Last week I took the entire week off social media (with the exception of Pinterest), and it got me thinking.
Why was social media invented?
I did some research.
According to University of North Carolina at Pembroke, in 1978 two Chicago computer hobbyists invented the bulletin board system (BBS) to inform friends of meetings, make announcements and share information through postings. It was the rudimentary beginning of a small virtual community.
Over the next 26 years many social networking sites hit the “information superhighway,” including Friends Reunited, Friendster, Myspace, LinkedIn and Facebook. These sites were all designed to connect people in person-to-person contact, whether they be lost friends from the past or potential business connections for the future.
The sites didn’t stop there. Flickr, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram have surfaced in the last 10 years, creating more and more ways of connectivity.
But is that all it creates?
Why are we as a culture so drawn to (read: obsessed with) social media?
Do we still view social networking sites as ways to connect with others, or has it become (maybe even subconsciously) something more?
We don’t even use the term “social networking” anymore. Now it’s social media, which, although the term has an air of communication to it, implies that the sites have gone past the goal of networking into broader pastures of information sharing.
Why do we use social media now?
Thankfully Facebook has progressed past the sort of “hot or not” website it was in 2004 when Mark Zuckerberg created “Facemash” at Harvard, and transitioned into a site intending to keep university classmates connected and the campus more “open.” Classes would share information regarding specific lectures or lessons, you could meet people within your classes, and the absurd thought that high school students (or parents) were on the site? Unheard of.
But now we have kids, moms, grandparents and dogs (they’re probably on there) with Facebook accounts.
And what do we use sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for?
Subconsciously I believe validation is one of the main roots—if not the main root—of our (myself included) perpetual postings.
Maybe you’ve never consciously voiced the following questions or maybe you have, or maybe they’re just revealing what is happening in my own heart, but perhaps these are subconsciously the things we ask ourselves when posting something on one of these sites.
How many likes will I get?
How many people will tell me this _____ (opinion, quote, statement, blog, picture, recipe) is good?
How many people will respond to my whining and complaining and justify my position on the topic?
Who will favorite this or retweet it to prove that what I say has worth?
SOCIAL MEDIA IDOLS
These may not apply to you, but then again maybe they do. Without a doubt I confess to you that they are underlying roots in my heart and over the last week God has started to dig them up.
Why do those questions exist?
It seems to me that it’s just another evidence of the heart, our own personal idol factory, as John Calvin called it, firing up and forming an idol out of the attention and approval we receive from these online sites.
Do you see the danger zone this is or could be?
It’s dangerous ground in that this idol of social media validation is trying (often successfully) to thwart our gaze off Christ and His cross.
If we gazed at the horrifying, magnificent, bloody and beautiful cross where Jesus swallowed the wrath of God on our behalf, we would see that our craving for approval, validation and worth has been satisfied in the second Person of the Trinity.
And if we recognize and believe that our identity, our life, our heart, is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3) we will be content in knowing we have the approval of the Master of the universe and won’t need the approval of other flawed humans.
If our roots run deep into the truth of the Gospel, our branches won’t be as easily swayed by the hurricane-like voice of the culture or the more subtle but just as dangerous desires of our heart.
SO HOW SHOULD WE USE SOCIAL MEDIA?
Carefully. Prayerfully. With hearts saturated with the Gospel. Remembering and actively believing that our identity isn’t in how many likes, favorites, or shares we get, but that it is wrapped fully, securely, completely and wonderfully, in Jesus Christ and our relationship with Him, made possible only through His atoning death and resurrection.
Can we tweet to the glory of God?
Can we make Facebook statuses to the glory of God?
Can we post pictures on Instagram to the glory, praise and exaltation of Christ?
Absolutely. No doubt about it.
But be on guard that we can also do those things to the glory of self and, in the end, that benefits no one.