Social Media and a Neutered Gospel

In our capitalistic society of bigger, better, more, our eyes are constantly fixated, constantly stimulated.  We know what we want more of, and with the help of endless information accessible with a few movements of our phalanxes and phalanges, we have a pretty good idea of how to get whatever that may be. (Case-in-point: I searched “finger bones” and looked at a diagram on Google Images to complete that sentence.)

While the internet and technology have no innate corruption, we as humans have come along doing what we do best: turning good for self-advancement, and self-gratification.  While internet and technology may have no innate corruption, we as humans do.  We are born into a nature of deprivation.  Since our first breath, there has been a longing for more.  This is God-crafted, this is what He knows is best for us.  But where He designed us to long for Him–for His love, wisdom, and worth–we have believed the lies that the world has provisions that will suffice.  It just so happens that in the 21st century, the primary provision that I’ve observed prevailing in this race for our hearts and our minds is our technology, our media.

With the abundant help of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and even texting and GroupMe, we are in a seemingly inescapable cycle of elevating ourselves before others, and draining our sense of worth.  The way we are perceived has become all-consuming.  It’s no wonder, since our perception is as easy to adjust as clicking three buttons to post a picture, or stringing a few sentences together to post a status or caption.  But what follows our pressing of “post” is what’s even more detrimental to the binding of ourselves to this cycle–likes, comments, retweets, replies, follows.  These are our fuel.  We are addicts and these little digital drops of approval are our drug.

We have become slaves to the instant gratification we get from someone expressing any sense of care or admiration for something we’ve shared. We are puppets to the world of “what’s popular” and making sure we obtain it.  The rush we get from receiving a notification of any kind is scientifically proven to be addictive.  Think back to the biochemistry lesson in high school.  Dopamine–the “feel good” chemical.  I’m fairly certain when I was studying that flashcard on Quizlet I didn’t include my enslavement to it in the definition. But the reality is, every time we get a notification, another drop of internet approval in our bottomless bucket of worth, dopamine is released.  So, because we feel good, we go back for more. And more.  Confession: I’ve checked Facebook three times since I started typing this.  The irony truly pains me.  I just checked Snapchat.  I’m sorry, reader, for my laughable hypocrisy.  Know that not one of the words I’ve typed has not been directly written to myself and my own tendencies.

While we’re on the subject of blatant ironies, let’s address how our consumption with social media has taken a huge hack at our social competencies. We are substituting the initial awkwardness that comes from meeting someone new and tediously building levels of respect and friendship with virtual “interactions”.  Instead of figuring out how to navigate the uncomfortable ropes of learning a person and developing a mutual sense of trust and understanding, we resort to the easy, instant method of friend requesting or following, and keeping up with their “lives” via updates that all 800+ other followers receive.  I do intentionally quote “lives” because we all know how humorous it would be to think someone’s life is wholly represented by their postings.  Yeah, duh, of course we all know that and never assume someone is as put together as their internet profile displays. Psh.

Have you ever run into someone in public that you “know” from social media but have never actually met? Yes, you have. And there’s a reason you have that rush of awkwardness through your veins and immediately scan the room for the quickest and most subtle escape route.  You’ve communicated with a person and felt like you’re a part of their life without knowing them–it’s forgery.   You’ve forged a friendship for your own sense of popularity, or worth, and when confronted with that reality, it’s uncomfortable.  Rightly so.

As people, we are robbing ourselves of deep friendships, meaningful relationships, and some of life’s greatest moments. As Christians, we are robbing ourselves of all that, as well as the ability to be the Gospel to a world in dire need of it.  We preach that we believe God places us where we are intentionally, and that in that place we should do everything we can to glorify Him.  Yet, we fill our time in the places God has maneuvered us with the sharing of useless (often fake) news, and endless scrolling through feeds with eyes of envy and coveting.  We say we’re using the internet for His glory because we shared a post telling us that if we deny Jesus before others, He will deny us before His Father.  See that Facebook friends? I’m SO unashamed of the Gospel.  Bring on your petty “persecutions,” liberal left, because I can take it…until it causes any dent to my reputation or perception.  Then I’ll tell you I’m not one of those crazy Christians–I’m really no different than the next guy because I’ve watered the Gospel down enough to nearly be clear! (End rant.) (Again, I do not excuse myself from any of my flamingly sarcastic accusations. God has convicted me just as much as a pray He does in whoever may be reading this.)

