The Mask of Social Media
In 2016, approximately 78 percent of Americans have some form of social media presence (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), according to one statistics website. From another website, as of 2012, 81 percent of teens had a social media profile. In other words, we like to stay connected to other people. We have ready access to what our friends and family are doing, we use it to stay informed of current events (I admit that I use social media to keep students and parents informed about youth group happenings), we even get to peek into the lives of celebrities.
As we continue to share, tweet, snap, like, and post all over the internet, one of the questions that has been asked is, “are we letting ourselves be too accessible?” The concern is that nothing is private, everyone knows what we’re doing, where we are (and where we aren’t as some thieves check social media to find out when people go on vacation) and what is going on in our lives. That is definitely a valid concern. There are too many news stories of young people being abducted because people stalked their social media. There was even a recent report of a man who was robbed after he bragged on Facebook about winning the lottery.
But I want to pose another question from the opposite side of that argument. Has the trend of social media made it where we don’t truly let people into what is going on in our lives? Let me explain what I mean by that. As I scroll through my social media feeds, I can find posts and pictures from friends and family talking about their most recent vacations. In fact, if I see one more “feet in the sand” photo with the hashtag #beachlife, I may just throw my computer in the trash. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy seeing people enjoy life and have fun with their kids and their friends. But how many of us work so hard to get those perfect pictures of our families, or selfies if that’s your thing? How many times have you decided not to share a photo because your messy house was in the background? How many posts about how amazing your life is come right on the heels of an argument with your spouse or children?
Please do not misunderstand me, because I am in no way saying that we should start airing out all of our dirty laundry on social media. But what I think we need to be careful of is not removing the masks we put on when we get online. We all have the social media masks that we wear, the masks that hide our shortcomings, our struggles, and our pain. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We don’t need to trade our “perfect family” posts for ones that cry out “woe is me, look at how hard my life is.” Social media is not the platform for that. The problem, however, lies when we cannot take the masks off when we are face to face with people who care about us.
How many of us keep those masks on when we go to church? As soon as you hit those doors it’s “Good morning! Praise the Lord! Isn’t God good?”, all with a big smile plastered across our face, while inside you’re hurting, unhappy, broken, or depressed. That doesn’t mean that everyone you talk to needs to hear every detail of your life, but are we willing to let people see our pain at all? Do we turn to our fellow Christians and ask them for help and to pray for us?
We have had a big emphasis on personal spiritual growth in our student ministries, and part of that push is encouraging our students to have a vibrant prayer life. We meet once a week to pray in groups for one another. Part of our spiritual growth is to acknowledge our continual need for God’s grace in our lives and by doing that publicly we could be helping a young believer know that this walk with Christ is not meant to be lived alone. In fact, how do you think it makes that young believer feel when all he sees are other Christians who act perfect and like they’ve got it all together, while he is struggling in his faith? It would be far more encouraging for him to know that all Christians go through struggles and it is in those times that we can lift each other up, pray for and encourage one another and walk this journey side by side.
In the Greek language, the word “hypokrites” was used to describe someone who acted in a play, who wore a mask to pretend to be someone he wasn’t. It is also the word we use for “hypocrite.” We need to drop the masks and learn to let people see who we really are, imperfect people with real struggles who are loved by a perfect God who extends grace in the midst of those struggles.
Soli deo gloria, Pastor Brian