It’s 6 a.m… alarm buzz! whats app alerts! Facebook notifications! Instagram updates! Recent tweets! Buzz… Sliding out of bed, too much noise too early! With such noise, I have to make decisions, what do I do first? Check recent messages? Devotions? Prepare for work? What did I miss in my sleep?-calls, facebook updates- whose birthday? whose anniversary? Whatsapp updates? I need to go to twitter-what is the government doing? Breaking news?
Early this year, one day I woke up to delete all social media apps on my phone. I needed silence but it was such a tall order with all those apps calling for my attention so I thought it was a good idea. So I emotionally uninstalled each single app and deactivated my accounts. According to me, social media was the problem so I needed it off. That did not really last for a very long time before my thirst to being ‘updated’ overpowered my decision and I concluded that Social media was not really the problem, I was. My real enemy was not social media, my real enemy were the battles in my soul- that had magnified the appetites in my heart. If I was not in a position to control the time I am spending on the applications I personally have installed then I was the problem and I needed to search my heart much deeper than just a mere deletion of what exists externally. There are a number of things I needed to delete from my heart first.
Social media reveals the root issues about the state of our hearts- in a sense we are what we update, tweet and feel about the posts that exist on social media or the amount of time we spend there tells us a lot about what we prioritize. It can bring out the best in our hearts also as we use it to minister and celebrate what is happening across the world and also get posted but it can also reveal our uncrucified selves- our envy, jealousy, pride, idols and so on. It is also a test of what to choose to read or listen to because everything can be viewed by only the click of the button and we can evaluate consistently what we choose to feed from in connection to it. As much as I had wanted to do social media fast (which is very healthy) I noticed in regards to it there are much deeper issues that I can start to evaluate first.
I would be talking about myself when I say that sometimes what we call social media fast we define it as; not posting anything or any photos but we are ever online following. This current trend mostly has come up through the new definition of “maturity” (especially among Christians) who believe that maturity is measured by the number of posts/status or comments and therefore if I succeed at not posting I have attained maturity. We laughed over this analogy with a sister of mine, Wangu, because the real motivation behind this is the fear of what other people will think- perhaps we don’t want people to call us online/facebook/whatsapp people, so to maintain our reputation of “maturity” we will disengage but deep down we know we are social media addicts, the addiction is the issue we should try to handle yet we handle the number of posts. So Wangu & I came to a conclusion that the fear of what people will say or think is something we need to really think about-who exactly are we living for?
So what questions have I learned to ask myself now as I try to correct my social media engagements? (Some of this insights thankfully I have read them in an article by John Piper as God was correcting me and I would like to share how they have become my convictions)
Am learning to ask myself the following;
1.Am I Bragging? I have decided that before I post anything I will ask myself if it could be a revelation of the pride that is in my heart. Somehow, bragging got its wings on social media. In “real life,” we don’t routinely unpack our awards and achievements for neighbors, co-workers, or fellow church members. We don’t feel the need to share everything from compliments to the material blessings we’ve received. But social media urges us to promote ourselves, to be seen, even to be praised. I sometimes can tell if I wanted to minister through my post or I wanted the likes and comments by how I monitor the reactions. Jesus spoke to this human urge, saying, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” Matt 6:1; Proverbs 27:2: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips”
It’s hard, perhaps because of the believe that “Everyone does it.” And I daresay many of us have fallen prey. We’re excited, in the moment, and want to share. But that’s just it, we’re in the moment. It’s wise to step back and ask: Why am I posting this? Why did I even take a picture of this? To make myself look good? To show how many showed up for my event? To let my friends and followers know I’m “beautiful?” And due to this we have developed a very low opinion of ourselves if Social media does not reward us as we initially expected. It’s a heart posture we need to resist steadfastly. If we have the same attitude of humility as Christ had, which may be counter-cultural on social media it will enhance how we engage on social media but the desire to promote ourselves will keep us in constant frustration of trying to measure up to the standards social media sets.
If we are to truly use our social media as a witness to Christ we may have to measure how we are using it first to make a name for ourselves.
2. Do I get the Pressure to “Testify”? – We might also call this the social media pressure to do what everyone is doing. As Piper puts it, “You go online and you see this and that person declaring all sorts of testimonies on a weekly basis. This pressure now exists within the influencers themselves and their followers. You so badly want to have your testimony and begin to loose patience, meanwhile you are all walking different paths! You begin to question whether God is working in your own life. You begin to wonder if God loves them more than you. Impatience with God begins to creep. Testimonies of others are meant to remind us of God’s faithfulness and encourage us to keep up the faith. But if you are feeling pressured by them, then you need to check your heart.”
As I evaluate my own pressure to give a testimony on social media I also evaluate the effect of my testimonies will have on other people also, certainly this life does not just revolve around myself. Closely related to point one, if my posts are mostly influenced by Pride it is likely that they will cause fellow brethren to sin and doubt their place in the Lord’s portion of blessings. So if I genuinely sought out my heart issue of Pride I will in turn take care of a brother/sister in the Lord.
3. Am I trying to compete with others? Social media Competition exists. And it is so sad. We try to show that we are better than the previous post and so on. I have noticed before any post I still need to ask myself, am I competing with someone? Or to prove a point in subject to someone’s view?
