For a moment, I can simply be. I can think. There are no voices telling me to be who I am not. No sound of the smartphone notifications. Branches creek in the fresh, spring-scented wind. There is a sense of delight...of freedom.
If you were to scroll through my Facebook profile, you would see a glimpse of who I am. My interests, my passions, talents, the things that make me laugh, Bible verses, quotes, and songs that encourage, motivate, and challenge me. But, this is only a snippet of who I am. These posts, status updates, and photographs are like a land of Facebook fantasy. Yes, this is me... but only the 'best' of who I am. My life is definitely not photo-shopped. My life is not a constant, blissful state of joy and happiness. My mind is not full of an endless stream of motivational quotes. I'm not singing non-stop those hymns and contemporary Christian songs. And, I'm not always living out the Bible verses I post. In fact, I have the worst case of looking to social media when the storms hit, instead of to God. Please understand...what you see on social media is only part of a whole. I so easily fall into believing that everyone else has these amazing, perfect lives while I'm the only one struggling. It's not hard to fall into this trap when browsing the internet. But at the same time, maybe some look at my profile and have the same thoughts...
I believe Billy Graham put it wisely when He preached, 'On the outside, you have a mask. Inside, the peace and the joy and the happiness that you've always searched for is missing.' (However, please note, this is originally directed toward non-believers).
I believe one reason many of us love social media is because we can easily hide behind it. Our online profiles can become one form of our mask. That little world of bliss is the life we want... we desire our very own social media lives and we secretly hope that others will also desire our 'lives'.
Each and everyone of us wants to be noticed. We crave that spotlight. Sure, some of us have stage fright. But, we can make our online profiles, blogs, daily lives, etc. our personal stages. In regard to social media, we begin to crave another 'like'. Another retweet. Another follower. We begin posting more selfies, our blogs turn into personal diaries of obsessions, complaints, and narcissism.
Often, we as Christ-followers easily forget that we are set apart...we slowly begin to neglect God and become like the world. With every selfie we post, we can quickly build an arrogance if our hearts aren't well guarded. Pastor Erwin Lutzer of The Moody Church said, 'To slide always from the gospel always begins with neglect.'
In all honesty, I love social media. I mean, it's extremely fun...who couldn't agree with that?! I am an amateur photographer, and in my opinion, social media is one of the best ways to share my photography...as well as my writing and other artwork. That said, there is a fine line between loving something and obsessing over something. Social media can be used as a tool and a place to share a bit of your life with friends and family, or as a place to spew out your opinions, hurdle your arguments, and post your obscure, even suggestive photos. It can be a place of encouragement and healthy challenges, or it can be a place of discontentment. I've never had a social media argument of any kind, but I have experienced the discontentment factor.
We see a photo, a quote, a tiny part of someone's life and we become envious. That one thing could ruin our entire day.
The question is, how can we love being on social media without obsessing (or stressing) over our profiles, what friends share, and these posts that make us feel discontented and depressed for the rest of the day? I think that we first must remember that it is not Instagram's fault, for example, that we are jealous and therefore depressed. We blame so much on social media as it is! But in this case, it is our own flesh... our own sin nature. We are coveting (remember commandment number ten!) what we don't have. We must go to God for strength in this area, not criticize the public profiles and blogs of others'.
What do you post on your account? What are the motives behind each thing you post? Do my posts glorify God, or myself? I often have to ask myself these questions. Am I posting just to get the most likes, the most comments, the most attention? It is easy to fall into this... to step into the beam of our spotlight. The hardest part for me has been evaluating how I spend my day. I believe you can also relate... do you procrastinate through media more than you delve into the gospel? This is a struggle for many. So, you are not alone. But at the same time, you know it must stop. God asks us to redeem our time, not waste it.
This all said, I believe that Christians need to be on social media. Technology is definitely one way to minister, to reach out. However, I believe that there is also an unbelievable freedom in stepping back, fasting from media. Taking a week off, maybe two, even a month. There is such a beautiful freedom in taking that break. Each time I sense media of any kind is replacing my First Love, I try to take a fast. If social media begins to cultivate a sin (addiction, procrastination, discontentment, etc.), STOP! Returning to your First Love is the one and only cure. Remember, the point of the fast is to revert your heart back to Him. Whenever you feel yourself desiring to go to social media, pray. So often I have failed media fasts because I continue to neglect God, to not call out to Him. There is tremendous struggle in fasting, but in the end- to be closer than ever before to God- it is worth it immensely.
As I already stated, I believe that Christians need to be on social media. To post those verses, share their stories, etc. However, we also need to guard our heart. We are God's, not the World's. We are set apart, not in. Social media can be so much fun, or it can be a web of depression and peer pressure. Without sounding too cliché, let me ask a question that you may very well need to hear today, what is social media for you?
'Handle with Prayer' is a column that all of us SLAH columnists contribute to. Please take your time and enjoy the teen thought and insight of each article!