We were sitting in a crowded café in downtown Seoul. It was our last day in Korea. The weather was great. There were still places in our itinerary that we hadn’t visited. Yet we just sat in the café for the next three hours, because my travel companion was focused on uploading a photo to her Instagram feed.
It couldn’t just be any photo. The next photo had to match her existing feed, the filters had to be edited nicely, and it had to be perfectly captioned. Staring at a phone screen was how we spent our last few hours in that vibrant city.
Social media has driven the digital generation into a whole new level of obsessive documentation and curation of our lives. We pour ourselves into building our perfect online persona for the world, and we build our esteem based on the number of likes we get. But the trade-off is that we start losing our true identity.
While the Bible obviously does not mention anything about social media, it does tell us how we should carry ourselves around others — online or not. Before you brandish your smartphone, consider these two questions:
1. Who are you trying to please?
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
I’ve seen people who are so fixated on the number of likes on their social media platforms that they refresh their feed every 10 minutes. Once a friend asked me if she should remove her post because it only garnered 1 like after having been published for a whole afternoon. It made me wonder — is this really why we do social media?
Be clear of our motives for posting on social media. Do you post to make yourself more likeable? Are you doing it to impress others? Do you only feel a sense of validation when your post garners more than a certain number of likes?
We pour ourselves into building our perfect online persona for the world, and we build our esteem based on the number of likes we get.
The Bible warns against seeking approval from all the wrong places. When we seek approval from everywhere and everyone else but God, we are merely building cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jeremiah 2:12-13) This means that we will never be satisfied. Contentment comes only in seeking and finding Jesus.
2. Who are you trying to glorify?
“In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” (Psalm 10:4)
On another day, another friend of mine sent me two photos — a photo of her perfectly-put-together #OOTD (outfit of the day) and a photo of her group of friends in church. She asked me which photo I thought she should post on Instagram. Eventually what went onto her feed was her #OOTD photo, and she even made sure I went to like it.
When I asked why she chose that photo, she said, “The #OOTD people sure like me. But the group shot spoils the aesthetics of my feed, and won’t get so many likes, because it’s all church people.”
I’m not saying that we should ban all #OOTD photos. But have we, for the sake of our perfectly-carved-out persona and image on social media, forsaken things that are more dear and important to us?
We pour ourselves into building our perfect online persona for the world, and we build our esteem based on the number of likes we get. But the trade-off is that we start losing our true identity.
Seeking approval from the world gives birth to pride in our hearts. When we place praise over purpose, we start to lose sight of what is truly important.
Can we perhaps try to use social media for a greater purpose? Perhaps instead of focusing on our self-glorification, why not make use of this powerful and influential platform to send out messages of light? We are called to glorify God in all that we do (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Social media gives us a voice of our own — and it is up to us to decide how we want to use this voice.