A 2014 study suggested “oversharing” on Facebook may be an indicator of loneliness. Although the study had some obvious weaknesses, for instance, (the sample inexplicably included only women), it seems to jibe with similar research.
Other studies have found too many Facebook selfies make people not like you and that having a ton of Facebook friends could be bad news for charities. Then there’s the direct link between Facebook and “socially aggressive narcissism.” We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention how dangerous Facebook is to your self-esteem, and how Facebook addiction is totally a thing and how Facebook may literally make you crazy.
Why are we still on Facebook?
Before we collectively panic and toss our computers out the window (only to log in to Facebook on our phones), let’s remember that these studies largely concern themselves with Facebook overuse, not casual Facebook use. Some of them even draw a distinction between the Facebook “addict” and the social media enthusiast. As with anything, there’s probably not a problem using social media in moderation—the question is, where do we decide to draw the line?
The fact is that happens to be a really tough question to answer, since one guy or gal’s “moderation” may be entirely different from that of another. As Brett McCracken expounds in his excellent Gray Matters, the tension between legalism and liberty is tough to navigate. In 1 Corinthians 6 and again in chapter 10, Paul urges care in the things we decide to engage. When it comes to Facebook use, it may be helpful to begin by carefully considering both why and how we use it the way we do.
Am I using Facebook to develop an identity?
There are two types of people on Facebook. Actually, there are millions of types of people on Facebook; but let’s focus on two. The first is the person who you feel like you can get a pretty good idea of from the things they post and say. Then there’s the person whose page feels like a self-styled ersatz version of the person on the other side of the screen.
If you’re a heavy social media user, take some time to determine whether you fall into the latter camp. In Ecclesiastes 2:11, Solomon finds himself looking at all he’d done and realised it was vanity, everything lost and nothing gained. The term “vanity” here actually connotes more than just self-absorption, it means something close to idol worship. When Facebook is used to shape the way the world sees us, we simultaneously create an idol of ourselves and ignore that what man sees is far different from what God does.
Am I using Facebook to draw attention to myself?
Whole Internet forums are dedicated to cringeworthy status updates, photos and attention-grabbing content posted on Facebook: the status update that says “everything sucks, you can try calling but I probably won’t answer,” the sanctimonious rant about X issue of the day, the excessive selfie session.
What makes the cry for attention so dangerous is that a lot of times we can do it without realizing it; after a while, we find ourselves staring at the status bar wondering what we might post that’ll get the biggest reaction. Let’s face it—there are plenty of things worth pointing people to, from charities to church services. Drawing attention to ourselves necessarily draws it away from other, more important things. Consider not how you can get the biggest reaction. Rather consider how you can make the best impact for the hopefully limited amount of time you spend on social media.
Do I worry about the number of likes and comments I get when I post?
Maybe it goes without saying, but if you feel super bummed that no one liked the last picture of your cat or commented on your funny story about what happened in the supermarket, it’s probably time to take a step back from social media. Services that help gauge social influence might tend to exacerbate the issue since likes, comments, shares and retweets increase the perception that an individual is “influential.” Of course the problem is that it really doesn’t matter whether you’re influential because of your work for amnesty or for incessantly tweeting every detail of every waking moment. One is a good type of influence, the other lacks value. Consider why you’re so concerned that people appreciate your last post.
How does my Facebook use point to Christ?
This is one of those mission-critical questions we should be asking about every aspect of our lives. Since our private lives are shared at a fever pitch on Facebook, often to the point of obsession, it’s time to admit that perhaps we’re the most public on social media than we’ve ever been allowed to be. Although one might expound upon this topic using myriad examples and Bible verses, consider how succinctly a bit from the Lorica of St. Patrick sums it up:
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
How different would Facebook look if every post we made, every comment, each share and each update, were held to this standard? How different would we look if we spent the amount of time with Christ that we do on social media? (As a writer and social media guy, this question haunts me.)
Take one final look at some of the studies mentioned above and remind yourself that, as ridiculous as it might seem, Facebook use can harm you and those around you—damaging not only your relationship with yourself and others, but potentially your relationship with the Lord. We have liberty to engage in social media, but the charge to do so in moderation. Let’s be brave enough to face the potentially damning question, “how have I been using Facebook?”
Brandon William Peach is a writer, social media specialist, and the co-founder of Theologues. His work has been featured across the web on topics such as religion, pop culture, technology and more. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonPeach.