This article was originally written by Kim Cash Tate on Desiring God, A Social Media Heart Check.
Before social media, life seemed simpler, uncluttered. You knew what you alone were having for dinner, not twenty others. Hours in a day were more productive. Focused. No scroll-and-click distractions. No blog hopping. You hunkered down and worked — or did your homework or read a good book — without thought as to what you might be missing. And you knew people, warts and all, not just their happy highlight reels, the ones that move you to discontentment with your own life.
Social media has attracted masses of us because we benefit from the connection, the information, and the inspiration. But for Christians, as many of us can attest, there are potential pitfalls as well. Though we desire to glorify the Lord and represent him well, the world of social media can upset those intentions, if we’re not careful. Wisdom would have us check our hearts regularly by keeping key questions in mind.
Am I Walking by the Spirit?
Social media is robust with real-time engagement. Timelines are filled with reaction and raw emotion. Opinions are wielded like swords. Political and popular figures are skewered with aplomb. It’s easy to step into this fast-moving current and get carried by the flesh.
Social media enlivens our human nature. We enjoy quick satisfaction. Emotion wants an outlet. Complaints must be heard. Anger needs to be expressed. And contrary views must be vigorously opposed, because that’s what the flesh enjoys as well — superiority. It will mow down another’s views, while elevating its own, earning a satisfying flurry of shares, likes and retweets. We all know how much the flesh loves validation.
Walking by the flesh may be an accepted norm on social media, but it’s not possible to please God in the flesh (Romans 8:8). As believers, we’re called to die to those human impulses and walk by the Spirit, perhaps especially on social media, given its reach and impact. We should ask ourselves if our posts are gracious and edifying. Am I slow to speak? Are love and kindness reflected? Am I blessing or cursing those I deem enemies?
“Only as we walk by the Spirit in the social media sphere can we make an impact there for Christ.”
Even when our posts are grounded in truth, our heart attitude in sharing that truth is key. Is it about me and my need to be right? Is the Lord being glorified? It’s a daily battle, flesh against Spirit. “For these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:17). This battle is amplified on social media, and yet, social media is where we can also shine brightly for Christ.
We can point people to Jesus with the light of our lives, with eternal truth, and with grace-filled interactions. People are watching. Only as we walk by the Spirit in the social media sphere can we make an impact there for Christ.
Am I Bragging?
Somehow, bragging got its wings on social media. In “real life,” we don’t routinely unpack our awards and achievements for neighbours, co-workers, or fellow church members. We don’t feel the need to share everything from compliments to the material blessings we’ve received. And before social media, acts of service and Bible conferences were not photo ops. But social media stokes that urge within to promote ourselves, to be seen, even to be praised.
Jesus spoke to this human urge, saying, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). And there’s this gem: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2).
It’s hard. And I daresay many of us have fallen prey. We’re excited, in the moment, and want to share. But that’s just it — we’re in the moment. It’s wise to step back and ask: Why am I posting this? Why did I even take a picture of this? To make myself look good? To show how many showed up for my event? To let my friends and followers know I’m “somebody”?
It’s a heart posture we need to resist steadfastly. As the Son of God and Saviour of the world, only Jesus had cause to exalt himself. Yet he humbled himself instead, taking on human flesh and dying on the cross. We’re to have the same attitude of humility, which may be counter-cultural on social media — and exactly what enhances our witness as followers of Christ.
Am I Battling Envy and Discontent?
Sometimes a heart check will let us know that we need to unplug from social media, at least for a while. It may be that we’re in the midst of a trying time, such that it’s difficult to rejoice with others. If you’ve been praying long to get married, “We’re engaged!” posts may irritate. If your marriage is troubled, joyous wedding anniversary posts may be hard to bear. Whatever we are lacking or perceive to be lacking, we will likely scroll past someone prospering in that very area. And if we find ourselves battling discontent or envy as a result, it’s time to close the app.
Some battles don’t need to be waged. We don’t have to consume the lives of others through social media. And when we do, we should keep in mind that we’re only seeing a small slice, often the best slice. People post about the good times, that fun family vacation with the loving husband and angelic kids. Chaos might have broken out minutes before or after the photo, but that Kodak moment is what everyone sees. Similarly, posts that highlight career and ministry successes don’t often reveal the challenges and hardships.
If social media is tempting you toward discontentment, we glorify the Lord by repenting — after we log off.
If we can keep a healthy perspective and celebrate with those on our timeline, social media can be fun. But if it’s tempting us toward heart attitudes that are sinful, we glorify the Lord by seeking him about those issues — after we log off.
Is This the Best Use of My Time?
For those of us who engage social media, this should be a frequent consideration. We’re called to make the most of our time, not squander it. Yet, we might be shocked if we could see a daily total of time spent posting, commenting, scrolling, liking, and clicking through links across various social media platforms.
We each have responsibilities and obligations, whether at home, in ministry, school, or the workplace — many of us with some combination of these. And as believers, we ought to prioritize time in the word and in prayer. Social media can encroach upon the “more needful” things, including the importance of simply being present with family and friends. We need to remain sensitive to the Spirit’s leading as to how much time to spend on social media, and even whether it’s time to deactivate.