My Biggest Problems With Social Media (Especially Facebook)

My Biggest Problems With Social Media (Especially Facebook)

Courtesy of Facebook.com
The sign of the beast.

I have long been a huge supporter of social media. When I left for college in 2004, Facebook was still a new idea and had just expanded past its initial list of participating institutions (if you didn’t know, Facebook used to require a ‘.edu’ e-mail address to join and would only allow certain universities in… NC State was one of them). That means that I’ve been on Facebook for a decade. Besides forcing me to realize that I’m getting older than I thought, it’s made me think about what good/bad Facebook has done in my life.  Upfront, I have to acknowledge the best part about Facebook: it allows you to reconnect with old acquaintances.  In fact, if it wasn’t for Facebook, I may not have been reconnected with the girl that later became my wife (another story for another day).

Despite that wonderful, awesome advantage of Facebook that I got to experience first-hand, I’ve come to believe that the downside is just way too big to rationalize the upside.  I want to point out a couple things about Facebook that really, really bother me and what end that has driven me towards.

I’m so mad, but I’m a “good person”, so I’ll just post a passive-aggressive status update so I can ‘get back’ at that person without really having to confront them!

EVERYONE knows what I’m talking about.  You have someone who has apparently had a really, really frustrating day with a classmate or coworker.  How do you know?  Because they’ve decided to post a curiously “upset” post about “someone” who “really needs to learn how to [stop being frustrating]”.  It’s passive aggression at its finest.  I mean, seriously, how did we do passive aggression before the advent of Facebook?!

I can remember being in college and going through a break-up.  You should have seen the interaction between this girl and I.  We were literally going back and forth for hours, without directly calling each other out, and posting messages about how much “some people need to grow up” and “some people need to be more honest” and “some people need to learn to respect each other’s decisions”.  To date, that is the single dumbest period of my life I’ve ever been through.  That was also the dumbest use of Facebook I’ve ever engaged in.

I mean, seriously?  You’re so “outraged” that you have to post a public status update to literally everyone on your friends list except the one person you’re really mad at?  What exactly is that going to accomplish?  I mean, chances are that one person knows you’re talking about them!  It kind of reminds me of being in high school and instead of solving a problem, people had to get their “boys” or their “girls” behind them. [For the record, I’ve come to see Facebook as a gigantic electronic version of high school hallways.]

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son that has an interesting reference to passive aggressive behavior.  At the end of the parable, the prodigal son’s sibling is visibly upset about his brother getting a party even though it was the brother that was the obedient son.  The brother never actually addressed the problem upfront.  Instead, he refused to go to the party and only spoke about his discontent when his father confronted him about it.  When the brother was confronted, it was found out that his passive-aggressive behavior was all about him, him, HIM!  HE never got a party!  HE had been working like a slave!  This was so unfair!  Funny that the father didn’t agree or sympathize with the son.  No, the father CORRECTED his son.  The passive aggressiveness wasn’t going to solve anything, but sitting down with the person you had a beef with would.  Just because we post our passive aggression on Facebook doesn’t make it any healthyier.

Geez, I could write a whole post about this one subject, alone!

I’m proud of who I am, mistakes and all!!!

It’s not often that someone claims that a major problem in our society is too positive of a self-image, but that’s what I’m claiming Facebook does. Since joining Facebook 10 years ago, I must have seen 500 messages from different people proudly proclaiming that “this is who I am, flaws and all, and I’m proud of it!” Yeah, that sounds really nice as a country-guy/girl slogan or a bold declaration that I don’t need the approval of others, but it’s not necessarily Biblical and sometimes I think it does more harm than good (especially as exercised on Facebook).

Did God create us flawed? Did God create us a little lazy? A little hot-headed? A little too quick to yell or judge or any other “socially acceptable flaws”? NO! God created us to love; to love Him and love each other (note we’re talking about personality traits, not physical image).  Hey, I get it. Sometimes people just want to say “I’m not beating myself up for my flaws and don’t need other people’s approval to be happy”. That’s not the problem.  The problem rears its ugly head when those feelings of security in who you are turn into complacency. Complacency doesn’t lend itself to self-improvement, especially the type of constant self-improvement that we need to make to keep that relationship with God healthy.

Selfie, because I really need your approval!

