Feb

14

2012

Jason Allen|11:59 PM CT

If Facebook Tempts You

With the news from Wall Street that Facebook is going public, we can be confident the social media giant aims to stay around for a while. And why shouldn't it? With more than 845,000,000 monthly users, the company has become deeply ingrained the public's psyche. Whether your preference is Facebook or Twitter or one of the hundreds of other services, social networking is firmly rooted as the new way to "do community." The ability to connect or reconnect with these networks offers innumerable benefits and privileges we simply did not have before. We are, however, becoming increasingly aware of the limitations of virtual community and the problems associated with our being so connected.

The Drain

 

Talk with enough folks who regularly use Facebook or Twitter and you'll soon recognize a pattern. Mental drain accompanies comparing your life with all of your friends and acquaintances. Recently, Christian hip-hop artist Shai Linne tweeted he had quit following another Christian hip-hop artist on Twitter. The reason was not a doctrinal disagreement or failed friendship. Linne quit following this other artist---whom he greatly respects and admires---because he had noticed a sense of envy creep up after reading the tweets confirming the other's success. Linne later explained in a video where the issue was discussed in detail, that he took this practical step to guard his heart.

An "out of sight, out of mind" approach worked for Linne. Could that work for you? Are we as quick to act, surgically removing sin or the temptation of sin associated with our use of social media? Furthermore, if we as adults are struggling with the sin of jealousy, envy, or covetousness, what is the use of social media doing to our kids?

Both Facebook and Twitter prohibit accounts for kids younger than 13. Yet according to a study published in November 2011, parents have assisted in setting up accounts on Facebook for children as young as 10. At stake is the care and nurture of our children's souls. If you have aided your child in setting up an account, violating the policies of these social media outlets, I strongly encourage you to close the account. This minimum age is in place for a reason.

But are even 14-year-olds ready for this responsibility? That's something parents must decide for themselves, though I know many 30-somethings that still find the drain too much to bear. Those of us with teenagers must be steadfast in monitoring our children and ourselves to gauge how we're affected. All of us are at risk of falling prey to a silent stalker. What begins as a mild, almost unnoticeable, breach could result in an all-out assault on our soul. Our new identity wrought by the blood of Christ is too valuable to be eroded by the sins of jealousy, envy, or covetousness.

I'm not opposed to social networking; I use both Facebook and Twitter. But I have found that I, like Linne, have to guard myself from the potential for sin to rear its head. Before talking about the good that can come from these tools it seems prudent to shed light on the potential hazards for our children and ourselves. We, as believers, would do well to be ever mindful of our weaknesses and guard against them. Furthermore, we must be vigilant in teaching our children how to spot sin that could arise from unhealthy engagement in online social networks.

Identity Theft

With our use of social media, we risk slighting the gospel by losing our identity. Whether we forget who we are or lie about who we are, we are misplacing our identity in Christ. For the believer, we're told in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that the gospel changes us, that we are a new creation. If we're drawn into sin and find that we envy the life of someone else, we've misplaced our identity. Is it lost on us that we have been instructed to put off the old and put on the new? Paul also writes about this identity change in Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians. It was a big deal to the apostle and should be to us too. A daily reminder of our identity in Christ would go a long way in grounding us when we catch up on our Twitter feed or peruse the news feed on Facebook.

Another issue that seems to beset us when using social media is a tendency to exaggerate or falsify our identity. We tend to forget who we are when we're in front of the keyboard. Sometimes, to our shame, we inflate ourselves and our agendas, providing an unrealistic view into our lives. Paul, again, is helpful here. In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, he tells us that God's way is counter-intuitive. God's "how to" for tweets might look something like, "I'm not smart, but it doesn't matter," or "I'm really weak, insignificant, and from the wrong side of the tracks, but God loves me." Not the recipe for raking in thousands of followers, is it? The gospel is upside down to the world's standards. Remembering this would help us provide a more realistic view of our lives as well as encourage our brothers and sisters who forget their identity in Christ.