Back on the track of preaching the Gospel where God has purposely placed us.  The Gospel is neutered without eyes to see needs, feet to go to these needs, and hands to meet them.  We say we know we are called to put on the eyes of our Lord, to be the hands and feet of Jesus, but the reality is our eyes are fixated on others’ broadcasts of achievements, constantly missing the voids and desperations beneath these veiling posts; our feet are stumbling along with the current of complacency and self-advancement, missing the opportunity to step down to a lesser place to step out towards a longing soul; our hands are working day in and day out to increase our level of excess even further.  The race for more has blinded us from those who don’t even have enough–in the literal, physical, and physiological senses of the word.

Not only are we living in a way that fails to reach the world with the Gospel, we are robbing ourselves of the Gospel.  Just as I wrote in The Strangle of Comparison,” our God not only created us, but adores us.  Our worth comes from Him alone, and not from anything we can accomplish on our own.  But with our constant need for approval, and the rat race that we’ve created with our lives, we have (unsuccessfully) filled the void that we were born into with facades of worth.  In fact, I promise you my sinful heart will judge the quality of this post by the reaction it receives on the internet.  Lord, forgive me for my rebellious spirit that strives to be filled by anything but You.  Forgive me for believing the lies that the quality of Your words to me can be scored by my peers.

If you’re anything like me, you probably have a “one day when I have time” list. It’s likely filled with items as seemingly insignificant as household tasks, and those as significant as ministry dreams. We tell ourselves we don’t have time–after all, we can barely find time to sleep. But what about the quick break from homework that turned into an hour and a half of perusing news feeds? The scroll through Instagram while on the toilet that turned into 20 minutes and numb legs? (Me at least once a day.) The “checking the scores really quickly” that turned into an hour scroll through BREAKING news of Ezekiel Elliott in a bucket and Lane Kiffin left by a bus–again?  We have time.  To say we don’t is an astonishing lie to ourselves. We just don’t use our time humbly.  We don’t look at it as the gift that it is–a gift to propel us to fulfill our role of serving, of making disciples, of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.  What does it say to our neighbor if we spend 95% of our time tending to our “own life” and 5% reaching theirs? That’s not a kind of “love” I’m familiar with. Ouch. I felt that one too.  Again, forgive me Lord.  I need Your work in my heart and in my mind more than I even know.

If you’ve gotten this far in this post, you’ve beaten the odds of your attention span failing you.  We have our good friends, Internet and Mobile Devices to thank for that one, too.  Since you’ve beared with me this far, I promise to wrap things up soon.

Let’s do ourselves a favor and stop robbing ourselves of some of the greatest blessings in this life.  Taking our fixation off of our devices and accounts is not even all about spiritual implications; it’s about the daily; it’s about the relationships.  It’s about gaining pure communion with others through spending uninterrupted time with them.  It’s about stretching ourselves to grow to a place where we can honestly admit our struggles to real people rather than “humble bragging” all over the internet in order to mask these struggles.  It’s shattering the veil that says we have our life together.

But, yes, as everything is: it’s mostly about God and the expansion of His Kingdom.  It’s about acknowledging that we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow and choosing to not spend today behind a screen.  It’s about walking humbly with the Lord, choosing habits that make us more aware of His presence instead of blinded to it.  It’s about being more burdened by the need to lift up His name than lift our own.

Share the pictures of your family, your real-life friends, your dog.  But share them with a heart that finds worth in what Jesus did on the cross, and not what your followers do with their “like” or “comment” buttons.  Lift your eyes from your news feeds and ask the Lord to point you towards a need.  You may even be surprised when He points out those of yourself.

You a loved; you are made whole; you are called–live out of those truths and no others.

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