I came across the darndest verse the other day, one I had no recollection of ever hearing before.
It went like this: “And Jesus said, ‘All those who love me must work hard to be heard and seen, earning for themselves an impressive amount of followers and selectively engaging with those who also bear an impressive amount of followers whom you will glean value and self-worth from.’”
Oh, wait. Now I remember why I’ve never heard this before. Jesus never said this.
And yet most Christians on social media, myself included, live into this existence on a relatively daily basis.
I have been earning my living managing and creating content for social media for almost a year now, meaning I am immersed for up to seven hours a day on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. (and this does not include the 1-2 hours every day outside of work). Being a Christian and working for a Christian organization has put me smack in the world of observing how Christians interact with one another and create their identities online. Needless to say, it’s not always a pretty sight.
In today’s world it’s virtually impossible not to insert ourselves into some form of social media. And while social media can be a wonderful tool to connect, it so easily messes with our ability to live out our calling as Christians: decreasing ourselves so Christ may increase.
In my observations over the last year and my own personal stumbling blocks, I have discovered four ways social media makes us really bad Christians.
1. Social media makes us exclusive.
Riding the heels of what is undoubtedly one of the worst universal life phases, junior high, social media gave us all the chance to create our own little cool kids table where we can either invite people to sit with us or ignore them until they go eat their tuna sandwich somewhere else.
I have found this to be especially true on Twitter. Even among like-minded Christians there seems to be this unspoken rule that if another person does not have a certain satisfactory number of followers or prestige, they are not worth following or interacting with.
To a certain degree, I get this. I get that once you have established yourself and gained more popularity you don’t want to interact with every ding-dong who tweets or follows you, because let me tell you there are some weirdos out there. But what about the perfectly normal people like myself who don’t have a huge following but still wish to interact with those they admire who do?
I can say from personal experience that I have tried several times to interact in a non-invasive way with prominent Christians on Twitter. And you know what? About 95% of these interactions have received absolutely no response. None.
Here’s my issue with this: If you are a Christian leader in today’s world who promotes love and community and togetherness, but you do not have the time or the willingness to even throw a “favorite” someone’s way, why are you on social media? Really, like, state your business. Because when it comes to social media, I believe we can very easily fall into promoting our own image (sometimes leading to exclusivity) rather than reflecting God’s image.
2. Social media makes us compare ourselves to others.
Ah, yes, what may be the epitome of social media as we know it is the comparison that so easily festers as a result of being constantly bombarded with the edited lives of others. I was confronted a lot last year with my consistent struggle with comparison and jealousy, and I know social media played a very large part. As I continue to immerse myself in what other people are doing, what they have accomplished and who they are now engaged to, my ability to see my own life as good is slowly worn down if I’m not careful.
For example, if Instagram is the first thing I look at when I wake up, within the first ten minutes of my day I am immersed in a fog of comparison looking through the daily feed of bright, beautiful images of someone else’s life:
She’s way more in shape than me.
She has better clothes than me.
Her days are more exciting than mine.
She takes way better pictures than I do.
She has more followers than I do.
Why do I continue to believe over and over again that the photos I am seeing of other people’s lives are their real, actual lives 24 hours a day? It’s just not true! It’s not true and I know it, and yet I buy into it every single day. I buy into it because it is the “truth” I am presented with.
Social media consistently leaves me feeling not “good enough.” The heart of God is not that we would look to the lives of others and ache for what they have or define our own life by theirs. No, the heart of God is that we would look to God alone and define our life by His life and death and send any questions we have about being “good enough” packing.
What has been your biggest struggle with social media? Stay tuned for Part II and reasons three and four why social media makes us really bad Christians.
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