Christianity, Social Media, and Honesty

*My computer died, but I was gifted one by my wonderful brother and sister-in-law, so enjoy your resurrection, little blog!

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it looks like to be a Christian on social media. I don’t mean which articles to click on or what “Christian sources” to only read from. But more specifically the things we as Christians post and their repercussions on the evolution of our culture. As we know and experience there’s a tendency to craft your social media persona to get the most approval or the best response. This idea isn’t anything profound, the conversation around the unrealistic expectations we find within social media is a discussion plenty of people are having. But when I think about how this has colored my faith, or more specifically my willingness to be open about my faith online, I feel really scared for what’s happening inside my heart and how that’s reflective of the current Christian culture.

Of course, I can read a book some old guy wrote about how technology is effecting “our youth” (I can read 80 books like that actually), but I’d rather take a look at myself and ask why I feel a hesitancy to post about my faith. Whether that stems from a predisposition to be more private in general, a fear of being ostracized, or repulsion at the thought of feeding into trendy Christianity.
So let’s begin this self-indulgent dive into Jessica’s psyche, in the interest of finding something of greater value for my Christian peers.

Initially I thought my reluctance comes from an underlying Luddite leaning to shun technology. But whenever I’ve had a no-more-social-media-cleanse-the-technology kick, it’s never sustainable. I can’t be kept away. This is something I’ll someday analyze, but in the meantime I’ll say I’ve found value in documenting my life, and keeping the world updated on what I did today is not inherently bad.

So my thoughts turned to my non-Christian friends, and asking the obvious question: am I operating out of a fear of being disliked by those who disagree with me? These are people with whom I don’t want to lose my friendships … or my reputation. I was tempted to just end that sentence, but the truth is I partially don’t want to seem lame to an old teacher or that one person from school or old coworkers. A bit more transparency within social media would solve a plethora of problems, so in the interest of honesty (and letting my faith permeate all parts of my life) I should be more open because my faith is a real part of who I am.

But here I think I’ve cracked it. I don’t think posting in the vein of most Christians on social media is operating out of honesty. Truly, I don’t want to declare my faith everyday on Facebook in front of x y z person, because I don’t see my faith reflected online. It doesn’t feel like a great witness to put my quiet and genuine moments with the Lord lumped into what I’d consider to be a pretty toxic idea of Christianity that’s been perpetuated through social media. I don’t mean the distortion of the gospel by homegrown, radical religious terrorist, but a line of thinking more pervasive in our everyday lives and posts.

My faith is messy and complicated and confusing and hurts my brain and makes me think and be better. My Christianity doesn’t look like Hillsong or coffee shop shots of my bible, or women’s retreats because my Christianity just isn’t made up of that. And of course those things have moved me before and aren’t at all inherently bad. Complexity of thought can and does exist within those places; plenty of people work better in coffee shops or love listening to the latest worship albums or enjoy a getaway with friends for a weekend, but that’s just not been my experience with Christianity. My best moments are the hard ones. Time spent in private, in the quiet corner of my apartment in my sweatpants, working through things that are difficult to delicately phrase in an Instagram post. And on top of this, I think it’s toxic to pretend that those aren’t moments Christians are having daily. By all means, post about our coffee shop or that great devotional, but I do think there is a responsibility to be honest about what the struggle looks like as well. When we polish and publish our peak moments- our best days and weekends- and neglect to show the valleys and the work it takes to be spiritually healthy, what are we telling our audience, Christian and no-Christian alike, about the realities of following Christ?

There’s a tendency in ourselves, and a tactic of the enemy, to make us believe that we must get it together, look a certain way, listen to/read certain things to really be a follower of the Lord, or rather be perceived as such. I fall into this temptation to edit my faith daily, almost every time I open Instagram. I’m sure you can dig into my social media history and find some incriminating stuff (please don’t. Please, I beg of you). So rather than engaging with the temptation to play into this brand of Christianity, I just avoid posting about my faith altogether, because that’s easier than writing this essay or being honest in front of my friends about the hard work of following Christ. Because it’s difficult, being vulnerable and following Christ.

Trying to edit my life to fit what someone else’s Christianity looks like is a disservice to how the Lord has been working in my heart individually in the last decade. But on top of that, it perpetuates a part of Christian culture that doesn’t feel very Christ-like. We saw Christ question the Lord and battle in prayer. He ate with the people who didn’t look cool, and didn’t care much about how he looked himself. He also walked on the water and healed people and did stuff that made Him look pretty awesome, but His top priority was obedience, not the perception of the public. There is so much individuality that can be found when you encounter Christ. It doesn’t lead to isolation, but liberates the person to know how God created them specifically. But when we try to fit into what the coolest Christian blogger of the day looks like, it’s making Christianity look like it only produces uniformity.

So here I am, realizing it’s not honest for me to be silent about my faith, or quiet about the struggles, because that’s not who I am or what my Christianity looks like. My Christianity has been enriched and colored in by my doubts and struggles and Jim Elliot and Amy Carmichael and Sheldon Vanauken and the old ladies from my church and poetry and nature and hymns and Portland and Paris. It hurts sometimes and can bring tears, because change isn’t easy, but I think my being open and honest about it could only lead to good.
I want my online presence to reflect the breadth of my faith, and I’m pretty glad I’ve figured out how to do it.

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