By Dolores Smyth, Crosswalk.com
Despite its increasingly bad rap, social media is by no means all bad. When used with a healthy dose of humility and common sense, social media can be an effective way to network, stay in touch with friends and family, and keep your finger on the pulse of current events. However, when you use social media to feed your ego or malign others, you’re compromising your values for the sake of “likes” and the approval of online friends over the approval of your Heavenly God.
Here are four social media pitfalls that lure Christians into acting in unChristianlike ways, and four prayers to help you avoid the stumble.
1. The Slippery Slope of Pride
“In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” (Psalm 10:4)
We all know people who spend the lion’s share of their time online, excessively patting themselves on the back for their achievements, or flaunting their looks in selfie, after selfie, after selfie. You may even be guilty of being that person yourself. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with being proud of yourself or your achievements. The Bible doesn’t fault you for feeling accomplished after a job well done or for thinking you’re attractive.
Rather, the Bible condemns the type of pride that focuses excessively on self--to the point of blotting out God. Living life constantly boasting about yourself leaves little room for your mind to turn to God’s Word or for your heart to seek His company (Psalm 10:4). It also doesn’t show any appreciation for the blessings the Almighty has bestowed upon you in the form of opportunity and success. Perhaps this is why pride tops the list of sins that God hates the most (Proverbs 6:16-17).
Someone with excessive pride uses social media to stroke his or her own ego or signal self-perceived superiority over others. This false superiority strains that person’s relationship with God and, often, strains that person’s relationship with everyone else at the receiving end of the person’s haughty posts. This runs afoul of Christ’s concise yet stirring summary of all of Scripture: love God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40).
Prayer to Resist Becoming Prideful
Lord, help me to see Your Hand in each of my accomplishments. Help me to focus on encouraging others and doing good in Your name. Grant me the wisdom to rely on Your Word to guide my words and deeds. My God, I ask that you give me the humility to live my life as your good and faithful servant and, in doing so, lead others to you as well. To God be the glory. Amen.
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2. The “Like” Button Trap
“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
It’s perfectly normal to appreciate being liked by your friends, family, and colleagues. Most people want to be liked by those around them and have their ideas approved and even admired. In social media circles, approval is often shown by a simple tap of the “like” button.
What isn’t normal—or healthy—is getting upset when your every social media post isn’t liked by scores of people online. It’s especially problematic when the majority of these “friends” from whom you seek approval are people you’ve never actually met or otherwise barely know.
When you seek the approval of men in this imbalanced way, you’re essentially allowing an online “like” button to hold your self-esteem hostage. And that’s just whacko when you consider that you were made in the image of the Creator of the Universe, who then sent down His only Son to be tortured and killed so that you might gain eternal life.
The older we get, the older we come to understand that praise from others can be fleeting and unfairly withheld. Life experience teaches us that hard-earned truth, but the lure of the online “like” button often muddies the lessons we thought we had down pat. Don’t let it. The next time you feel flattened because your online “friends” didn’t approve of your latest witty musings or that picture of your breakfast you felt the need to post this morning, remember that what really matters is God’s approval of you.
Prayer to Focus on God’s Approval Over Man’s
Dear Heavenly Father, help me gain the perspective that as long as I am right with you, neither the applause nor the arrows of others have any real hold on me. Fill me with Your peace so that I may be content with my relationship with You in times of praise and criticism alike. Guard me from falling prey to the capricious nature of social media and help me focus on growing in fellowship with Jesus instead. Amen.
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3. The Folly of Falling for Curated Posts
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)
If looking at other people’s social media pictures brings out the Green-Eyed Monster in you, take out your smartphone. Notice how many filters and other editing options your phone’s camera has. With a swipe, you can look younger, more rested, and even set in your background of choice. And so can everyone else who has a smartphone or access to other photo editing software.
The reality is that the pictures you see online are often meant to capture curated or even staged events. For example, if you have children, you know full well what it’s like to coax your kids into posing and smiling for a picture even though, a second earlier, it was all chaos as they were in the middle of a screaming match. Social media pictures are often meant to show us living our best life, whether or not we’re actually living it when the picture is snapped. When you stop to consider the highly edited nature of social media pictures, you may start to realize how misguided it is to envy what you see (or think you see) online. Worse, wallowing in jealousy of a friend or colleague’s social media photos can spark animosity between you and that person.
It’s normal to feel some measure of envy for the careers of others, their relationships, looks, or possessions. However, left unchecked, envy can cause us to resent other people for their blessings. When we descend in this way, we sow for ourselves seeds of discontent, as Scripture warns that “envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30)
Prayer to Overcome Envy
To my Creator who knit me together in my mother’s womb and calls me His masterpiece, I thank you for the gift of life and every blessing you have given me throughout. I know you have plans for me, to prosper me and give me hope and a future. I know that my job is to love You and to do unto others as I’d have done unto me. I pray for my heart to be tranquil so that I can focus on reflecting your love, peace, and justice in all that I do. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
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4. The Oversharing Ambush
“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)
When you’re sitting at home and posting away on your social media account, it’s easy to slip into the ambush awaiting those who overshare personal details about themselves or others online. While you may think you’re just getting things off your chest, your online “friends” may be salivating at the new intel you’re giving them to use against you in the form of gossip. Or perhaps you are that person waiting to read a “juicy” tidbit to then repeat and pick apart at the poster’s expense.
You don’t have to be religious to know that gossip is divisive and often based on exaggerations or flat-out lies. Gossip has the power to knock down everything in its path, from relationships to reputations, including that of the gossiper. Moreover, at its root, gossip tends to have more to do with the shortcomings of the person gossiping than with those of the person being gossiped about.
In particular, gossip feeds the ego by making the gossiper feel like he has something interesting or exciting to say about another. Gossip also gives the gossipmonger a sense of power over the subject of his rumors. God tells us plainly that he hates a lying tongue and people who provoke conflict (Proverbs 6:16). As if that isn’t reason enough to cut gossip out of your life, consider that gossiping always ends up heaping more dirt on the gossiper than on the person being blabbed about. Simply put, maintain your trustworthiness and dignity when sharing or reading personal information online, and find a way to side-step any gossipy conversations that others may try to rope you into.
Prayer to Steer Clear of Gossip’s Grip
Father Almighty, you have given me a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. I dishonor those blessings each time I give in to petty jealousies or take part in slanderous talk. That’s not the person I want to be, and it’s certainly not the person you formed me to be. Oh, most high God, strengthen my resolve to use my words to build up others and spread Your peace. All glory to You, Lord. Amen.
Social media has changed the way we communicate, giving people an unprecedented platform to influence one another. What hasn’t changed is God’s expectations of us as followers of Christ, whether we’re offline or on. Remember this the next time you log onto your social media account(s) and are tempted to be anything other than an ambassador for our Lord, Jesus Christ.
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