you crazy with their self-absorbed posts, extend grace to them. After all, didn’t Christ do that even though you were still a sinner?
God Looks on the Heart
In addition to being Christlike in extending grace, there’s every chance in the world that you are misreading someone’s motives. Don’t be so quick to judge. I Samual 16:7, “Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart.”
I am often reminded to thank God for his perfect judgment. Imperfect people make lousy judges. I make a lousy judge. I don’t have all the information, am biased and tend to jump to conclusions. I’m afraid in passing judgment on one’s posts, we’d all be self-condemned. Let God do the judging on this one.
Are Selfies Always Wrong?
In writing this post, I know some might be thinking that selfies are always an example of self-absorption. So is it always wrong to post a selfie? Its a question worth asking.
In my view it is most certainly not always prideful to post a selfie. Not all of us are posting selfies with kissy lips and excessive cleavage. Many times a selfie can be a humorous way to demean one’s self (i.e. posting a pic of your really bad hair day). In that sense, it might be the opposite of pride. Other times a selfie can be used to illustrate an important truth or human reality. Are not we all created in the image of God?
Where we go wrong is in our heart motives. What are we trying to accomplish with our post?
What is the result we are desiring? Are we looking to bring attention to ourselves? Are we trying to show off some element of our lives that we want others to be envious of? If the answer to these questions is ‘yes’ we might need to re-evaluate what we are sharing or, perhaps, why we are sharing it.
-Here is a related post and good read by friend Cassie Pattillo. “Is There Truth in Your Meme.”
In reality two people could share the exact same type of picture with completely different heart motives. So the question becomes, what is your heart leading you to do and why?
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
A great way to get a handle on your heart motives is to spend time in the Word of God. One of the ways that I know the Bible is an inspired book is that it knows me personally.
I can open up the Bible and read about myself. The Word sanctifies me as I spend time in it (John 17:17), and the result is that my social media posts should come from a heart that desires to bring God glory and value and fame, not myself.
Want to read more? View the previous blog article “Can Christians Watch Game of Thrones”