Light on "Like"
Social media is pervasive. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp are all examples with which many of our readers will be familiar. It is very influential, with its powerful "like" button and emoticons of approval, its one click to send to many, many addresses, it's almost instantaneous feedback. This is a perfect storm of danger for the naive Christian.
"But it has many good uses," you may respond. Point conceded. But there are also dangers, and we must not be naive. The cultural mandate means that we are to have dominion over every part of life.
Our use of social media must be guided and guarded by the word of God. In this article, we will consider two threats that come our way because of social
The first threat is the way it fosters pride. Look at me and like what you see. Isn't that what it comes down to? Posts about what I have done, where I have been, the fun I am having, my cool house, my kitchen, the amazing things I make in it, my lovely children, their clothes, our holiday. This will all be followed by positive comments, messages, emoticons: Fabulous! Fantastic! Super cute!! You are so amazing! and 300 likes. I need some! Social media so easily fosters pride in us.
We live in good times, like the times of the people of Judah as described in Isaiah 2: "Their land is full of silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is also full of horses, and there is no end to their chariots. Their land is also full of idols; they worship the works of their own hands." Their prosperous and secure times filled them with pride, for the LORD speaks about them having haughty looks. They did not have social media in those days, but imagine if they did. Here are the boys in their new four horsepower Memphis chariots. Here are some pictures of our holiday at the summer house (in the background, a glimpse of the poor who are providing the labour to make the holiday go well). Like these new ivory couches we bought. Re-tweet these pictures of our last new moon feast.
The LORD made clear what He thought of their pride: "Enter into the rock and hide in the dust, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day." The day of the LORD was coming. In the Old Testament context, that was a reference to the LORD's judgments as they broke out when the enemy conquered His people. These temporary days of the LORD were precursors for the great day of the LORD, the day of final judgment. Then all pride will be brought low forever.
By warning His people in this way, the LORD was teaching them how much they had to flee from pride. God makes clear that the people would throw away their idols on that day, and would just want to hide away from the terror of the LORD. We need to meditate on this. How this teaches us to hate all pride! Keep me from pride, O LORD. You hate pride and will bring it low when You are exalted on Your great day. May my posts not have the tiniest skerrick in them that has anything to do with pride, with not even the slightest hint of "look at me! I am better than you."
The New Testament makes clear that pride does not only have to do with material things. You can be proud of your righteousness. Think of the Pharisee praying in the temple: "God, I thank You that I am not like other men..." The Lord Jesus warned that the Pharisee proud of his own righteousness was on his way to hell. Pride is dangerous. Social media can even foster this sort of pride, when we post texts, Bible Study notes, and more, so that others can know how diligent and godly we are. Imagine the Pharisee live-streaming his prayer on the street-corner. The positive feedback might warm our hearts, but what is it doing to our soul?
When using social media, we need to go further than just asking ourselves whether we are doing this free from all pride. We need to have a positive reason for putting it there. We should only do things to give glory to God or serve our neighbour. At the end of the day, that is the only reason we should make a post.
The second threat is the way social media tends to redefine friendship. In the age of Facebook, you can have hundreds and thousands of friends. They will receive updates of what you have posted, and hopefully they will from time to time like what you have posted. You can even pay money to companies who will organise friends for you, whether real or fake, and create lots of 'likes' for your webpage, so that people think you are popular. Social media gives you the impression that friends and contacts are to be a constant source of affirmation.
But Scripture gives a very different picture of friendship. We read in Proverbs 27: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend." True friends will not just "like", but will hurt you sometimes. They will tell you: "You should not have said that." They will say to you, or write to you, or text you: "Don't do that." "You should take that back." They will confront you at a party: "Stop that."
Who likes to be corrected or rebuked? Who likes a friend who acts like your conscience, who says: "I don't think we should" or "Is this the right thing to do?" We prefer that others approve of what we do, that they like how we live, that they give lots of 'likes' on our Facebook pages. Even if you don't like it, just like it anyway, it looks good and feels good. We like to be affirmed, and complimented. Even if the person does not care about us, and compliments us for his own purposes. Such are the friends we like to have. Social media reinforces this. Friends should like, affirm, support, and if they don't, then just unfriend them!! Yes, a friend who wounds you can easily be unfriended.
But Proverbs says friends wound you sometimes. In fact, their wounds are faithful. That means those wounds will help you, they will make you grow. They are trustworthy. They will bring you back to the right way, build you up, protect you from going astray.
Being true friends who sometimes wound each other is a gift from the Lord of the Church. He taught His people to exercise mutual discipline, to be friends who wound sometimes. He knows how much help we sinners need to stay on the straight and narrow. He also taught by example, for He rebuked not only the Pharisees and hypocrites, but also His disciples. His apostles taught the churches by example and instruction to rebuke, and Jesus Christ comes with some stern rebukes to the Churches in Revelation 2 and 3.
Don't let social media redefine friendship for you. A true friend won't just like but will sometimes 'dislike,' even vehemently, for your good. Your true friends might be the very ones who did not click 'like,' but came and talked to you about what you were doing when that picture was posted. Your social media is putting you in danger of hell if they are the people you unfriend.
Let the light of God's word shine on your social media. Use it in the service of your God and Saviour. Don't use it to promote yourself, but to bring glory to God and for the benefit of your neighbor. Do so, even if that neighbour sometimes makes you uncomfortable because of the rebukes he gives you. That is what true Christian friends are for.