I will be the first to admit that I use Facebook as a way to stay connected to people. In fact, ever since moving to Chicago I’ve posted more status updates and commented on other people’s pages more than I ever have before! It’s helped me to feel like I’m still a part of my friends’ lives even though I’m far away. It’s an outlet for interacting with them in their every day lives.
Having said that, there is a growing trend in the Facebook/Twitter world that has captured my attention more and more. I’ve written about these social media in previous posts such as Fakebook and Another Reason Why I’m Not on Twitter, but this post regards a trend of a different sort. It is the pattern of tweeting/posting status updates at–what I would consider to be–inappropriate times.
This trend first grabbed my attention when I noticed status updates that occurred while people were on dates with their spouses, spending time with their families, or even on their wedding night. Technology has taken a lot of blame for stealing our attention away from real, flesh and blood relationships, and this seemed to be a prime example. If you’ve ever been in the presence of someone who is texting while you’re trying to have a conversation with them, you know how this feels. We may be with someone physically, but Twitter/texting can prevent us from actually BEING with them.
In addition to this trend, I’ve also begun to notice the practice of tweeting about deeply personal, intimate moments. Although I understand the desire to share what’s going on in your life with your community, Twitter has become a window into private moments and experiences that, in the past, would have been reserved for God and family.
For months now I have pondered this and wondered what it indicates about our culture. What does it mean when we no longer have private moments? What does it means when we’re constantly thinking about how to describe what we’re doing to a watching world in 140 characters or less?
Well this past week I had a revelation. It came as I read a philosopher who stressed the importance of privacy and isolation in the life of an individual. As he explained it, we are constantly being shaped by influences around us that we many not even recognize. What’s more, some of these influences can be rather destructive forces in our lives. Unfortunately, as long as we remain submerged in the culture–as long as we’re constantly bombarding ourselves with images from t.v., political ideas from our preferred news outlet, or even spending all our time with our friends–we don’t have any space to step back and scrutinize it. Because we don’t allow ourselves much separation from the culture to be with God and our family and close friends, we don’t have the distance to ask ourselves:
How am I being influenced?
As Christians, this is a critical question that we should always be asking. Both inside and outside the church there are ungodly influences that threaten the integrity of our discipleship and the authenticity of our faith. And as long as we are constantly putting our lives on display through social media, we will live according to the inevitable temptations that such visibility bring. Rather than setting aside some private time to get real with God or the people with whom we can truly be ourselves, we will constantly be subjecting ourselves to the opinions and judgments of others, and we are sure to be shaped by that pressure.
Even in the church, our community can be mighty persuasive in detrimental ways. When we are constantly operating under the need for the world to think we have the best marriage or the greatest relationship with God, or if we feel an unrelenting pressure to set an example or conform to a certain expectation, then our faith will struggle to be truly authentic. As horrible an existence as that sounds, we willingly subject ourselves to that rat race when we mishandle social media. In doing so, we haven’t lost privacy; we’ve given it away. And as a result, we may become shallow Twitter Christians who can’t turn off our need to perform.
I don’t even HAVE Twitter and I feel it that urge sometimes–that voice inside me that says, “I want to tell all my friends about this cool experience I’m having right now!” instead of being there in the moment and maximizing that time with my husband. It’s not that the urge to share good news with friends is a bad thing, but that urge is a constant nag in my life that indicates some misplaced priorities in my own heart.
That is why I offer yet another caution to be wise about social media. As I have said before, technology can certainly be used for good so this is not a blanket statement against Twitter and Facebook, but please be discerning. Below I have jotted down a few diagnostics to check your motives as you seek to use technology in a way that is honoring to both God and your relationships. These help keep my own heart in check, so I hope they might encourage you as well:
- Make sure that Twitter is not an extension of your need to people-please.
- Don’t use Twitter (or texting) as an escape from the sometimes hard and unglamorous work of being with your family or God.
- Don’t allow Twitter to keep you in a constant place of superficial engagement with others. It’s hard to have real relationships when you’re always thinking of your life as a reality show to be displayed.
- And finally, be sure to seek validation and solace from God first. A moment can be just as joyful or satisfying without the listening ears of 1,000 Twitter followers to hear it. An audience of One is all you need.