Daily, I'm encouraged by the tweets of my contemporary heroes of the faith through their fidelity to the gospel. On occasion, I lose sight of my identity in Christ and find myself longing for "just one day" in their shoes. However, daily, I'm reminded the gospel of Jesus Christ is stronger than my desires, and for that I'm grateful. There is no doubt that daily, our children need that same reminder.

Jason Allen serves as pastor to families at Fayetteville First Baptist in Fayetteville, Georgia. He blogs at Give Them Gospel.

Categories: Christian Living
  • reformed guy

    Here is a question every man who reads this should ask themselves:

    - How much time have you spent looking at pictures of other women on Facebook? How about your buddy's beautiful wife who posted pictures of their trip to the beach last year? What about the cute brunette in your home group that wore a semi revealing dress to a wedding a few weeks ago?

    What is the cost/benefit of Facebook?

  • joe

    You have to be lying to yourself if you are a man and say that facebook doesn't tempt you in the area of lust.

    Just because you are a ministry worker doesn't mean that you must be culturally "cool" and be connected with everyone via social media.

    Has it ever occurred to anyone that facebook in general is a socially dysfunctional way of relating to people? You basically build a profile that only shows people what you WANT them to think about you. We weren't designed like this.

    • ChrisM

      I'd say that the issue of only showing people what we want them to see is equally prevalent in many churches and real world communities today. Facebook is just the latest social tool to allow us to mask ourselves. This has been going on since the fig leaf.

  • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

    Well, I see the other comments are from members of the anti-facebook league, so I probably don't need to go into how bad it is for you. I left it quite some time ago for many many reasons.

    Primary among them is that I was becoming lazy in my relationships. Instead of actually investing time with my friends, I was using Facebook to "connect" with them. I finally concluded that little comments on someone's wall does not a thriving friendship, make. Ultimately I left because I read Wendell Berry's poem "How to be a Poet" which was sent to me by a friend. Look it up sometime if you are thinking about getting away from Facebook.

  • http://www.bencurrington.com Ben

    I used to shun social networking sites, I deleted my Facebook account, couldn't see the point of Twitter. Had this idea that they were a rubbish alternative to having "real" friends.

    Nowadays I actually see a lot of good in it. I'm in touch with people that I would otherwise struggle to retain any meaningful connection with, and that can be very worthwhile. I'm under no illusion about the depth of these relationships. The main thing is that it's light hearted, I don't expect it to be anything more than it is and I don't take it too seriously.

    It's not dysfunctional at all, it's just different, and I don't believe that I represent myself any differently on Facebook and Twitter to how I represent myself in the "real world". I think that's a matter of conscience for each individual.

  • Andrew

    Good post. I use facebook actively and keep a twitter account running. There are huge benefits to facebook, and I don't plan on deleting my account any time soon. Having said that, it's easy to forget that most people only post the most exciting or uplifting parts of their lives online. Many people aren't even exaggerating - they're simply posting thoughts, pictures, and stories that got them excited or capture great memories. I find it easy to scan through facebook one evening, and - after seeing the latest round of engagements, exotic vacations, promotions, and uplifting stories - wonder if my life is missing something. Several friends have expressed the same thing. It shows just how broken we are without Christ, and how much we need Him to guide our hearts each and every day. One good counter to envy and despair is to read Ephesians 1-3 or Romans 8.

  • Laura

    I especially like that you can share or re-tweet this article.

    • http://www.bencurrington.com Ben

      I find myself wishing there was a like button for your comment, Laura ;)

    • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

      The author said he used both Facebook and Twitter.

  • http://www.everybodyelse.etsy.com Melody

    Wow. Ok.

    Isn't it possible, even probable, that people who are envious because they see good things happening in their friend's lives via facebook are also getting envious via phone calls and face to face conversations? Should we avoid people who have greater success in life because we might be envious? Stop talking to friends who are happier, or sound happier, than we do?

    If so, why stop at doing it on facebook? Why not turn down a different isle when we bump into them at the store or hide behind our bulletin at church?

    • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

      True, but don't you think the author (as someone who has an FB) is saying "just be aware of this"? I mean, Facebook is set up as a marketing of self. If you look at someone else's profile where they expertly market themselves it may look a lot better to you than your own profile. If you are just interacting with them in real life, yes, absolutely their accomplishments could invoke jealousy, but it's not like they are listing their accomplishments for all to see.

