Social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, Snapchat, and the like have risen in popularity over the last fifteen years. If we were to keep track of the time we have spent on these sites, many of us would be fairly embarrassed, including me. Personally, as I have scrolled down my feed and have read a number of posts and comments by other believers, I have been sometimes shocked, but mostly saddened by many. Our carefulness, kindness, love, and respect for others – all of which are core components of our Christianity – have taken a back seat, while personal opinions, self-centeredness, fear, and thoughtlessness take center stage.
If we were to keep track of the time we have spent on these sites, many of us would be fairly embarrassed, including me. Personally, as I have scrolled down my feed and have read a number of posts and comments by other believers, I have been sometimes shocked, but mostly saddened by many. Our carefulness, kindness, love, and respect for others – all of which are core components of our Christianity – have taken a back seat, while personal opinions, self-centeredness, fear, and thoughtlessness take center stage.
While I don’t have numbers to back this statement up, I believe our witness to others is becoming greater with our online presence now than face-to-face. While face-to-face will always be important, people have grown comfortable and careless with an online presence, often expressing more than they ought. But what do our posts tell us (and others) about what is in our hearts?
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:35)
Ask yourself, “Why are you posting what you are posting?” This question ought to be asked before every post because the answer may surprise us. There is a purpose behind our social media posts, and we must be careful our posts honor God and are used as platforms for peace, rather than platforms for one’s opinion or to receive praise from others.
Below are three platforms commonly used by people posting on social media that reflect what is in the heart: The platform of opinions, the platform for praise, and the platform of God’s purposes.
PLATFORM FOR OPINIONS (I want to share my opinion) – The wisest man in the world gives us great wisdom for our social media posts. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Prov 12:5). “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (Prov 18:2). Let’s be real here. We often believe we are right, especially when it comes to politics, and we may be right. We also like to express those opinions, possibly in the hope that others will listen, be flexible, and come to our way of thinking. I’m not sure how often that happens, as I have seen more arguments than productive dialogue. Gaining understanding rather than getting your point across is a key to communication, both in relationships and online interactions. Now if you hear their thoughts and opinions and the other person is also interested in understanding your thoughts, you can have a great dialogue. If not, perhaps they are the ones being foolish.
When a person believes they are in the right, many seem to be empowered to not just look down upon another’s views, but also upon the other person or the representative of the opposite position. For example, how many of you have seen or taken part in personal attack posts about Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Former President Obama? How about personal attacks on President Trump, Mike Pence, or Rush Limbaugh? It is necessary to disagree with people and policies, but it is unnecessary to post derogatory comments or posts that insult them by calling names, curse words, or wishing disaster on them. CHRISTIAN, are you listening?!
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
I firmly believe that everything the scriptures talk about regarding speaking and the tongue also applies to what is written, and even what is shared or posted. I plead with you, Christian, do not praise God and curse or insult others who are created in the image of God. Disagree with them. Vote for their opponent. Stand up for what is right in the eyes of God, but do not let your insults cross over from their performance to their personhood. As Paul said, “brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
Furthermore, since it is used as a platform for opinions, we also must ask ourselves if what we are posted is even true. How many posts online are filled with half-truths or according to party lines to sway public opinions towards one side or the other? When we post opinions, we not only assume we are right, but what we post is also true.
As we continue to check our hearts, we may not use our social media outlets as a platform for our opinions, but we may be using them as a platform for praise.
PLATFORM FOR PRAISE (I want or need others’ positive responses) – I have to constantly check my heart on this one as I sadly fall short. I enjoy making people laugh, saying witty things, and writing words of insight and God’s wisdom in short posts or blogs. It can be disappointing when stats aren’t high and comments are either negative or nonexistent. I have to continually check my heart on this as I admittedly enjoy the praise of humanity a little too much. Yet, I also have a ministry to help people and share the insights he gives.
With these things in mind, it would be wise to check our hearts, and ask ourselves the following questions:
1) Are you the subject of your posts? If most of your pictures are of you, well, that’s a problem. In Greek mythology, Narcissus the hunter saw his reflection in the water and fell in love with it. Continuous selfies wearing various outfits, and showing different poses and facial expressions are not very different. While there is nothing wrong with a few selfies, the regular use of them on posts reflects a heart that is geared towards self, and the need for praise often feeds the desire to do more.
2) Are you the hero of your post? If you list your accomplishments for all to read or state the good things you do for others, you might be using social media as a platform for praise.
3) What is your response when others don’t respond or don’t respond as you think they ought? If you notice you are disappointed, upset, or angry, chances are you wanted something and you didn’t get it. What did you want? Possibly it was praise.
4) How often do you check your Facebook to see whether people responded? Not knowing whether anyone will comment, there is often a reward when people check and they see a positive comment. This reinforces the need to keep checking so they can get additional rewards. A Behaviorist would call these “unpredictable rewards.” If you find yourself feeling the need to keep checking, it is likely that the need that is present is a need for praise (worth, identity, love).
I would suspect that social media being used as a platform for praise is fairly common. While spending less time on social media is helpful, ultimately we need to find ourselves confident and secure in who we are through Christ, rather than seek the approval or praise of others. Consider Paul’s words: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal 1:10). We can only change from being people pleasers to God pleasers by accepting the pleasure He has in us by His grace.
PLATFORM FOR GOD’S PURPOSES (I want to please God) – According to the Westminster Confession, the purpose of life (our “chief end”) is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” I like this definition because it involves the word “enjoy.” God has given us so much. Our relationships, finances, and experiences can bless us or teach us so much. But above all else, He has given us His love, grace, and even Himself; and through Christ, He has given us salvation and eternal life. There is really so much to enjoy in life, whether we see it or are unable to. I believe it is good to share with others how wonderful He is, what He has given us (including relationships and experiences of joy), as well as to share the insights and wisdom He has given as well. I believe He wants us to share ourselves with the world because we are uniquely made and gifted. Yet our purposes in glorifying Him also include being a light to reflect His love and to reveal truth to the world in love. So by all means, share family pictures and experiences, share your love for Christ and encourage others to do the same. Yet when we lose sight of our purposes to glorify Him and enjoy Him, we will often be misguided by our own thoughts, opinions, and desires. I believe this is what happens when we use social media platforms for praise or to give our opinions.
If you’ve read this far, you’ve read more than most. And I thank you for doing so. My hope is that we, as believers in Jesus Christ do not lose sight of our duty to love others and be a light for His Kingdom. Instead, many dim the light by losing sight of Christ and His purposes for us on Social Media. Instead, let’s seek Him, ask Him to search our hearts, and request Him to change our hearts while we use social media to influence the World for His kingdom and not our own.
- Fred Jacoby, MA