Selfies, tweets, texts, Facebook friends … What’s a set apart girl to do in today’s digitally-driven world where there are so many distractions from Jesus Christ? Social media can be a great tool for the Kingdom of God – but it can also pose many pitfalls for Christians. Evaluating the hot topic of technology from both Christian and secular viewpoints, Leslie offers practical advice in how to honor Christ with smartphones, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and more!
Leslie Ludy: Hey everyone! It’s Leslie Ludy host of the Set Apart Girl Podcast: Biblical Encouragement for Women of All Ages. Today in our series on Set Apart Living we’re going to be talking about set apartness in social media.
Social media has become such a huge part of our lives that it’s really important for us to be asking the question: how can we honor Christ in this area of our lives? It’s so easy to do what everybody else does on social media and not really think of it as a spiritual part of our lives. And yet social media has such a hold on our culture and dominates so much of our time and our focus, that it’s very dangerous if we set it off to the side and say, “Well, we don’t really need to apply our set apart walk to this area of our lives.”
I knew a girl one time who had a personal blog, and she used her blog to rant and ramble about anything that happened to be on her mind. Pretty soon this blog turned into a personal diary, and she started posting on her blog everything she was looking for in a future husband and all her future dreams. A young man was in her life who was interested in her, and he definitely was not husband material. He was extremely immature. His motives were not honorable. He had a lot of rough edges that still needed to be polished before he would even be ready for marriage. But he read her blog, and he thought, I don’t really need to reform my character to win her heart. I can transform myself instantly into the type of man that she wants in a husband.
So he started posting on his blog and on his social media pages everything that he was, and it just happened to match up perfectly with everything she wanted in a man. But the sad part was that he actually wasn’t any of those things; he was just pretending to be so that he could pull her into a relationship. The relationship was very unhealthy, and the scenario ended in disaster and heartbreak for both of them.
Social Media in Light of Eternity
Leslie Ludy: Social media is very powerful and can be a very dangerous thing if it’s not used correctly. I remember a girl telling me one time, “I spend more time on Facebook then I do in prayer and in the Word of God.” And that bothered her because she knew that she was supposed to be building her life around the things of God. Yet as she looked at the flow of her day and the flow of her week, she realized that she was spending hours and hours on Facebook and very little time in prayer or in the Bible. And I think that reveals how easily Facebook, blogging, or any other form of social media can easily become an unhealthy addiction for many of us. It can rob our time from what’s truly important.
A lot of times we lose sight of the fact that social media does not have eternal value. We can use it for things that glorify God. We can use it to post Scripture and truth about who Jesus is and encourage other people. But oftentimes we only use it for selfish reasons, and we spend hours, and hours, and hours of our lives on something that has no real, eternal value. Often social media can make us obsessed with showcasing ourselves, airing our own opinions, trying to process through our struggles and our hurts in a public way, talking about our likes and our dislikes, and putting a very high value on all the little nuances and details of our daily lives. It can make us way too focused on ourselves and way too focused on what other people think of us.
The key truth here is that social media in itself is not wrong, but if we are not purposeful about how we use it, it can become a hindrance to our set apart walk. So I wanted to share some key principles with you that can hep you use social media in a healthy way. These are things that I have personally applied in my own life because I do have a Facebook presence and some different social media platforms, but I’ve had to take those areas before God and say, “Lord, how can these things be used in a way that doesn’t draw attention to me or pull me into these shallow values of the culture? But how can these platforms be used in a way that truly glorifies You?”
Key Truth No. 1: Avoid Idle Chatter
Leslie Ludy: There are a few things that I feel God has led me to in His Word that have really helped me understand how to use social media in a healthy way. The first one is to avoid idle chatter. Idle chatter is something that you see a lot as you study Scripture, and it’s important to understand what it is, and why we need to avoid it.
2 Timothy 2:16, says, “…shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.” The term “idle babbling” here means empty discussion, or discussion of vain and useless matters. And that is such an incredibly perfect picture of what takes places on so many social media pages — Facebook pages, blogs, and all the rest — empty discussion or discussion of vain and useless matters.
Social media can be a breeding ground for idle chatter, for emotional ramblings, for showing off our own wit and personality, or even for exalting our our thoughts and opinions instead of exalting God’s thoughts and God’s opinions. Idle babbling is the opposite of the godly, fruitful, eternally-focused communication that we’re called to as Christians.
