7 Ways to Live an Authentic Faith in the Social Media Age
- Joel Ryan Contributing Writer
- 2019 4 Oct
Whether you use social media to market your business, you’re a Facebook addict, or just someone who enjoys scrolling through Instagram to see what your friends are up to, you are living in the social media age. It’s likely that social media has already influenced the way you think, communicate, spend your time, and even connect with others.
You may choose to post positive content of the good things happening in your life, which others may criticize or label as arrogant and fake. You may decide to be honest about your struggles and shortcomings on social media. People may think you’re fake anyway, and call you an attention-seeker or negative voice. You may feel the need to post your opinions. People may strongly voice their disagreement or shame you and call you insensitive, ignorant, or intolerant because of them.
So How Do You Know What to Post or Share?
You may decide that it’s better to just post generic, neutral content that won’t ruffle any feathers or create waves. Maybe you find yourself conforming to social media trends and adopting the opinions of others just to fit in. You pretend to be something you’re not for “likes,” surrendering authenticity for popularity and acceptance even when Romans 12 tells us “not to conform to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2).
If you’ve faced any of these dilemmas or fallen into any of these social media traps, don’t be discouraged. You’re not alone. The world craves authenticity but struggles to find it in our social media saturated culture
As a believer, how do you resist the urge to pretend or play the social media game to win people over? How do you use social media instead of it using you?
Christians are not immune to the side effects of social media, but they have far more power over its influence than they realize—and the ability to live and share their authentic faith online.
Here, then, are 7 tips to living an authentic faith in a social media age:
1. Be Content and Celebrate the Success of Others
It goes without saying that one of the biggest pitfalls to social media browsing is envy. When you are constantly inundated with everyone’s highlight reel, it’s easy to compare your life to theirs.
You compare their vacation, their home, their marriage, their relationships, and their job to yours. You wonder: how come I don’t have that? How did they end up with the perfect marriage or cushy office? You begin to envy what they have, and may even resent them for having it.
A general rule-of-thumb: never compare!
When we compare our lives to others and focus on what they have, we stop appreciating what we have and begin to covet or lust after things we want, something Scripture clearly warns about (Exodus 20:17, Ecclesiastes 6:9).
Also, when we envy others, we forget what God has already provided and fail to acknowledge or appreciate all He has done in our lives (2 Peter 1:3).
We find we are never satisfied and never content. We crave more and become easily bored and easily disinterested in the things God provides. We just want more and more.
So how do you combat envy when it comes to social media? Celebrate the success of others rather than envying it.
As Paul wrote in Romans 12, “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Focus on what you have and praise the God at work in your life. You will then learn to see God at work in other people’s lives and celebrate their success as well.
2. Your Worth Comes from God’s Love, Not People’s Likes
Another pitfall of social media is feeling the need to please others and seek gratification from their satisfaction or approval. You may have dealt with this in your own life. When you post something on social media, do you check back to see how many people have commented on or “liked” it?
How many times did you go back to see if you received more “likes”? How did it make you feel? Did you feel more appreciated, loved, or valued when people liked your post? Did you get discouraged when people didn’t? How did that influence what you posted next?
The trouble with social media, for many people, is that it creates a false sense of self-worth.
When people are “liking” your posts, you will often feel liked. When people aren’t, you may feel off or that people don’t like you anymore. It creates a vicious rollercoaster of self-worth that is conditional on people’s interest in what you post, not necessarily you as a person.
Remember that your worth and value are based in God’s everlasting love for you, not people’s comments or response to your social media profile (Ephesians 1:4). God’s love should always be more fulfilling than people’s “likes.” You must learn to rest in the eternal opinions of God, not the fleeting and limited perspectives of others. This will lead to genuine satisfaction and fulfillment.
3. Don’t Be Ashamed of the Gospel, Just Remember Whose Gospel It Is
Social media offers an incredible platform to share of the goodness and faithfulness of God in our lives. The fact that we’re living in a time where we can spread the message of the Gospel to the entire world with just a click of a button is unprecedented in the history of human communications.
It’s not prideful to celebrate or share what God has done. Share about the God you love, celebrate His works, do not be ashamed of the Gospel at work in your life, and do not worry or be dissuaded by the opinion of others.
Not everyone will like what you post. Some may call you boastful or arrogant. If your goal is to make others jealous, show off, or seek attention, they might be right. If you only post content for “likes” or to satisfy your own craving for attention and acceptance, you aren’t spreading God’s Gospel but your own. You’ve missed the point of the message and missed an opportunity to minister or share of God’s goodness. It’s not always about you. Don’t steal “likes” that belong to God and God alone (Corinthians 10:31, Psalms 19:1).
4. Confess to Each Other, Not the Entire World
When it comes to sharing of your shortcomings and struggles, social media isn’t always the place to do it. Don’t get me wrong, if you need help, reach out. Scripture encourages us to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). Just know that not everyone who follows you on social media has earned the right to hear your confession or is committed to helping you navigate the struggles and challenges of life.
Personal relationships must always take precedent over digital networks. Prayer via text or social media is awesome! Do it. Just make sure you are also praying with others in person and making time for personal fellowship. Paul often wrote to the churches when he could not be there in person, but his goal was always to encourage them face-to-face (Romans 1:11-12). A text or social media post, even with emojis, carries little emotional transparency or context. Confess your struggles and sin to the Lord first and then seek out trusted friends and brothers and sisters in Christ to pray with you, lay hands on you, and walk through life side by side.
5. Stand in the Promises of God
Social media is full of trends. Something that is outrageous or bombastic will get attention one day and be forgotten or old news the next. Media thrives on extremes, and if you get caught up in the storm of emotions and opinions that fuels social media, you may find yourself anxious and confused as a result.
6. Let God be Your Holy Promoter
Some people are afraid to step away from social media because they fear they’ll lose their connections or the ability to market themselves. Social media is full of people just trying to promote themselves, get ahead, or convince the world that they’re worth following.
Using social media to market your “brand” can get overwhelming, especially when a million people are obviously doing the same thing.
7. Savor the Moment Before You Share It
Spend enough time on social media and you might find yourself programmed to look for post-worthy content instead of just being present in the moment. Not every moment needs to be shared. Sometimes it’s better to just enjoy what’s in front of you and put the phone away (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13).
Furthermore, when you become reliant on instant gratification, you feel the need to constantly check your phone or update your status. Down time becomes scroll time as you find yourself mindlessly skimming through social media feeds and watching YouTube videos. Before you know it, you’ve wasted hours of your day browsing social media, losing precious time you can’t get back.
Don’t let your down time become dead time.
Take advantage of the opportunities you have to reflect on the promises of God (Philippians 4:8), meditate on His word (Psalms 1:2), pray for others (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), and communicate with the Father. As Paul wrote in the book of Ephesians, “make the most of every opportunity, for the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).
Social media doesn’t have to consume our time or turn us into envious, anxious, and impatient people-pleasers or pretenders. It can be a valuable gospel bridge, or it can become a self-destructive habit and distraction from spending time with God and others.
Thankfully, you get to choose what effect it will have on your life, and you have far more power in this choice than you may realize. So choose wisely.
Joel Ryan is an LA-based children’s and young adult author who teaches writing and communications at Life Pacific University. As a former youth pastor, he has a heart for young adults and is passionate about engaging youth through film, literature, and theater. His blog, Perspectives Off the Page, discusses the creative and spiritual life through story and art.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/RossHelen