social media

The Selfishness of Social Media

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Social media is an influential and dangerous tool. Many people, including Christians, use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In fact, you regularly check and interact with several social media accounts. With such popular usage, Christians cannot assume a laissez faire attitude will suffice in their social media usage and interaction.

Social media has been rightly criticized as a platform where divisive discourse flourishes. Sides are quickly taken on the latest controversial issue and the conversation becomes heated. We are right to remember that a human person is on the receiving end of our social media interaction. Thus, our interactions should abound in love and care for those we interact with.

However, even in the midst of re-evaluating our social media usage, Christians can forget to examine ourselves inwardly. We deceive ourselves into thinking we have mastered social media usage when the reality may be more alarming. Rather than focusing on how we should use social media, we should be aware that social media is designed to focus and exalt the user.

Every notification is a potential self-esteem boost.

The Selfishness of Social Media

Here are some ways that social media feeds your selfishness.

Inward Focus

As an online platform, social media is inherently self-focused. You create and customize a profile that highlights you. You also can determine who your friends and followers are. You can showcase all the positives (and sometimes negatives) from your life. Even the ads you see are directed at your online habits. Ultimately, social media is foundationally about you. But we can easily forget this self-focused foundation when we interact with others and believe we are on a noble crusade to be on the right side of truth.

Obsession with Likes and Notifications

Social media quietly reinforces this self-centeredness through the subtlety of “likes” and “notifications.” All the various social media platforms have their own versions of a feedback system that alerts you to when others interact on your profile. This feedback is not only visual or audible but may also be touch where the user is alerted the moment interaction occurs on their page (the alert on a smart phone or watch for example).

While the feedback our social media gives us may seem innocent enough or can be overlooked as frivolous fun, they reinforce our self-centered desires. Every notification is a potential self-esteem boost as we feel like someone is looking at our page. Every “like” is a positive interaction that releases dopamine so that we want more of it. It is not long that this feedback turns into an obsession where we crave more of it.

Envy Toward Others with more Followers

On social media, we can easily tell who the “popular” or “important” people are. They are the ones with the high friend or follower count. As such, it would appear that these high friend/follower count profiles are the ones making a tangible difference. In our quest to be known, we desire to achieve a similar status like those whose words influence a large multitude. We develop jealous feelings toward those we envy and may ignore the impact this has upon our hearts.

The Ends Justify the Means

We can stand for many great and important causes. Social media allows us to advocate for certain positions or stand in solidarity with causes we want to support and in a community with others who share similar concerns. In our passion and haste to defend our position (however right it may be), we believe that our online words are acceptable. Our opinion/stance is what matters, and we will do whatever it takes to win the argument including, but not limited to, belittling our opponents. Thus, the focus remains inward on ourselves where our pride continues to build as we are encouraged by our supporters, but outside observers only see hateful spite and vicious speech from our profiles.

Consider whether your social media voice is necessary to the on-going conversation or whether you are only trying to “stir the pot.”

Asking Ourselves Hard Questions

In light of how social media highlights the user, let me offer a few suggestions on how to think through our social media usage.

Why are you posting?

Before you post or interact on social media, consider your reason for posting that status or reply. Is the purpose of your post to exalt yourself and bring attention to you? Are you truly concerned about the conversation you have engaged in, or do you care only about whether more people see your post? Must you join the conversation?

Consider whether your social media voice is necessary to the on-going conversation or whether you are only trying to “stir the pot.” If your answers for why you are posting does not glorify God and respect the person on the receiving end perhaps you should reconsider your post.

Are you considering others as more important than yourself?

Scripture commands us to consider others as more significant than yourself (Philippians 2:3). This mindset should be just as true in our online interactions. Reflect on the following questions.

  • Are you rude and snarky to those you disagree with?
  • Do you look to win social media “street cred” and put down others as the way to earn the “mic drop” moment or support of others?
  • Even if you fundamentally disagree with another, is there a better way to still display Christ’s love and gentleness than insults and name-calling?

Social media can be a fun platform with which to interact with others, but it also feeds our pride by providing an ever-present platform where we display ourselves for the world to see. We hunger for praise and affirmation, and social media is a buffet where we can overindulge on these desires. If we are not careful, our pride will be overfilled by the self-focused enticements social media offers and we forget who we truly belong to.

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  • social media
  • technology
Eddy Wu

Eddy Wu is a Ph.D. student in Christian Apologetics and Culture at Southeastern Seminary, where he works as the IT Operations Manager. He loves technology and is interested in the problem of evil. He and his wife Erica live in Wake Forest with their 2 kids.

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