In Romans 14:19, Paul says, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” The word “edify” means to build someone up in their faith, to promote another person’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, and holiness. So, in other words, if we don’t have something important, edifying, and God-honoring to say, then we actually shouldn’t be saying it or posting it. When we make it our goal to edify with the things we post and the things we write, it dramatically changes our approach to social media.
Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, “…every idle word that men shall speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.” That is a very sobering reality. Every idle word that we speak or write, we will need to give an account to God for that word that was spoken or that was written. With all of today’s modern technology it’s easy to say or write meaningless words without even thinking about it. Or we think, Well, social media doesn’t really count as what I’m really saying. But it is! It’s coming out of our hearts. Whatever we write and post is coming out of our hearts. Jesus says we must weigh every word that we say, post, and write in light of eternity.
So I’ve learned to ask myself a couple of key questions. First of all, do these words serve any higher purpose other than to fill space and sound interesting? Do they honor God? Or do they esteem the shallow things of this world?
I can’t tell you how many Christian leaders or Christian Facebook pages I’ve come across where they’re basically filling the page with things that value the shallow things of this world. They’re talking about the latest episode of Dancing With the Stars, or some new Hollywood blockbuster, or some pop song that they really like. It’s shallow, meaningless things that have no eternal value — and that’s what they’re filling their pages with. If our words are hollow and meaningless, Jesus is saying it’s actually better not to say or write them.
Key No. 2: Promote Christ, not Self
Leslie Ludy: The second principle I’ve learned when it comes to social media is to point others to Christ, not to showcase ourselves. When we see the way other people use Instagram, Pintrest, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs it’s so easy to think we need to do what they’re doing, which oftentimes is just a showcase of who they are. Here’s how I look in this outfit. Here’s what I had at Starbucks. Here’s what I’m thinking at this exact moment. Here’s why I was offended by what this person said to me. Here’s my opinion on this social issue. It’s all about me, me, me, me, me! It’s very dangerous to make a little shrine of ourselves on social media. Also, what we do in that scenario is we start to idolize our following, and we become obsessed with how many likes we have, how many followers we have, how many people subscribe to our blog, and what people think of what we’re writing and posting.
Selfies are a great example of how we use digital means to draw attention to self instead of point others to Christ. Even by their very word it’s obvious that selfies are used to promote self for the most part. I really believe that selfies cheapen a woman’s dignity and draw attention to self.
Now if you were going to take a selfie and send a picture of your smiling face to your spouse, to your child, or to your grandma to remind them that you’re thinking of them and that you love them, that is a different story. But if you’re using selfies to flirt with guys, make sure everybody notices you, remembers who you are, and sees your face all day long, then you’re in great danger of idolizing self and the following that you have on social media and using selfies in the wrong way.
Now this is something (a few years ago when selfies first were becoming a trend) that I pulled from an online article on www.webtrends.com which basically examines the sociological reasons why people take selfies. This is not from a Christian perspective. This is just a very factual article of why people are so interested in doing selfies.
The first reason was to get attention from as many people as possible. It says, “People like to get noticed on social media, and all those likes and comments from friends are a quick and easy way to fish for compliments and boost one’s own ego.” And secondly, the article said it’s to get a self-esteem boost. The article said, “Many people might upload selfies to deal with their own self-consciousness.” And three, the article said is to show off. It said, “It’s human nature to want to show off your own great achievements. When you feel good about yourself, or look good, it’s easy to reach for your phone and document it all through one, or several, selfies.”
Now that’s just the world’s definition of what a selfie is, and why people take selfies. But I think just by definition, we as Christians and as set apart daughters of the King, should be very, very guarded because the world is saying the reason you would even take selfies is to get attention from people, to get a self-esteem boost, and to show off.
Think about that in contrast with God’s perspective. In Luke 14:11, Jesus says, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” And John the Baptist gives us such an incredible picture of selflessness as opposed to selfishness when he says, “I must decrease, but He,” meaning Jesus, “must increase” (Jn. 3:30, emphasis added). So our goal on social media, or in every other area of our life, is to decrease so that Jesus could increase. People don’t see more and more of Jesus when they see more and more of us. They see more and more of Jesus when they see less and less of us. We need to learn how to get self out of the way so that the light, and the nature, and the attitude of Christ can come shining through us.
