I joined social media while living away from home. I saw it as a way to connect with friends and family and show them what I was up to. When I created my online profile I had a few blanks to fill in: name, description, interests, etc. I could even mark what type of connections I was looking for: Friendship, Dating, A Relationship, or Networking.
What I didn’t realize until later was how easy it is to allow the allure of online popularity and temptation of presenting a false self on the Internet to overshadow my motivation for being online and making authentic connections.
Relationships are important. God created us connect with Him and with each other, so it makes sense why we seek to make connections and place so much importance on them. However, we must be careful not to confuse our Internet popularity with our self-worth. Regardless of how many Facebook friends or comments we have (or don’t have) our self-worth should come from God.
For me, being authentic on social media is harder some days than others. But when I dig deep and ask God to show me my motivation for being online, I am able to back away from the computer with regained perspective on where my value comes from.
Psalm 139:23 says, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Test me and know my anxious thoughts." If I’m willing to ask (and hear the truth), God is faithful to tell me. The truth hurts sometimes but I’m always grateful for it.
Another question I ask is: does my online profile bring glory to God? Our lives should reflect our hearts, and if our hearts and minds are fixed on God, then it will filter down into every aspect of our lives—including our virtual lives. If we’re led by God’s Spirit then the fruits of the Spirit will be evident: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Once I can admit my social media motives, I find it easy to know what I should post, not post, or say in an online conversation. I’m working towards finding ways to engage that are fun but also authentic. I still have to check my motives, but asking the questions like, “What are my motives?” and “Will this bring glory to God?” often makes the decision to post or not to post easy.
It's easy to understand how people are wary of social media and, if we're honest with ourselves, it's easy to see the potential they have to eat up our time. Deciding to have an online profile is a choice everyone has to make.
The social media profile is a pixelated digital collaboration designed to present the self we want others to see. So, what is it you want others to see and what are your motives behind it?
Here’s a challenge: ask God to reveal your motivation for making online connections. If you suspect it's to fill a void in your life, know this is a void no social network can fill—not online, not anywhere. The void (as cliché as it sounds) is God-sized and no other relationship will be enough, no matter how many Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or Instagram hearts you have. If it’s time to adjust your social media motives take a step back, re-evaluate, and come back when you know it’s for the right reasons.