Facebook makes the world go round. We can reconnect with old buddies, advertise our businesses, declare our love and dialogue about (mostly) important issues. Years ago, the initial concern for this new and non-private world of constant connection was exposure to and sharing of the indecent; it was enough for parents to forbid children from opening user accounts. Surprisingly, Facebook remains committed to monitoring traffic, removing any illicit content and deleting false profiles. Users can report anything they deem inappropriate or untrue and Facebook will remove the user entirely if needed. It seems a safe and fun place to browse.
Slowly and quietly, Facebook has proven dangerous territory for the heart. In the wake of the Facebook sensation, a few unforeseen effects have cropped up: envy, jealousy and resentment. Fox News reported on a recent study that confirms the most avid Facebook users are among the loneliest and unhappiest individuals. Their article states, “In a world already flooded with social pressures where teenagers and young adults are attempting to find their true identity and not be judged, Facebook has created a new standard of social acceptance.”
Research uncovered envy and resentment peaked among users while looking at vacation photos or posts related to family happiness. For women in their 30’s and 40’s, jealousy was experienced most commonly when viewing photos of other women who were more attractive and had more “likes” and comments on their photos. On a user’s birthday, those with high numbers of wishes and comments had a healthier state of mind than those with low numbers. A German study published in December 2012 found the more time college students spent on Facebook, the worse they felt about their own lives. Even my local news channel reported last week on the “Facebook Fatigue” felt worldwide.
Facebook has shifted from a place to connect with people to the socially acceptable, seemingly less pretentious way of saying to the world, “Look at me!” It’s a hub to flaunt wealth, prosperity, success, and status and it is slowly eating away at the hearts and minds of our “friends.” As Christians and Facebook users, we must wrestle with this question: What are our motives for both viewing and posting content on Facebook?
Consider Jesus’ interaction with Peter. After His resurrection, Jesus conversed with Peter and revealed how his death would one day glorify God. Immediately after, Peter saw another disciple, John, and asked Jesus, “What about this man?” as if to say, “What about his death? How do your plans for him compare to mine?” Jesus replied, “If it is my will he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”(John 21:20-22) Peter was caught in the snare of compare and Jesus rebuked him. It was none of Peter’s business what God had in store for John. The information could have distracted Peter, made him jealous or caused him to doubt God’s goodness. Little good is accomplished when we dwell on the details of someone else’s life.
If that’s true, are we bringing good to our friends and neighbors in belaboring for them every detail of what we’re doing, day in day out? Not only has Facebook become a showcase for the world to gaze upon our awesomeness, but also a chance to join us in our suffering as we declare our hardships, trials and misfortunes. In both cases, it’s attention we want.
Paul exhorted Timothy to pray that Christians would lead peaceful, quiet lives (1 Tim. 2:2), as to not draw attention to themselves. The prophet Jeremiah spoke these words:
“Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me…’” – Jeremiah 9:23-24
Basically, if you have brains, power, success, money and blessing, don’t brag about it (talk about it, post about it, Instagram it). We are called to brag on the One who gave us those things.
We might be tempted to say, “I’m not responsible for how someone responds to what I post. That’s their issue.” Not entirely. In everything we do, we are to look out for the interests of others (Phil. 2:4). Paul taught that while we have freedom in Christ, we are to “decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother (Romans 14:13).” Broadcasting our lives can be a stumbling block to others, stirring bitterness, envy, resentment, jealousy, sadness or strife. Some still say, “But people want to see these pictures and know these things.” Is it possible we want people to want to see and know these things?
Maybe you’re oblivious to this Facebook debacle and have zero underlying motives. What then? Wisdom. In knowing we are called to glorify God and not ourselves, are our posts and pictures wise, necessary, helpful and a true blessing to those viewing them?
When you log on, what are you seeking to do? Daydream about another life? Keep up on all the drama? Trying to catch someone not including you? Lamenting over vacations you aren’t going on or things you don’t own?
When you post, what are your true motives? Are you hoping for lots of “likes” and comments? Are you trying to one-up somebody? Do you want everyone to know you’re with these people and they aren’t? Looking for attendees to your pity party? Reminding everyone how cute and talented and smart your kids are? Wanting widespread sympathy? Making sure old classmates see you aren’t battling the bulge?
Only our Creator Judge knows the roots and motivations of our Facebook activity. Don’t be afraid to search them out and amend your habits if necessary. The rest of Jeremiah 9:24 says this:
“…but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
God has called us to make people glad in Him, not intimidated by us, focused on us or disappointed in themselves. Let us raise our white flags and surrender the mighty Facebook battle for attention and instead seek to love each other well by exercising wisdom we post. Consider reclaiming some of what Facebook has taken: the sweet intimacy of sharing your great victories and difficult struggles with your closest friends (offline) and looking to Christ for all acceptance and comfort.
Does this mean we should only post Bible verses and Piper quotes? No. Does it mean we never post personal things? Not at all. Does it mean we have to “like” or repost the I Love Jesus and I Don’t Care Who Knows It picture? Of course not. It simply means we become thoughtful and intentional with every post and picture, knowing we represent the God of the universe who seeks to draw all to Himself. Hopefully, it will start with me.