Confession: I have a love/hate relationship with social media.

Love: Part of it feels like that old gameshow, “This is Your Life” (though I confess to only seeing the Sesame Street version with Guy Smiley). I love connecting to people with whom I attended Sowers Elementary, when I had eighties hair. To my refugee students whose wide, blindingly-white grins I miss from Refuge and Hope.

Hate: The other part, I think, feels about as fun as trying on bathing suits one size too small, in one of those dressing rooms an adorable, exuberant size four thought really needed mirrors on three sides. Sometimes I feel not enough.

Love: Well, I love the love element. I love connecting with friends around the world. Blogging clearly floats my boat. And I love knowing what’s going on in people’s lives—exclaiming over their cute babies more often than on Christmas cards, knowing to pray for a friend as she waits for a diagnosis, and rejoicing when that friend flies through the finish line on a goal.

Hate: I hate that sometimes social media casts the illusion of having relationships, in the form of 140 characters or so. I’m wary of adapting a culture of

  • contrived plasticity (we take perfect vacations and perfect selfies with our perfect children!),
  • trolling for online affirmation (if you love me, you’ll copy this into your feed!)—myself included, and
  • unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves, inundated with Pinterest perfection and carefully angled, filtered, and selected profile pictures. Part of me enjoys that in Uganda, it is perfectly acceptable that I have light fixtures that belong in a retirement home, or that I pour lemonade from an ugly plastic pitcher.

And personally, I dislike that if I want to write non-fiction, many publishers desire a following of 10,000+. That ratchets this thing up to a whole new level, and honestly makes me want to throw in the towel/keyboard.

At the Breathe Writers Conference I attended last week, I hopped into a lively discussion with one of my fave fiction writers on one side—who got in before publishers hoped for a following—and lovely Christian social media maven of sorts on the other. I sought to reconcile the “platform” portion of my craft without compromising the simple fact that I want my life to be about worship. Ahem. And not worship of yours truly.

As part of a curriculum, I frequently teach the story of the Tower of Babel from the Old Testament. Every time, a phrase gets me: Let’s make a name for ourselves. The critical reader will see the vast difference in results from their approach—and God’s, a handful of chapters later, who will make a name for Himself through Abraham.

Sometimes, the question for me in social media boils down to just that. Am I making a name for myself? Or is God’s name being made great through my social media?

No, I’m not suggesting all of our social media be hyper-spiritual. I just think it’s all pointing one direction or the other.

how-would-jesus-tweet-meme

Social media is a tool, right? We can use it to feed our idols of popularity,  of sex, of perfection. Or we can use it to breathe life and truth; to further God’s Kingdom in the world.

What does godly social media look like?

Some thoughts.

  1. “Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14). This changes everything. It means that instead of an opportunity to make myself look good, it’s a platform to care for people, and to relate authentically. It strikes through the humble brag, the nasty comment via the anonymous avatar, or the politically-motivated (even faith-motivated!) agenda. Love as my motivator also means I step away from competition in my heart; I’m not using social media to plug the sucking holes in my heart. As Fox News commentator Andrea Tantaros puts it, “Smart, secure women elevate other women.”[1]

This post quotes Dr. Douglas Groothius, author of The Soul in Cyberspace:

We need to have integrity when we are online. We should do it prayerfully. We need to resist impulses. And I don’t always successfully do this. I have deleted not a few Facebook posts.

But remember that we are doing this before the face of God and we are interacting with eternal beings. We are having an effect on people’s destinies, even through a Twitter message. I think if we take that kind of approach it gives us a sense of gravitas and we are less likely to become flippant.

HELP US OUT! How do you keep control over your social media–and not the other way around?

Catch part II here and part III here!

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[1] Tantaros, Andrea. Tied Up in Knots: How Getting What We Wanted Made Women Miserable. New York: HarperCollins, 2016, p.25.

 

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