I thought I was the only one.
I read a study last week that found that while 91% of people feel more connected as a result of Facebook, only 29% of people reported that it made them feel happier. In fact, a vast majority of people admitted self-destructive habits including gawking over people from the past (83%) and comparing themselves to others (76%). Strangely, we love being connected to all of these people, but we aren’t any happier because of it.
We’re funny creatures, aren’t we?
Don’t worry, this isn’t a FB-bashing post. I’m on there too. Although I’ll admit I’m not often actually on there. I check in occasionally, read my brother’s kick-my-teeth-in musings on justice and the poor (which always challenge and convict me) and write back and forth a bit with you, dear sisters who travel this road of faith with me. But whenever I start scrolling down the feed, aimlessly searching for who-knows-what, I find myself sucked into the social media hole. I emerge later—too much later—feeling a little dizzy and disillusioned. And, strangely, although I’m connecting with people there, I actually feel more disconnected to the real-time 3-D life I’m living right there in the moment.
It’s not all bad. Obviously the problem is us, not social media. But it poses a problem we must deal with – how to effectively exercise discernment and discipline in our relationships when we just have so stinkin’ many of them.
Are our online relationships help or hindrance to our relationship with Christ?
Every person we interact with online is a form of relationship. Even if we only gawk at her photos or roll our eyes at her status updates. Even if we just spend an hour perusing her site because we’re so fascinated by her life (Yes, that was me on Jen Hatmaker’s site last week). Every person we interact with creates a form of relationship, which influences us at least in the moment and sometimes even more.
Some sites I visit genuinely equip me, inspire me, encourage me, and challenge me. Every time I’ve read Jamie Martin’s writing I feel more encouraged than ever to invest in my children’s education. She doesn’t discourage me or make me feel bad about myself, she challenges me with her humility and high-standards for home education.
There are others. Lacey Meyer’s photos make me want to celebrate my husband and kids. Ashley Larkin makes me want to sit quiet and see the beauty of my day. Anna Kintingh’s letter to her son had me actually laughing out loud.
Many of you have beautiful sites. The online world isn’t evil. The point of this post is this:
We must evaluate: What is the fruit of my online relationships? Is it helping or hindering? (A relationship can be a two-way interaction or simply a one-way interaction with an online in-put of any kind)
Questions to consider: After spending time with this person or on this site …
- Do I want to engage more in the nitty-gritty details of my life or do I want to escape?
- Do I feel inspired, challenged, and encouraged to live for God or distracted and dis-heartened?
- Do I feel comparison and competition as a result of our interaction or do I feel confronted, convicted, comforted, or celebrated?
- Does this person exhibit the fruit of the Spirit?
We must exercise discipline with who we allow into our homes and our hearts. Scripture says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Prov. 4:23). Your life springs from my heart. And when my heart is overwhelmed with the picture-perfect images of immaculate homes, do-everything women who apparently never melt down in a heap of tears, or catty comments that sprung up on the social media feed, it’s harder to walk in the extravagant grace of Jesus Christ and keep my eyes on the life He’s given me here.
I’m not advocating life in a bubble, but I’m encouraging all of us to be discerning women. Our hearts are our most precious possession. Guard yours fiercely.
That said, I believe that thoughtful, intentional, strategic online inputs are absolutely helpful in this life of faith. I wouldn’t have this blog if I didn’t. I believe we can create a safe, edifying circle where we’re challenged, equipped, inspired, convicted, and encouraged to know, love, and follow Jesus Christ. Will you help me do just that? Will you engage, comment, ask questions, and give feedback? Will you challenge me privately if a post does not glorify Jesus? Will you send me a comment if you want to interact about something further? Will you ask for prayer if you are struggling? And will you evaluate all your online inputs and be mindful about which ones draw you closer to Christ?
Thanks for being thoughtful as we evaluate our online inputs. Also check out these great 12 guidelines for social networking below (included in Tim Chester’s new book, Will you be my Facebook Friend?) Thanks so much for making this place a sacred space. Thanks for being here.
Twelve Guidelines for Social Networking
1. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say were the people concerned in the room.
2. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t share publicly with your Christian community.
3. Ensure your online world is visible to your offline Christian community.
4. Challenge one another if you think someone’s online self reflects a self-created identity rather than identity in Christ.
5. Challenge one another if you think someone’s online self doesn’t match their offline self.
6. Use social networking to enhance real world relationship not to replace them.
7. Don’t let children have unsupervised internet access or accept as online friends people you don’t know offline.
8. Set limits to the time you spend online and ask someone to hold you accountable to these.
9. Set aside a day a week as a technology “Sabbath” or “fast”.
10. Avoid alerts (emails, tweets, texts and so on) that interrupt other activities especially reading, praying, worshipping and relating.
11. Ban mobiles from the meal table and the bedroom.
12. Look for opportunities to replace disembodied (online or phone) communication with embodied (face-to-face) communication.