It’s hard to imagine life without social networking, especially Facebook.
I remember the first time back in college someone asked me if I was on “the Facebook.” I had no idea what they were talking about. At the time it was a fairly new entity, and you had to have a college email address to use it. Now it’s harder to find someone who’s not on the social networking giant.
I frequent Facebook quite a bit these days. I’ll admit, I often catch the latest news on Facebook, where my “friends” keep me up to date with links to the most recent happenings from around the world. Among its many benefits, Facebook allows me to stay in some sort of contact with people from across the country—people I’d otherwise lose touch with because of the busyness of life. It’s fun to see newborn babies, kids growing up and many other important life events.
That said, Facebook is also a vast wasteland of self absorption and narcissistic ballyhooing. Look at the fancy restaurant I ate at, look what I made from Pinterest, look at all the pictures I took of myself with my cell phone in the mirror. Let me tell you about my perfect husband, perfect wife or my perfect job.
It’s about parading through town with a thousand different pet issues blaring on your loud speaker, from the food fanatics to the miracle weight loss junkies and the all natural, free-range, gluten-free home birthers. Look how great and perfect I am, and by the way, I hope you feel guilty for eating at Wendy’s, vaccinating your children or being less arts-and-crafty than me.
You kind of expect that sort of thing from those outside the church. What bothers me, though, is the number of Christians taking part in the same kind of behavior. You’d never dream of standing up in church during announcements and saying, “Hey, everyone look at my new outfit. Aren’t I cute?” or “Hey, guys, I’m a great husband. I did the dishes for my wife this week.” Somebody would tell you to shut up and show a little humility. And yet it happens every day on Facebook and nobody even blinks.
Somehow on Facebook it’s okay for Christians to pat themselves on the back, tell the world how great of a husband they are, telecast to all the good deed they just did or beat the drum one more time about the soap box issue that makes them feel better than everyone else.
It’s dangerously easy to run your Facebook account like a public relations firm, highlighting everything great about yourself and selectively leaving out all the worst. Or, on the other hand, to share all the gory details of your latest personal tragedy in order to garner attention for yourself.
Lest you get the wrong idea, I want to make it clear—I don’t think Facebook is the problem. The problem is you and me. We love ourselves too much. We’re hopelessly self-obsessed and infatuated with our little worlds. Facebook is merely one tempting opportunity for each of us to puff out our chests, stand center stage and cry out, “Hey, look at me!”
The goal, of course, isn’t to be less selfish on Facebook—it’s to use Facebook to build others up, edify them, serve them and help them wherever they are in life. Rather than using it to make others feel guilty about eating non-organic foods or letting their kids watch TV or vaccinating or whatever, we may learn to use Facebook to extend grace, pray for others and encourage them to walk in step with the gospel of the kingdom.
I’m sure something on this list will feel like I’m stepping on your toes. I kind of hope it does. But really I hope you’ll stop for a minute and consider whether the things you’re posting are motivated by love for God and others, or love for yourself. Is your Facebook page dominated by your own personal agendas and pet issues? Are you unnecessarily being offensive to others by constantly championing issues of conscience as though they were the gospel? How much of what you post is solely about you? Is it evident in your status updates that you’re seeking to serve and build others up?
I hope you find something in here that helps you navigate social media in a way that makes more of Jesus and less of yourself (John 3:30). Because I too am a ruthlessly selfish man, I’m laboring in the same struggle for holiness. I need to change. I need to self promote less and love more. These are a few things I hate about Facebook.
1. Everyday, there’s a new picture of you.
I can’t help but wonder what this is about, but every day I check my newsfeed, there are the same people with an updated picture of themselves, no doubt taken with a smart phone or the camera on a computer. One day it’s apparently about a new makeup they’ve purchased; the next day it’s about a new hairstyle or scarf or whatever. Especially when it’s a married woman, I have to ask, Why? Your husband is really the only person that needs to see you all spiffed up for your date. I certainly don’t.
A lot of times it’s a picture with something like, “I don’t like my hair.” I always want to go on there and write, “Neither do I,” but you see where this is headed. Fifteen of the person’s girlfriends all chime in, “Oh no, honey, you’re gorgeous.” “Oh really, I am? Gee, thanks.” It’s called fishing for compliments and it makes me want to gag.
If you’re trying to impress other girls, again, Why?
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
2. I do not care how amazing your husband or wife is.
This kills me. I don’t know why it isn’t the first one on my list. “My husband is so amazing, he brought me Starbucks and massaged my feet while I sat on the couch.” I quite literally do not care. “My wife is so amazing, she is the BEST WIFE EVER. Happy anniversary to the most amazing woman in the universe.” It makes me want to throw up. And you know what? Many times it’s the couples who treat each other like dirt when they’re around each other.
Here’s the thing: I don’t need to know how amazing your wife or husband is. You need to tell them that, not me. Telling me only makes it obvious that you’re either a) trying to convince yourself that you love your spouse, b) trying to showboat like Joel Osteen (“Look at my smokin’ hot wife!”) or c) trying to make up for how terribly you treat each other when no one’s looking.
Think about it—when a wife talks about how amazingly godly her husband is, what a servant he is in the home and how blessed she is, it has a strong tendency to create envy in others who are probably thinking, “Why can’t my husband (or wife) be like that?” Of course the status updater didn’t talk about all the conflict they’ve been going through, the fight they got in two days ago or how inconsiderate her husband often is (and she shouldn’t).
The bottom line is, can what you’re saying possibly benefit anyone? Not really. So why are you saying it?
Three passages for further meditation:
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:5-6).
Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips (Proverbs 27:2).
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).