John Calvin rightfully remarked that man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols. We are inventors of sin and there is no limitation to the extent to which we go to sin. Romans 1 is a case study. Even in seclusion from people, we’d still sin. We sin in our speech, conduct, and thoughts.
In this post, I’ll describe the temptations we fall into in the age of social media. As insinuated above, I cannot possibly exhaust the list of sins because it is endless. I’m not oblivious to the fact that these sins and temptations are also common to us offline.We constantly battle to keep our hearts pure for the Lord. In our struggle, we have familiar idols and sins that keep recurring and we have a responsibility to demolish and mortify them.
Social media has made our hearts more susceptible to sin. If unchecked, our virtual interactions with strangers and friends alike can lead to an obsession with self. We place ourselves at the center of the universe and think that the world should revolve around us. This is a deception from the enemy of our souls.
Social media has given the participants an avenue to flaunt their lives: beauty, good jobs, perfect families, flawless relationships…etc. No matter how chaotic our lives are, we fake it till everyone believes that they are perfect. This only puts all of us under pressure to march up with the set standards of perfection and to only parade the best of our lives, intentionally hiding that which is not appealing.
Sometimes our real life is clouded with imperfection and there is nothing impressive to show the world. Yet the pressure to perform hangs heavily on our shoulders. That is why we begin struggling with jealousy and comparison. We begin to wonder, “How come so and so’s life is that flawless?” We believe the lie that if God blessed in ways similar to our neighbors’, we would be happier. We also fail to rejoice with our neighbors’ over their blessings as scripture commands us. (Romans 12:15a)
Social media has also leveraged the heights of interpersonal conflicts. One can do a quick post about a toxic friendship that seems directed at no one, but if the writer were honest, they’d admit that it is directed at someone. Instead of solving conflicts offline in a God-honoring manner, we parade our self-righteousness online and end up slandering our offenders.
Conflicts in the wake of the social media age are messier. We often make wrong judgments and conclusions about others. A friend will post something, and since both of you are not seeing eye to eye at the moment, you will conclude that the post was directed at you. Our summary view of others is often mainly informed by our judgment of them in our online interactions. We make ungracious assumptions of people without taking interest to know them personally. We hastily give our opinion about a subject without learning all the facts and end up misrepresenting parties involved.
The Bible is clear and categorical about the three sins in scrutiny on this post: jealousy, comparison with others, and making judgments about others. Since we have believed and are born again, God expects us to behave differently from the world. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? (1 Cor 3:3) How much more unworldly are we to behave online where more unbelievers are watching?
Covetousness leads us to compare ourselves with others. We miss out on identifying God’s work in our lives when we expect Him to bless us in the same ways He has blessed others. We call this ungratefulness! In Galatians 6:4, Paul warns about comparison, “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.” In 2 Cor 10:12, Paul, in responding to those who were thinking of themselves superior to Paul and the apostles, said, “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.“
As Christians, we have an obligation of thinking the best and giving a benefit of doubt to our neighbor. We don’t always have to witch-hunt others’ posts even when you differ with the person. Yes, the world doesn’t revolve around you and the posts on your newsfeed are not necessarily about you! When we make wrong conclusions about others, we end up accusing them falsely. James 4:11 reminds us not to speak evil against one another. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
In our daily social media usage, we need to always check our hearts. Our intentions for all that we say should match the instructions in the Bible. We need to summon our will that we may not fall into the deceptive traps of the enemy. We need to pray to God to help us serve others online, not merely being there for our thrill and need for affirmation.
As we strive to do good works online, let’s remember that they do not justify us in God’s eyes. Our faith in Christ alone makes us right with God. We do good works because Christ has saved us but not to arm-twist Christ to save us.