Chances are, you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or Google+ (or some combination of them) . . . They’ve completely changed how we stay in touch and share information with one another.
It’s pretty neat, really. Grandparents living hundreds of miles away can see their grandson’s touchdown almost as soon as the kicker lines up for the extra point. We can keep in touch with old friends we never see, helping us stay connected in ways that previous generations couldn’t. We can share the message of Jesus with people all over the globe.
But (and you knew there was a “but” coming), it’s not all good, of course. Every tool that we use for good can be manipulated for bad, and social media sites aren’t any different. In fact, sometimes they discourage us.
The persona that most of us create online is something different than who we really are—have you ever noticed that? Whoever or whatever we wish we were shapes the messages we create and share. If we want people to think we’re busy, spiritual, pretty, smart, or whatever, we choose pictures and craft status updates that reinforce that. It’s a kind of pseudo-self that we create, sometimes more of what we wish we were than what we actually are.
I’m overgeneralizing, but there’s not a ton of authenticity on social media. If there were, it might look more like this:
You know how I’m always smiling in the pictures I post online? Sometimes I’m so discouraged I can hardly get up in the morning.
I quote Bible verses and cite Christian writers on Facebook, but no one knows I’m struggling with pornography.
I uploaded a bunch of pictures of my big happy family a minute ago, but my husband and I aren’t getting along, and those beautiful kids are driving me crazy.
And then there’s this: have you ever witnessed other people’s online “lives” and felt twinges of envy?
I wish my relationship with God was that good. I wish I looked like that. I wish I had that house. I wish my life was perfect.
Truth is, the guy quoting Bible verses and talking about his relationship with Jesus all the time struggles spiritually. The girl posting heavily edited selfies has a problem with her self-image, and the always-happy family has major meltdowns like every other family.
I’m not suggesting there’s necessarily a correlation between the kind of pictures or statuses we publish and what we struggle with (though there could be).
I’m just suggesting that we’ve all got issues. We all get discouraged and think the world’s falling apart. We’ve all had high points and low points in our walk with Christ. If we’re married with kids, then we’ve got imperfect marriages and flawed kids. The picture we posted online with all the kids smiling was the 78th picture we took (somebody was crying or mad in the first 77).
But for whatever reason, we’re not as open about our struggles, maybe because we don’t want to mess up the image we’ve crafted so carefully.
Authenticity is the buzzword for the millennials—supposedly they crave it more than the rest of us. I doubt that’s true, though—I think we’re all craving authenticity, and I wish we did a better job in the church of being open about our flaws.
We’re all in this thing together, and to the extent that Facebook and its cousins help create an encouraging community, I’m all for social media.
But I think a little bit of just being real wouldn’t hurt either.