I hate selfies, or I should say ‘how selfies are used’. We have all (or most of us) had those moments where we were in a funny or interesting situation that directly involved us as individuals.  It’s hard to show off a new outfit without taking a picture of yourself (most of my outfits aren’t worth showing off, though I love my “My Little Pony” shirt). Whether you’re at a really cool location or with a group of people, selfies can be the next best thing to simply having someone else take your picture and share what’s going on in your life.  Unfortunately, selfies seem to have become something people use to just show off…….. themselves.

When I started working with teens (for the second time) in spring of 2012, I added several of our teens on Facebook and ‘kind of’ knew what I was in for. Some of the guys will post pictures of themselves in the gym to show off their bodies and some of the girls will attempt the same thing by taking  pictures of themselves in booty shorts in the bathroom (I’ve never understood this). Hey, Jesus hung out with cheaters and whores, so I can deal with a little dirt showing up on my News Feed. What I wasn’t necessarily prepared for was to see constant, and I mean DAILY, selfies from students and adults (some community church leaders, some not) that really didn’t exist for any other reason than pure solicitation. “Ugh, I look terrible today! [insert picture of girl in Soffee shorts and tank-top making a duck-face]” Really? You’re going to tell me that isn’t just fishing for admiration?  When I see these things, I don’t get angry or make a face in disgust; I am legitimately saddened.  I am saddened that there are people out there that have fallen prey to getting the approval and admiration of “friends” that they are losing sight of a God who only requires them to be who He made them to be.  How much of life are these people missing out on because they are so busy pursuing the approval of others? 

Students, if any of you are reading down this far in this admittedly lengthy post (that I admit is more for adults than students), then I want you to know that you don’t need the approval of your “fans” to be loved.  When your pastor, your family, and your youth workers look at you and say they love you, that isn’t just an idle statement.  We may make mistakes and not always show how much we care for you, but know that you truly are loved and that there is nothing you have to impress us or anyone else.  The only way you could impress us more than we already are is to wear your love of Christ and love of people on your shoulder, proudly and unashamed.

In John 12, the Gospel reveals the dangers of letting public approval take too strong a hold on our lives (whether it’s approval of our bodies, style, activities, vacations, etc).

Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. 43 For they loved human praise more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43 NLT, Source: Bible Gateway)

Here you have people who are actually so engrossed in public approval that they are willing to risk salvation! Is taking a selfie going to risk our very salvation? I doubt it, but self-affirmation and reliance on the approval of others is like a drug. Once you’re hooked, it’s hard to know the difference between “just being a normal person” and fishing for approval.

So what about me?

Sadly, I too am guilty of almost every single one of these things at some point in time.  Gladly, and not through my own strength but through deliberately relying on God, I have been able to shake a lot of the dirt in my life over the last couple of years.  I don’t know, maybe I just finally grew up.  I still act like a little kid (and I rock that “My Little Pony” shirt), but things on Facebook don’t seem to bother me like they used to; they just make me sad.  What I hate the most about Facebook isn’t what it drives me to do, but that it is this stealthy vehicle that allows good people to trip up and fall into bad habits and receive all the self-actualization they need from a fallen world that “they’re fine just the way they are”.

If any of you meet the man or woman who is “good enough”, then let me know because that would be a sight to see!

Facebook has become something that I look at and it makes me feel worse about the world we live in.  It makes me realize that good, God-fearing people are easily distracted from “loving God and loving people” by politics, vanity, opinionated disagreements, and any other number of things all under the guise of “connecting with long, lost friends”.  Maybe in a more perfect world, something like Facebook becomes extremely useful towards bringing a community together.  Maybe for many of you it still is that tool and for those people I just say AWESOME!  As for me, I don’t really see things that way anymore.

I met with my pastor yesterday and the subject of social media came up as it normally does when you’re talking about ANYTHING student ministries related.  He reaffirmed that he chooses not to participate in Facebook (as do many pastors) because it thrusts a view of the world, the community, and individuals into their computers that they find more discouraging than empowering and driving.  Never once did he suggest I stop using Facebook, but after a lot of thought I saw the wisdom in his words.  There are many people in the community, at work, from my hometown in Concord, and elsewhere that I think highly but Facebook has provided them (and me) the avenue to destroy or degrade what was a good relationship and good opinion.

As the Bible says, ‘If your right hand causes you to stumble, then cut it off’. (Matthew 5:30)’  Facebook is a “bad hand”, so I’m cutting it off.  I encourage others to think hard about all aspects of their life and ask themselves whether it is bringing them closer to loving God and loving people, or if it is a bad hand.  Either way, follow God’s heart and you won’t be led wrong.

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