A Social Media Warning Label

In starting off 2018, I laid out a vision which came as a result of analyzing obstacles in my life….obstacles to growing and becoming more mature in the Christian faith (see Giants Will Fall). Admittedly, much of what I write is personal and a revelation of things God has been placing His finger upon in my life; stating “you need to surrender this to Me.” I know I’m not alone in these thoughts and this blog has been an attempt of sorts to rally us together; to say let’s walk the road and encourage one another. We all struggle, we all have weaknesses and pressure points where we succumb to temptation and for lack of a better term, we surrender to idol worship. What are the idols in your life that lead you to seek out identity in something other than Jesus? If I’m completely transparent, an idol that I give way too much time to is social media.

No one ever really talks about the dangers of social media but I’ve decided that it really should come with a warning label. Last year, one of the most highly read and shared blogs I wrote was on this very topic (see 3 Social Media Rules For Christians). I think that post’s popularity is merely a small reflection of what culture, especially Christian culture, is grappling with. We are dealing with a new form of technology (albeit not entirely “new” anymore) and we are incorporating it into every part of our daily lives. It can consume and occupy a lot of space in our day and I will admit (as will those I live with) that I have given it too much time. More often than not, I need a reboot and a reset from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like. It’s not that the platforms themselves are inherently evil or bad. It’s just that in a world which glamorizes self, I have been guilty of playing the game and trying to keep up with the Joneses.

In speaking into our identity as Christians, I think we have to take a step back from our social media habits and examine what trappings we have fallen into. I myself am guilty of looking around at others and seeing a life I wish I had and not valuing the one God has given me. I’ve allowed social media to tell me who I am or who I should be. In this area, I’ve neglected the voice of the Holy Spirit which speaks truth about what God has done and therefore, reveals who I really am in Him. Social media platforms deserve a warning label for us as Christians and here are some of the cautions we must be aware of:
1. Social media makes everyone’s lives look “perfect”
Let’s admit it, social media is sometimes the virtual equivalent of “beer goggles.” I mean, c’mon….we appear funnier than we actually are. We’re all smarter than we actually are. We like to articulate seemingly deep thoughts and appear well-educated. We want to look more talented and more beautiful. So much of it is just posing.
No one posts the ugly side of their lives. No outtakes of the latest fight at the dinner table. No clips of dad cussing out one of the kids on the way to church. No selfies of bad hair days. Definitely no mug shots or scenes from when we’ve hit rock bottom. It’s an artificial, fake, plastic world and it’s a world that I’ve come to realize doesn’t really exist. It’s an attempt to look like we have it altogether when on the inside we know that’s not true. In terms of spirituality and Christlikeness, sometimes our Facebook profiles are not too far removed from Jesus’ words to the Pharisees:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Matthew 23:27,28
2. Social media has the power to divide like no other
It seems waves of nastiness seem to come and go within the ranks of Facebook and Twitter; especially in regards to national events and politics. After the latest election cycle and with the current political climate, I have made a conscious effort to not engage in any kind of debate on social media. I’ve found it’s just not worth the frustration and have realized no one ever takes a different side on an issue as the result of a Facebook comment war. What I find disappointing is that social media has caused us to cheapen life and the value of other human beings. It’s so easy to sit behind a keyboard and pound out the “10 reasons why I’m right about x, y, and z” and then feel justified that you somehow made an impact somewhere.
Even in this blog (which I get the irony, it’s shared on social media), I want to be quick to say these are thoughts intended to encourage and not cause anyone to stumble. More than ever, I see Christians battling other Christians online and I stand back and think, “What does an unbelieving world think of us?” If we can treat each other within the Body with that much contempt and ire, how can we ever reach the lost and truly be the hands and feet of Christ?
3. Social media trades real relationships for fake/virtual ones
The desire for community, a sense of belonging and connection is so strong; especially within the younger generation…I’m 40 so I can say that now! But community is now taking on a new meaning as we gather “virtually” and find other tribes, groups, and organizations to which we identify. I won’t say this is bad thing as we are learning what it looks like to gather this way in our churches and in our faith communities. My hope however, is that no means of technology ever replaces the one-on-one need for human contact and interaction. Without this, we are prone once again to divisions which alienate many within our ranks.
Doing life alone is hard. And there are lots of loners, even Christian ones, online looking for friendship and identity through the means of social media. Here is where the church can have great impact and reach out to people while still encouraging them to plug in, get connected, and fellowship with other believers. I think for those in their 30s/40s and up, this isn’t as much of a problem. But for the younger generation, those who have grown up with social media, it will be a challenge to say “How can we still make interactions truly personal and meaningful outside of smart phones and electronic devices?”

Authenticity and community are such a desire; the irony is that social media can make us anything but authentic and connected. Although I'm not trying to, what I’m saying today may have offended you. But my hope is that as I’m sharing my heart you will see someone who has been personally affected by all of this. In playing the "comparison game" I've readily ignored some of social media's dangers and gotten burned. These are the convictions I believe the Holy Spirit has led me to share. I think the discussion only grows as the interactions we have online become commonplace and part of our way of life. As stated, with so many inanimate things, there’s not a good/evil that inherently exists. It’s how the thing is used and applied that can make it for benefit or harm. My constant hope is that what I share is encouraging and uplifting and gives you something to reflect upon.

Let’s keep this discussion going and let’s continue to be aware of these warnings so that we do not fall victim to the downside of social media. I love you guys! E-mail me at info@derekcharlesjohnson.com.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

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