I’ve found myself spending less time on social media these days, and I’ve been struggling to figure out exactly why. I still log on and breeze quickly through my newsfeed at least once or twice a day, but where before I would think of funny or random things to craft into a status update on a daily basis, I’m not posting updates as frequently as I once did. Suzanne Hadley Gosselin captured a lot of what I was struggling with in her post “Facebook Wars.” I identified with the comparison that can breed envy and jealousy. I, too, have been guilty of posting things to seek validation from my online community, instead of finding my contentment and value in the Lord. But there’s something else I’ve struggled with in the social media world. And that’s the humblebrag. In her article “Sooo Grateful for My Awesome Hubbie and Life!” Leslie Sebek Miller describes her own struggle after logging on to Facebook on Mother’s Day and feeling like her day didn’t compare to all of her friends posting the wonderful things their husbands did. She writes,
We American Christians have our own version of the humble brag. Instead of prefacing our brag with phony humility, we sometimes soften it with expressions of blessing and gratitude. We want, like everyone else, to show that our life is good, happy, and exciting, but we also don’t want to seem self-important. So we append our posts with praise to God. This is not to say that all online praise is unauthentic—some is, absolutely. But I suspect that some of our expressions of praise are also motivated by a desire to display our life in only a positive light.
Guilty as charged. On a recent vacation, I uploaded a sunset photo with the caption, “Grateful for God’s creation.” I certainly was grateful, and our Creator deserves such praise. But one primary reason for posting the photo was to show everyone in my Instagram feed that I was having a great time in Hawaii. A lot of Christians in my online communities use this kind of language when sharing exciting moments in their lives, whether it’s announcing a new baby, a new car, an engagement, or an exotic vacation.
The question I ask of myself and other Christian social media users is a question of motive: Am I sharing this news/photo/announcement because I am truly grateful, or because I feel more accepted, loved, and important when I talk about it? Ouch. I’ve definitely found myself posting things because I feel more important when I talk about it. When a lot of friends are posting wedding photos and creative baby announcements, I can start to feel bad about myself and as though I don’t have anything fun or exciting to share.
So to prove to myself that I’m not just a lame single 30-year-old, I make sure all of my friends know about my fun and exciting life. I’m not anti-social media at all. I love keeping up with my friends all across the country by watching their updates. Social media can be a way to get to know someone you’re interested in (I could write an entire blog post on the pros and cons of this, so please don’t miss the point by commenting on this one sentence). I appreciate when friends share encouraging verses or post interesting articles. These are all ways social media can be good.
But is our motivation in why we’re posting just as important as what we’re posting? I like how Miller shares a few questions to ask ourselves as Christian social media creators:
—Thou will question his/her own motives before publishing content.
Ask yourself if the content you’re posting is God-glorifying or self-glorifying.
—Thou will praise God privately
…before praising publicly. If you witness a beautiful sunset, sit in the moment before turning to your phone. Sometimes you might realize there’s no one better to share it with than the Creator himself.
—Thou will post the good and the bad,
…within reason. There are natural boundaries for what to share on our accounts, and trying to articulate pain, grief, sadness, or simply boredom to an online audience is trickier than uploading photos from a trip to Barbados. Give thought to how your pictures and words might contribute to healthy community building. I think it’s important to recognize that our social media use affects other people. While we can’t be responsible for how others might respond, either positively or negatively, we can be thoughtful about our own motives and how we contribute to the online conversation.
Do motives matter when posting online? How can we avoid the humblebrag and honestly glorify God in what we post?
Copyright 2013 Ashley Boyer Hendley. All rights resevred.