by Candice Watters
Recently a close unmarried friend asked me about her struggle with Facebook. In the process of answering her question, I was reminded how much her struggle is my own. She wrote:
I was off Facebook completely for a few years, but I rejoined this spring when I was unemployed. I decided I needed the connections that Facebook can provide.
Anyway, here’s my major hang up when it comes to Facebook: Nearly all of my friends use a wedding or baby picture as their profile picture. In addition, almost every post is about their darling, wonderful husband and children. Honestly, it’s a little much at times. Most of the women I knew were single when I first got off Facebook. Now they’re on their second child, and it’s too much to bear.
Do I just need to get over it? Or stay off Facebook? What is the proper attitude toward Facebook if I do get married and have kids? Should I consider my single friends’ feelings before posting?
I quit Facebook a few years ago for a lot of the same reasons she did. Ironically, though, I would have been one of those “friends” posting pictures of my babies and romantic date nights with my husband. The trouble, I fear, isn’t ultimately Facebook, but the human heart.
Facebook (FB) is a tool. It isn’t evil, but even a neutral medium like FB can trigger sin. Whether you’re feeling particularly good about yourself and posting flattering pictures of your new outfit or haircut, updates about your workout, or plans for a vacation; or you’re reading updates from friends talking about their kind and strong husband, their promotion, or the two lines they just saw on the pregnancy test, the quick updates written at a person’s best creates the opportunity for pride and envy. The line between rejoicing and boasting can be razor thin.
Whether single or married, if you find yourself envious over yet another engagement or birth announcement, the sin is yours. But when someone boasts that her diamond is the biggest, most beautiful ring ever–or that her baby is the brightest, cutest, most-advanced baby–the sin is hers. And even where sin is absent, FB rarely (if ever) encourages us to put others ahead of ourselves, or to do “nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3, ESV).
I couldn’t get around the fact that FB was tempting me to sin, so I quit. “Flee sin,” Scripture says. “Be not wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:7-8).
I think this verse is especially apt because FB is notorious for stirring up (not causing) envy. And envy rots your bones (Proverbs 14:30). Nothing FB provides is worth rotten bones!
What about you? If you can be on FB and not be tempted by the frequent reminders that you don’t have what they do, then it’s likely a helpful tool. But if that tool leads you into temptation, or if you find yourself looking to it for your security, identity or fulfillment, you’d be wise to quit. I’ve found very useful Kevin DeYoung’s simple test for whether something is good and not sin: Ask yourself, “Can I thank God for this?”
Can you thank God, truly and from your heart, not only for the tool of FB, but for the message that flows from it into your life? Can you thank Him not only for the technology of real-time updates from people you have relationship with, but for the substance of what they’re saying? Can you rejoice with them for their newborn babies, their sacrificial and loving husbands, their promotions, their homes, their churches?
If not, it may be that they’re sharing in a spirit of pride and boasting. That, too, is sin. But it may be that in this format, and apart from in-person relating and the context real community provides, it’s too much, and you spiral into envy and greed. Don’t despair. We are fallen creatures who must fight against sin. That is why God is merciful when He tells us in His Word to “flee from sin,” to “turn away from evil,” to “set aside the sin that so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1).
When it comes to whether and how to use FB, both now and in the future, it’s not enough to be less boastful and more thoughtful than most of the people there, because as a Christian, we’re not measured against the people around us, but against the perfection of Christ. Romans 12:9-18 shows us how we’re supposed to act with the “Marks of the True Christian,”
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Some believers can do this well in the FB environment; for others, and I include myself in this second group, it’s a struggle. FB doesn’t make you sin, but it gives great opportunity to sin. That’s why I quit. And why I believe it’s wise to flee if you’re tempted there. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36).
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