      I actually think a stronger anti-Facebook argument is the fact that profiles are set up TO market oneself. If it causes others to stumble that should maybe be something we personally should be thinking about. I'm not positive I was ever envious of others when I was on Facebook, but I do know that I reveled a bit too much in being the center of attention.

      • http://www.bencurrington.com Ben

        I'm ok, you're ok.

        If something is not fruitful then it's certainly worth considering its place and value in life. I know a few people who stopped using Facebook simply because they were wasting too much time. At the same time, as a single parent, I find myself at home on my own a lot in the evening and Facebook is a very welcome connection with the outside world.

        A friend asked on Twitter recently what social networks he should keep, I suggested just to keep the ones he likes using and stay visible, after all I believe enjoyment is a gift, right? "Marketing of self" is very strong. We make statements all the time by the way we set out our homes or the way we dress, for example. It's only wrong if you're pretending, but you don't have to.

        It's down to each person to figure out how best to use it and if they're jealous of someone it's not Facebook's fault, they need to deal with that problem in their own heart. Like most things it's a mixed bag, you take the rough with the smooth. Better to work with the positives than throw out the whole thing. Possibly a slightly ironic thing for me to be saying considering my church history... Although in admitting that I'm demonstrating that it *is possible* to be honest online :)

        • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

          I agree...I think...with most of this. I STILL think Facebook is built around marketing self. I also think it's ok to have a Facebook. Freedom in Christ, yes? I think we should also take things more seriously instead of just saying, "I use this for entertainment. It's just for fun. Why overthink?" I think all of the things we use for entertainment can be good or bad depending on the person, the situation, and how we are using them, but we are never to close ourselves off from examining what we do and why we do it.
          I chose to throw out the whole thing. The only positives to Facebook were the pictures. It wasn't worth the rest.

      • http://www.everybodyelse.etsy.com Melody

        Heather, I see these articles everywhere and it seems to me like people are trying to blame a very basic human failing on technology that's only been around for a few years. People presenting themselves in the best light possible is not a new thing. People being jealous is not a new thing.

        I think when the author wrote this article he was trying to be helpful. I also think a lot of people are in trouble if they think getting rid of facebook will solve their envy issues.

  • Jason

    Hello all, I wasn't bagging on Facebook or other social media, just urging awareness be exercised. Melody, you're right, these sins are as old as Genesis 3 and 4. Facebook is not to blame, we are. Facebook is amoral, we're broken. Facebook is merely a conduit that broken people use. This article was, in large part, borne out of a need I noticed in the context in which I minister.
    Andrew stated it well up above when he highlighted the fact that Facebook, Twitter (et al) are concentrated with stories of success and happiness and if we're not careful to remember we're only seeing half of the stories representing the lives of our friends we can be overcome with a sense of inadequacy.
    I was trying to address something deeper than the envy that could come from a phone call or bumping into a friend in the grocery store. What I see in Facebook is a constant barrage of snippets of success. Tsunami after Tsunami of grandiosity that is unlike the feelings we might experience when occasionally bumping into a friend.
    BUT, the point is, even in the occasional bump-ins with envy, we can't as believers lose sight of the fact that Jesus is better. Whether we forget who we are in Christ on Facebook or while on the phone with a friend, we shortchange the Gospel.

    • http://www.everybodyelse.etsy.com Melody

      But Jason, envy is not the only possible response to seeing other people happy. Even in high doses. I'm *excited* for my friends tsunami's of success.

      Then again, they don't feel like tsunami's to me. Maybe I know less successful people than the rest of the world. On my feed, cries of triumph are mingling evenly with expressions of fear, frustration, and despair - alongside a healthy servings of the humorous and banal.

      Do other people's facebook friends really not post these things?

      I do agree with your point though, of course :)

  • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com Steve Cornell

    In line with your goal, "to guard myself from the potential for sin to rear its head, " I wrote a series of guidelines for pastors and others using Facebook. You might find these of interest: http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/facebook-guidelines/

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