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Welcome to Fakebook

Facebook has definitely been an eye-opening experience for me. This phenomenon of an online network has allowed me to reconnect with people who I never thought I would speak to again. I’ve seen old photos of my comrades and me that have warmed my heart, made me smile and even laugh out loud on occasion. I’m frequently amazed at how many people from my past have managed to find me online and request to be my Facebook “friend”. Needless to say, it has joyously highlighted the bonds (both big and small) I’ve made with people throughout my almost forty years on earth.

But it has also highlighted something else – sin. Unfortunately, it’s all too common to see many who claim an allegiance to Jesus Christ post thoughts, pictures, videos and other activities that Scripture both implicitly and explicitly condemns as sin. Some even have commented with defiance at how proud they were to do what they did…it seems courage, however misplaced, is found in spades when all you have to do is type and hit “enter”. But something happened a week or so ago that created more than a blip on my Facebook radar. A “friend” in my network was exposed for allegedly feigning cancer so as to garnish the attention (and even the financial support?) of others. Admittedly, I was shocked to hear about it. Many were outraged and angered by the purported deception. It only reinforced the thought that Facebook, like almost anything else in life, can be twisted for sinful purposes.

But after reflecting on this for some time, I’ve come to the realization that maybe the biggest sinner I’ve seen in this little experiment called Facebook happens to be the one currently at my laptop. In fact, when news broke about the fake cancer I was reminded not so much how great a sinner this person might be but how great of one I am. And maybe you too.

Think about it, Facebook can easily devolve into being all about image-management. We share only what we want to share, and the big temptation is to only release info that  always casts us in the best light possible. For example, because all too often we base our identity on our self-performance instead of what Christ has done for us we might…

  • choose “single” instead of “divorced” as our status because we don’t like letting people know our marriage imploded and fear they will think less of us.
  • only upload pics of us at our “visual best” – no double chins, gray hairs, wrinkles on the face – because what we currently look like now wouldn’t make people think, “Wow, they still look great after all these years!”
  • always talk about and show our accomplishments (homes, job, money, etc.) just to let our friends know that after high school and college that not only did we do it right but we probably did it better than them!
  • still feel the need to portray ourselves as cool because we still haven’t escaped the trap of needing the approval of our peers, even though we haven’t seen some of them in twenty years (and may not see them for twenty more).

Now, because of the idolatrous need to find one’s worth and identity in the acceptance and approval of others instead of the Gospel, Facebook can unfortunately devolve into Fakebook.

To be fair, there are plenty of people on Facebook who don’t struggle with this, but if you find yourself creating a profile so sparkling that it would make Buttercup from The Princess Bride jealous you’re probably not one of them. I know I’m not. When I slow down and get a little clarity I’m almost frightened at how much of a temptation Facebook can become to my heart. So I periodically must ask myself questions: Do I find significance in Christ’s work at the Cross or how many total friends I’ve accumulated? Is the Gospel my identity or do I seek to gain my worth based on how many positive remarks I can receive as I fish for compliments? Is this status informing others or boasting before others?

What I’ve got to get through my thick head is that there are more ways to deceive people and sin against them (and myself) than by faking cancer. Followers of Jesus do it every time they find themselves  working on Fakebook instead of Facebook.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
– Colossians 3:3 (ESV)

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

9 thoughts on “Welcome to Fakebook”

  1. Pam (White) Higdon

    Thanks Yancy! I think we (me included) all needed to hear that after this past week. It’s real easy to judge others even though we all sin (especially on facebook). Thanks for reminding us how facebook can turn into fakebook.

  2. Deanne Dowis Milford

    Yancey, thank you for sharing this. This has been an especially trying week for me and several of my newly reconnected friends. It is so easy to sit back and talk about how awful people are and what sins they have done in their life and forget that we are not without sin. No sin is different in the eyes of God but it sure is through our human eyes! Thank you for helping me open my eyes.

  3. Hey yancey…I took this through my self-reflective soul I knew in my heart of hearts that my relationship says ‘single’ So I went to change it thinking I was guilty of one of your examples… There actually was no choice for ‘divorced’ My marriage did implode….I did sin…I cannot conform my profile to what i actually am even if i wanted to. facebook helps us make a fakebook.


  4. Mark, my intention in giving those examples is to highlight the motivation behind what we do, not necessarily the explicit action itself. I’m sure it can be done with good intentions. I was trying to simply show that, at times, we may be tempted to manage our image because we trust more in the approval of others than the acceptance of God in Christ. Thus my giving of the “why” behind the activities in the example.

    Nevertheless, thanks for reflecting over the post.

  5. Truth in advertising….scary thought. Does that mean we should we expect to see a pic of your ugly mug, unshaven, unkempt with love handles busting your belt line on your site very soon?! If you need help, I’m sure I can dig something up! j/k 😉

    Good thoughts. Was just working on some similar ideas after reading Tim Keller’s notes on Galatians last night. May have to steal this illustration for Sunday’s sermon.

  6. Yancey, your post, as usual is invaluable . A really challenging thought for not only facebook users, but for everyone as our increasingly complex world becomes more transparent through the use of collaborative technologies.

  7. So true, so true. I had to delete my facebook account for this very reason. I saw myself joining in the high school popularity contest all over again. The hardest part for me was finding myself unintentionally turning into a facebook stalker, getting into people’s business that I haven’t talked to in 10+ years. So weird! The new policy for me was if I didn’t have their phone number, then I had no reason to be “friends” with them on facebook. And if I had their phone number, I had no reason to spy on them on facebook.

    Yancy: Not sure if you’ve read Donald Miller’s “Searching For God Knows What”, but he hits on the exact human condition that you mentioned in this post. No wonder facebook is such a money maker. If there wasn’t that whole ethical thing, pastors would make great investors, lol.

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