4. Am I battling Jealousy and the lack of contentment?
When people Instagram a group shot from an event we couldn’t make, we’re seized by a fear of missing out. When a fellow Christian talks of a recent achievement (“So blessed to see this amazing thing God did that I want to subtly take credit for”), we’re gripped by jealousy and envy. So most times, after people’s testimonies you may notice you could be battling with envy. Especially when you are going through a very tough season you might find it difficult to rejoice with others. If you are heartbroken- joyous weddings, anniversaries, engagement moments and so on could be hard to bear. As in whatever we are lacking or perceive to be lacking, we will likely scroll past someone prospering in that very area. And if we find ourselves battling discontent or envy as a result, it’s time to close the app and perhaps take a moment to repent and glorify the Lord for what He is doing in our own seasons.
Sometimes you can be struggling with grief, loss of a loved one or family strain and struggles but on the other hand people are genuinely celebrating the unity in their families and friendships and because we are human, you end up hating our current situations or feeling that God is unfair to give some what you have earnestly been praying for.
Many times we forget that people don’t post every part of their lives on social media, as I said earlier, the normal norm on social media posts is to testify and so we try our best to put our best lives forward- our vacations, flights, family good moments, birthdays, anniversaries, career highlights, loving husbands and wives, amazing kids and so on, but no one posts their struggles and therefore if you are wise social media you can start by acknowledging that those posts are not the reflection of the entire lives of other people. They are just doing what we all do best- “putting your best foot forward.” But all of us are struggling and broken in one way or another. Accepting this fact about social media will help us not feel pressured to also “testify” and also celebrate other people’s progress without feeling bad about your own phase in life.
5. Is this the best use of my time?
For those of us who engage social media, this should be a frequent consideration. We’re called to make the most of our time, not squander it. Yet, we might be shocked if we could see a daily tally of time spent posting, commenting, scrolling, clicking, and perusing links across various social media platforms. I recently installed an app on my phone that tells me the amount of time I have spend on all the apps on my phone by the end of the day, the 1st week, I almost uninstalled it immediately because of the reality of the fact that more than half of my entire week was spend on social media apps.
The Lord has called us to become good stewards of our time, there are very resourceful materials also on social media so the amount of time spend might not be a reflection of idle tasks but we each also have other responsibilities and obligations, whether at home, in ministry, school, or the workplace many of us with some combination of all these. And as believers, we ought to prioritize time in the word and in prayer. Social media can encroach upon the more needful things, including the importance of simply being genuinely present with the people around us. In our home my mum gave us a policy(I should have said a Law-mothers only give Laws, right? hehe), but I would like to call it a policy because it has become my policy for life- She says that no one should use their phone when we are all together in the sitting room so it made it very normal for us to leave our phones in the bedroom (lest of course you want to invite “trouble”) and this policy has helped me to appreciate the people who are around me at a particular time rather than enjoying my virtual friend on the other side and miss the blessing right before me. And thank you Mum! Whenever I am interacting with someone else I always have my phone turned upside down so that I don’t monitor the notifications coming in to fellowship genuinely with the person I can see first.
6. Am I real?
Last week I was discussing an issue about Online preaching with one of my friends, and he told me that sometimes we enjoy an unreal following online because no one actually knows us in reality.
We find social media better because people don’t interact with the real us- For instance I can love my interaction with my close to 5000 friends + 1000 followers on Facebook because most of them may never meet me in real life and so I can fake it, after all they say- fake it until you make it. I have seen a post on Facebook from a friend who had just found out that the ‘girlfriend’ he has been ‘dating’ online is actually a man! The lengths people are willing to be fake on social media are extremely shocking, but in the midst of all that, as a Christian I need to ask myself, am I real on Social media? Does the girl people see on social media exist in real life or am just faking it to live a lie? Lack of integrity has therefore made it normal now for us to block the people who know us in real life on social media lest they find out who we really are lying to be. And it is such a difficult life to live a lie, integrity means that you are one person, whether on Instagram or at home; You will not need to keep changing faces. It is not only a sin to live a lie but it is also a difficult life which will achieve nothing at the end, you constantly live hoping that no one who truly knows you in real life finds out about the other you that exist on the virtual space! What a waste and a stressful life to remain fake? And all that for what exactly?
7. How can I glorify God through my social media?
Recently I read a quote, “the harvest is online but the laborers are offline.” It has been taken from a verse and true it is, perhaps with the reception of social media especially by Christians; social media was first perceived as a place that was not ‘holy’ and therefore we distanced ourselves from the sites lest we get corrupted, hehe, but the reality is that, if you were to reach the world for Christ- social media would be the easiest tool to use. Thank God for technology, now you don’t have to worry about plane tickets and so on, but by the click of a button you can tweet a message that the World can access, perhaps go ye into the World and spread the gospel is right before us but we continue to act in ignorance of the tool we have been given. Simple, if I can decide to do a verse every morning, it is possible I will reach close to 5000 friends I have on my timeline. Perhaps there is a way I can engage better for Jesus everyday through social media, the world is right here before me, and I can choose to use my accounts as grounds to spread the gospel. I believe the most possible time to reach the world is in our current era. Find us Faithful Lord.
And Social media is still useful in other ways since its the fastest way to reach many people at a go- for notices and other alerts, its the fastest way to get to people so there is totally no way it is unholy, only what we bring in can be either pleasing or displeasing to the Lord.
Most of us use social media for rather simple purposes, we share pictures of our family and friends. We give people occasional updates on our lives. Sometimes we post news articles, and recent events in our area. It’s a way to stay in touch with friends and family, and even connect with old friends so there is nothing really wrong about it but when we are able to notice how greatly the world needs Jesus Christ we can serve a higher purpose with all our social media apps than the normal and common uses of them all. May we take the opportunity to reach out to the world without fear.
So help me God!