Humans are self-centred. It’s an in-built thing in every one of us that happens because there is sin in the world. We naturally make our lives about us and most things we do is to serve ourselves. If you’ve ever watched Friends, you might remember an episode where Phoebe tries really hard to find a ‘selfless good deed’, but Joey consistently points out to her that even when she’s doing things for other people, she’s actually doing it to make herself feel good or look good to other people.
We can be like that. Often, so much of our lives can be about making ourselves feel good or look good to other people. Social media has intensified that. Social media profiles are another place where we put ourselves on display to other people, and that can be dangerous for us, as sinful people. We can easily be tempted to use that platform as another place to feed our self-centredness.
I asked some of my friends and family what advice they would give, as a Christian, to teenagers on using social media. Here are some of their answers:
Social media accounts are rarely a true representation of a person’s life. You won’t find happiness through trying to be like someone you follow on social media. True satisfaction can only be found when you follow Jesus and in becoming more like Him.
To what end are you using it [social media]? Is it to glorify God and further His kingdom? Or is it distracting you and eating away at your time - time which could be used in more fruitful activities? As Christians we are called to ‘redeem the time’, does social media help or hinder us in doing this? Does it cause more affection for Christ, or less?
Don’t use it.
It’s better when you delete it.
Take a break from it and speak to people in person.
It might surprise you to know that these comments are from people who use social media themselves. Let’s have a think about why they might be so negative about it.
Social media is not a bad thing. There are lots of ways it can be used for good – keeping in touch with friends and family; sharing fun or significant events with people who care about us; keeping up to date with the news or sports. but equally, there are a number of ways it can be really unhelpful, especially as a Christian.
How many photos do we discard as not good enough, before choosing the right one?
How long do we spend editing the right photo once we’ve chosen it?
How long do we spend picking out the right caption?
How long do we spend scrolling through other peoples’ posts?
How long do we spend checking who has seen or liked our posts?
How long do we spend comparing somebody else’s looks/aesthetic/achievements/life to our own?
How much of our self-worth depends on how many likes we get on each post?
It is so easy to let social media define our self-worth. When we feel good about how we look or proud of something we’ve done, we want other people to see that. There’s nothing wrong with that in itself – our friends and family generally want to share in our happiness, right? And then we get loads of likes and comments telling us how well we’ve done or how good we look, and we’re left feeling great about ourselves, because everyone appreciates how great we are. But what happens when something you post gets fewer likes than normal? Or when someone else’s post gets more likes than your’s? As much as I hate to admit it, it can leave me feeling a bit rubbish – ‘what’s wrong with that picture? Am I not as pretty/cool/interesting as them? Why do people not like me as much as them?’
Or maybe you don’t post often, but you scroll through other peoples’ posts or stories. Before you know it, you’ve wasted an hour scrolling and you’re left feeling deflated and sad because you don’t look like that actor, or you can’t afford to go on all the amazing holidays your friend’s family go on.
As Christians, we know that we have no right to worship ourselves and think we’re great, because we are sinners saved only by the grace of God. We need to be careful that we don’t fall into the trap of using social media as a way to show off when we’re feeling good or to build our self-esteem when we’re feeling low. As Christians, we need to be careful that we don’t let our social media profiles feed our innate, human nature self-centredness – whether that’s feeling good about ourselves or feeling bad about ourselves. Because as Christians, our lives aren’t about ourselves – they should be all about Jesus.
Lots of people, non-Christians and Christians alike, know what it is to care too much about what other people think of them. Practically everyone I know would say, in response to this, that it shouldn’t matter what other people think of you, it only matters what you think of you, you decide who you want to be and then be that person, who cares what anyone else says??
In 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 Paul says,
I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.
Paul here is saying, ‘I don’t care what you think of me’, but he also goes on to say, ‘I don’t even care what I think of me. All that matters is what God thinks about me.’
While we’re not good enough for God’s standards alone, as Christians, God has saved us and He now sees us in the same way He sees His son Jesus – we are righteous before Him – what a wonderful truth!
The ability to forget himself that Paul appears to have in 1 Corinthians isn’t something that comes naturally or easily to us. But remembering the wonderful truth – that only God’s opinion of us matters and that Jesus has made us righteous before God – can help to free us from the destructiveness of social media.
I would highly recommend reading 'The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness' by Tim Keller which talks more about the importance of escaping our self-centred human nature, and how we can work towards self-forgetfulness.
- Debbie Adamson, Church Member