This weekend, hubby & I went to a conference where a speaker made an offhand comment: "We've heard lots of sermons on how to be Christian in the world. I'd like some on how to be Christian on Facebook." It's been a while since I wrote on the topic, so I took that as a prompt. Here are some thoughts.
We're Christ's witnesses and ambassadors all the time. We don't get days off, we don't take time-outs. We carry around his name wherever we go, and everything we do is a reflects on him. This is especially true on facebook, where a huge variety of people know a lot about us. If your friend list is like mine, you've got people from every political group, every sexual preference, every age group, every ethnicity, and every religion watching you and interpreting your God through you. This is a great opportunity, but also a great responsibility. On facebook, with a click of the 'like' or 'share' buttons, it's easy to call things good that he calls evil. In a self-pitying moment, we can post ideas that aren't true, that we'd disagree with after prayer or remembering scripture. In proud moments, we usurp God's glory for ourselves. Trying to look witty or clever, we can present people or events or ourselves differently than God sees them. Other people have this license, but we have been bought by a price and are not our own...even when we're on facebook.
Second, we need to honor other people. Obviously, as we've all hear a million times, this includes thinking about how the people involved will react to our post. "Rescue me from my date with this loser," or "My jerk boss tanked our pitch," might get you some cheap sympathy, but the world is small now, and that date's future spouse or your boss's kids--not to mention your boss--might see that post one day. Before you post that update, do a gut check. Is it gossip? Will it shame the person (or people who know that person)? Will your self-deprecating story embarrass your spouse or kids? Are you spilling the beans before your friend is ready to announce her big news? Will it tempt a weaker brother to violate his conscience? If it's not honoring, rethink it.
Honor others by remembering they're "Imago Dei", made in the Image of God. It's easy to think of your fb audience as a "crowd", rather than of individuals made in the Image of God, each with their own story of pain and joy and fear and hope. Social media makes it easy to objectify people sexually with an inappropriate photo, video or comment. But we turn people into objects whenever we see them as something for our use and benefit instead of people with whom we have relationships. This can be as simple as sending your game requests to acquaintances because you don't want to burn bridges with your "real friends" or flirting with your now-married ex-boyfriend because you had a fight with your current boyfriend. We also turn people into faceless objects when enter into heated debates over politics, religion, abortion, homosexuality, sports, whatever. We want to be right and smart and witty, but the people we're calling names (and the hundreds or even thousands of people who will read the discussion thread over time) are made in the image of God, too. When those who claim Christ's name don't honor people, we become speedbumps on others' journey to Him.
We can honor others through our authenticity. Mental health professionals are seeing a deluge of depression, especially in teens and young adults, caused by the comparison of a person's private self (including all the insecurities, inadequacies, faults, weaknesses, fears and zits) to others' cleaned up, curated, polished lives as presented on facebook. For years, we've seen a rise of anorexia, bulemia, and out of control exercising as women, teens, little girls (and increasingly, their male counterparts) pour over airbrushed photos of starlets and models and compare themselves to a false "perfection" not even the models achieve. Now everyone can have airbrushed life--not just in pictures, but their social calendar, love life, cleverness and spirituality. Like a little girl sitting in front of a mirror with an open Cosmo magazine, people sit in front of their computers, comparing themselves to unreality and concluding that they don't measure up. Authenticity, humor, and humility can help other know that life isn't perfect, and they aren't alone.
Third, honor yourself on facebook. No, not in a narcisstic unbiblical way, but with wisdom. Just like you wouldn't tweet your bank information, you shouldn't share things that can come back to bite you. There is a difference between the authenticity mentioned above and overexposure. Once something is posted on social media (and most of the internet), two things become true: you can never completely delete it, and you can never ensure privacy. You have to assume that, eventually, your spouse, mom, pastor, 3rd grade teacher, colleagues, Jesus and your dentist will read it. If you (or a current or future relative or friend) ever run for president, write a book, go to court, or want a security clearance, it'll be there. Nana will see that post about partying too much. Your postman will think about your racist joke everytime he delivers the mail. Your son's best friend will see that seductive picture you from your 20's. Eww. Honor yourself with discretion.
Honor yourself by living your life. Facebook can be a powerful tool, and a fun pasttime. In large doses, however, it can become an albatross and even an addiction. Media fasting is an important spiritual discipline in these plugged-in days. If social media (or any media) is taking too much of your time, if you're anxious when you go an extended time without check in, or if you sense God's leading you to cut down, try taking a break from it. Spend more time outside, or playing with your kids or pets, or going to coffee with friends...and don't check it on your smart phone while you're doing those. God created you with a purpose, and you were designed to do good works, to be in relationships, to serve others through your spiritual gifts, to worship Him. Don't get distracted from the real world by the virtual.
Honor yourself by getting your value, identity and mission from God. Birthday wishes, "likes", comments, getting friended feel good, but they aren't who you are and don't indicate your worth. Only our triune God can show us our true identity and purpose and value. You are God's image bearer, his masterpiece. You were bought with a price. You are loved with an everlasting love, chosen to bear fruit, justified and redeemed, the Temple of the Holy Spirit. You are the salt of the earth and light of the world, a new creation, free from condemnation. You were adopted as God's child, accepted in Christ, saved by grace. You are part of a chosen people, a royal priesthood and are a citizen of heaven. Don't let social media confuse you about who you are or what you're here to do.
Finally, honor yourself by participating in what the Holy Spirit is doing in and through you. Yield to his hand. Align your heart to God's. See others as He sees them. Give yourself as a living sacrifice. Be conformed to the image of Christ...even on facebook.