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)