Guest post from Jessica Barefield
Let me start by giving a disclaimer. This article is not about how evil social media is. Used in moderation, with the right heart posture, it can be a wonderful thing. The point of this article is to point out some ways that social media can be a pitfall for the Christian life and to encourage you to examine your heart when it comes to your social media consumption and participation. These are five ways that social media can feed our sinful desires.
1. Social media can waste your time
This is nothing we haven’t heard before, but it’s worth repeating. We are reminded in Ephesians 5:16-17 that the days are evil and we should make the best use of the time given to us. Consider for a moment what you could be doing instead of checking all those sites. While waiting at an appointment, we could keep a list of people to pray for on our phone and spend those extra minutes in prayer for our family and friends. Certainly, at one time or another, we are all guilty of spending hours on Facebook in a day and never opening up the Word of God. Since every moment is a gift from the Lord, it’s worth asking yourself, “Is there something more worthwhile that I could be spending my time on?” Most of the time, the answer is probably yes.
2. Social media gives a platform to your every thought
I think the solidarity of posting on social media can trick you into thinking it’s OK to post just about anything. We complain, we anonymously bash people, we disrespect people in authority, and we say whatever we think about celebrities, as if they weren’t real people. And we believe we don’t really have to answer for any of it. Don’t be fooled by the privacy of your room right now—there will be nothing private when we stand before the living God and give an account for our words. Matthew warns us pretty plainly, “On the day of judgment, people will give account for every careless word they speak.” Let us be reminded of this warning the next time we update our status.
3. Social media can fuel discontentment
When we spend extended time pouring over what others are doing and saying, it draws our attention to all the things we don’t have or are missing out on. It can cause us to question why our lives don’t look the same. Why didn’t I think of that quote? I wish I had her sense of style. Their new house is way bigger than ours! If we aren’t careful, thirty minutes on Facebook or Pinterest can leave you feeling unproductive, unattractive, and underwhelmed with your own life. Hebrews exhorts us, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” We can ultimately be content with our lives as believers because we are given all that we need in Christ. Ask yourself whether your use of social media is helping you believe this truth.
4. Social media can fuel pride and keep you inwardly focused
Social media can quickly become our own podium for self-promotion. We have to ask ourselves what our motivation really is for posting the things that we do. Are we looking for sympathy or praise? Do we want to be well thought of or brag about the fun things we’ve been doing? Do you constantly check how many “likes” or “retweets” your post got? All of these things fuel pride and keep us focused on ourselves. This can be a particularly hard pitfall for anyone who has a platform that extends beyond their friends and family. Whether you do music or have a popular blog, just because thousands of people are listening doesn’t mean everything that comes to mind is worth saying. We must remember that retweets, lus, and likes don’t automatically give legitimacy to what we post. God sees the motivation of our hearts and is never fooled by a well-crafted post. As I Samuel 2:3 cautions, “Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows and by Him deeds are weighed.”
5. Social media can distort our view of relationships
For every benefit social media has for relationships, there is a drawback. It is easy to keep up with the ones you love (maybe too easy?). Do you still have deep, meaningful conversations in person? It is easy to keep up with a lot of people you love—and a lot of people you don’t even know (maybe too many?). Are you oversaturated with the details of 300 people’s lives that you’re not doing a good job of loving the 10 people you see week to week? We can quickly train ourselves to be consumers of information instead of lovers of people. Knowing about someone’s life and sharing everything about your own life via social media is not the same as being a real friend. Of course Jesus is the perfect example of what it means to be a true friend. As Jesus teaches, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Friendship is more than the sum of status updates and pictures. Friendship is sacrifice. It’s bearing each other’s burdens. It’s not just virtual—it must be tangible.
Jessica Barefield lives in Washington D.C. with her husband Trip, and their son Q. You can read more from her at her blog, Like To Love.