Let me first state that I completely get the irony that at least some of you are going to read this having found it on Facebook. So, if that’s how you came by this article, then shame on you!! Just kidding. I promise that this is not going to be a post where I blast your use of social media. I would be a terrible hypocrite if I did so because I use it all the time.
In many ways, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been wonderful in how they help us stay connected with friends and family. Their use has even become common place in today’s churches as a new tool for outreach. However, I also recognize that there are many negative aspects of living in a Facebook world.
I don’t know if you realize this, but Facebook is lying to you. No, I’m not talking about all this “fake news” stuff. I’m not going down that road! It’s not actually these programs that are lying to you but the people who are putting stuff on those sites. In fact, whether you want to admit it or not, if you use Facebook, then you’re lying too.
Think I’m wrong? Let me prove it. When’s the last time you posted something online that made you look bad? Yesterday, when you committed that secret sin you struggle with, did you rush to tell the whole social media world? How about that time when your friend took that extremely unflattering photo of you? Did you say, “PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE share that with everyone I know and all the people who I hope respect me!” No sane person would do this! However, don’t we all rush to Facebook when we have good news, go on our dream vacation, or take that photo that will make everyone think we have a perfect life/marriage/family?
Consider this, if you and I carefully craft what we let others see based upon how it makes us look, then don’t you think that everyone else is doing the same? Of course they are! Being a pastor, I often get called in moments of crisis and when that happens I get to see “behind the curtain” of other people’s lives. I’ve been doing this long enough to tell you that NO ONE is as happy, rich, successful, sexy, or satisfied as they seem to be from the outside looking in.
When I say that Facebook is stealing your joy, what I mean is that we too easily fall into the trap of looking at someone else’s “perfect” life and say to ourselves, “I wish my house looked that nice,” or, “I wish I had enough money to take all the vacations she does,” or even, “If only my marriage was as happy as theirs!” Trust me when I tell you that those little “snapshots” we get into the lives of others are not giving us the full picture. Therefore, we must guard ourselves against letting those things become the standard by which we live.
Again, I’m not here to bash Facebook and the like, but to remind you that joy, true joy, can only be found in one place. Remember the words of Jesus when he said,
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:9–11, NIV)
If you find yourself struggling to maintain a healthy perspective on what it means to be happy, then might I suggest you try the following:
- Determine to spend less time on Facebook and more time with God’s Book. Let’s try an experiment. Tomorrow, for every five minutes you spend on social media, tear off a small piece of paper and place it in your left pocket. Then, for every five minutes you spend during the day pursuing God either through prayer, Bible study, attending church, or just worshiping Him while driving in the car, tear off another small piece of paper and put it in your right pocket. At the end of the day, simply empty your pockets and compare. Use this visual reminder to help you work towards spending more time with the source of joy instead of something that often steals your joy.
- Use prayer while online to keep you from cultivating a covetous heart. You can actually use social media as your mobile prayer list. As you scroll through the posts, tweets, pictures, and videos, stop and say a quick prayer for each person or family. This is especially helpful when you see something that makes you long for what someone else has.
- Commit to connect more often with the real people in your life and less with your digital friends. Again, I’m not saying you need to permanently delete your Facebook account (is that even possible?) but please know that a live encounter with someone is always more valuable and meaningful than just connecting online. If you’re not careful, you might end up neglecting the people that matter most in your life just so you can keep tabs on someone you haven’t seen in twenty years.
So, I’ll conclude my post with one final instruction. Put down or turn off whatever device you are reading this on, find the nearest person to you right now, and give him or her a great big hug. While you are doing so, say a silent prayer of thanks for the love God has shown you and for the people He has placed in your life.