I have a love/hate relationship with social media. Given the title you might think that I think it’s all bad but I don’t. I don’t think social media is a bad thing. It’s just a thing, it’s not good or bad, how you use it determines that.
Really there is a lot of good that comes through all the various available social platforms. It can be fun and easy to connect with old friends or family over a long distance. It can be useful for connecting with new people who you’d never get the chance to meet otherwise. (I’m talking to you LifeisaBookBlog and aliterarypotion . I’m still planning on us having tea together whenever I make it over the pond.)
Meme wars entertain me immensely and those “My Heart Will Go On” videos are just...there are no words. (Insert your own string of crying, lol, crazy face, singing emojis here.)
On a spiritual side there is also the ability to share encouraging verses, and sermon snippets as well as pray for people in need and bring awareness to various causes. (One near to my heart is the End It Movement.)
But…you knew the but was coming…social media, this thing that has permeated our culture, can have a darker side.
Yesterday I read this post from Candace Cameron Bure You’re already tracking with me with thoughts about cyber bullying and general meanness. We all agree that bullying in any form, including cyber, is horrible and tragic. The problem is I think we don’t always realize when we are being the bullies.
It’s so easy to post whatever we think about politics or a person and don’t think we are doing harm because we don’t see the hurt on their face. If we can state our opinion without using their name (or because we tell ourselves it’s a celebrity so we’re allowed to forget they are human) all the better because it’s like we aren’t talking about them at all, right? They can’t prove it so it’s not bullying. It kind of is. Even if I’m wrong on a technicality it still isn’t nice, it is a bit cowardly, and it certainly isn't Christ-like.
We have a right to our thoughts and opinions but we have a mandate to share the love of Christ and speak truth in love. And by truth I mean the absolute truth of God’s Word which always trumps our personal truths (i.e. feelings, opinions and preferences.) God’s Word and His love should temper how we treat people in person and online.
But I really didn’t want to talk about bullying, I got distracted for a second, sorry. I want to talk about manipulation. Maybe you’re not tracking with me as easily on this one but hear me out. My hubby and I have been talking about how people use social media to manipulate for the past week or so. It’s something we see a lot, we probably even do it ourselves without realizing it all the time, and we think it’s dangerous.
What am I talking about? I think there are a lot of times we use social media simply to get attention. Whether its negative or positive we get a boost with every like, comment, share, retweet and snap back. In fact it's kind of addictive to seek out that attention. An article in Psychology Today talks about this very thing. i won’t go into it but you can read about the dopamine trip social media can take us on.
So, what, we’re back to social media being evil?
Nope, and there is nothing wrong with needing a little encouragement from online friends, asking for prayer, or posting that selfie unless the motive is purely attention.
I’m not a doctor so you can take this all as simply my warped opinion. I don’t have a study to back this up but it’s quite possible someone out there has done one. Feel free to google. Feel free to disagree with me. It’s cool, we can still be friends. Whether I have the science to back me up or not I do have a little experience. Not only do I struggle with this dynamic in my own mind but as a student pastor, my husband and I see this play out in teenagers all the time. (And adults, so don’t think age always means wisdom.) We get caught up in a need, we post something in order to provide for that need.
What’s the big deal?
If it’s for attention, to boost your self-confidence, it will ultimately backfire. The first time no one likes the post, or no one reaches out to comfort/encourage you, the first time no one responds we feel our self-worth diminish. We tell ourselves no one cares about us, no one likes us, they all think we are ugly. It never occurs to us that algorithms just keep us from showing up in their feed or they were offline or their phone died, or they were actually talking to another real life person in person and couldn’t stop to look at Instagram.
Using your emotional state, be it happy or sad, to manipulate people in order to get that little boost of attention may make you feel good in the moment but it isn’t dealing with the underlying insecurities and usually makes them worse. If you are thinking there will always be someone that responds, maybe you’re right, but then one like or comment or retweet won’t be enough, we will need more. We are seeking but never satisfied.
So what do we do? Do we just give up on social media completely?
I don’t think you have to do that. I think sometimes a fast or break from social media can be a good thing. Taking a day, week or month and setting it aside to focus on personal connections might be healthy and help you break a negative cycle you might have found yourself in.
But remember, social media isn’t bad, it’s all in how you use it, in the boundaries you set for yourself. So when you are online THINK before you post, tweet, or snap. Ask yourself why you want to share that thought, photo or need.
Is that selfie just to get someone to tell you that you look pretty or because you already genuinely felt good about yourself whether anyone else likes it or not?
Is that rant or complaint because you just want sympathy, to invite more guests to your pity party so you can feel like you aren’t alone or do you genuinely want truthful encouragement and counsel? Maybe it’d be better to take a minute with Jesus instead of trying to get pity or validation from others. (Ouch, that one hurt me a little bit too.)
Let’s get in the habit of checking our motives. Do we want prayer or pity? Is that opinion I’m about to share truly helpful and out of a servant’s heart? Most importantly, am I pointing people to Jesus? Am I making Him attractive?
Fervr posted another great article you should read with more on that.
Whether we are online or in real life we are to be like Christ, we are pointing people to Jesus. Be it a selfie or meme share or political rant, etc. are we making Jesus happy, because He sees you and your motives and your feed/timeline/story. In the end all the validation and self-confidence you need can really only be found in Him anyway, but He doesn’t tweet it.