Even think about it from the perspective of guy/girl relationships. Imagine those old-fashioned, beautiful, Jane-Austen-types of love stories. If the woman in those stories was sending selfies — or self-portraits — to a potential suitor all day long, just imagine how the story would be ruined! One of the things that makes those dignified, old-fashioned love stories so beautiful is because the woman guarded her mystery and wasn’t trying to put herself in a man’s face all day long.
So the bottom line with selfies is that if you’re going to take and send selfies, send it to your spouse, your child, or your grandma — and don’t use it to draw attention to self. Look at what you post, tweet, and write. Is your purpose to draw attention to self, or is it to edify others and point them to Jesus Christ?
Key Truth No. 3: Set Healthy Boundaries
Leslie Ludy: The third principle for social media is that we have to learn how to put boundaries around the time we spend on social media. I remember hearing a financial planning expert once say you need to look at how much you’re actually spending on all the different categories in your budget — not just how much you think you’re spending on food, clothes, and entertainment. Actually write it down, and keep record of it because a lot of people are spending more in those categories then they assume that they are. Once they can really look at what they’re spending, they can get a better handle on their budget.
It is exactly the same with our time. We so often think, Well, I’m only spending probably an hour a day on social media. But if you actually were to sit down and set a timer every time you’re on social media — every time you’re posting something on Instagram, every time you’re texting, every time you’re on Twitter, or tweeting things — you might be really shocked at how many hours of your day, or week, are being eaten up with social media. So many of us feel that we don’t have enough time for prayer and studying God’s Word. But if we were to look at how many hours we’re wasting on social media we might be surprised to learn that we actually do have more time for those things of eternal value than we really thought we did. If only we simply were willing to put healthy boundaries around our time spent on social media!
So some of the practical things that you can do. First of all, set a timer. Write down the amount of time you actually spend on those things. If you think, I really am spending too much of my time and too much of my daily life on things of social media. I don’t have enough time for things of eternal value, and I need to cut back. Then make yourself a very clear schedule. Say, “I’m only going to spend this amount of time in these areas.” Or even cut it out all together for a season if you need to. I would highly recommend recruiting an accountability partner who can help you stay on track with those boundaries and those goals that you set for yourself. Unless you put boundaries around social media, it’s very likely that you can become addicted to it, and you can spend way more time on social media than on the things that truly are priorities in the Kingdom of God.
Key Truth No. 4: The Dangers of Digital Flirting
Leslie Ludy: The fourth principle for social media is especially for you single women listening — be aware of digital flirting. Now I talked earlier about the young woman who used her personal blog to showcase to the world what she wanted in a husband. I think so often young women today — because of desperation, because they’re so eager to find that perfect match — they want to use their Facebook page, their blog, or some other form of social media as a way to draw attention from the opposite sex and to engage in flirting that happens in a digital form. It’s easy to think, Well, it’s not really flirting because it’s happening over a computer or on a phone. Still, digital flirting is still flirting. Flirting, by definition, is an effort to draw the attention of the opposite sex to yourself, usually in a sensual way.
Proverbs 31:12, says a godly woman does her husband good and not harm, “all the days of her life” (emphasis added). Not just after she meets him. So in light of this truth, it’s important to ask the question: If you wouldn’t flirt with other men after you’re married, then why is it okay to flirt with them before you’re married on social media or in any other way? When you flirt with guys you’re enticing and distracting them with your wit and charm, and you’re often causing them a lot of distraction and temptation. In addition, you’re also dishonoring your future husband and disregarding God’s pattern for feminine mystery.
Read Proverbs 7:7-12, for a closer look — and a very sobering look — at what God says about trying to entice men. We’re not going to go into that today, but I will say that in our modern age of technology we have to understand that flirting is still flirting even if it’s done digitally. So strategically texting guys with teasing, witty, and flattering comments at just the right moments is really no different than openly flirting with guys in person.
A lot of young women ask me my opinion about online dating, and I really do believe that online dating is another way to cheapen a woman’s dignity. Instead of waiting for God to script your love story in His own time and way, you’re in this huge rush to take matters into your own hands, and you have to create this profile to prove to the world why you’re a good catch, why you’re attractive, and why these guys should want to date and marry you. It’s like standing on a stage in front of a room full of single, available guys and doing a slideshow presentation of what makes you so great, and why they should be interested in you. This is such a far cry from God’s pattern of feminine mystery and of guarding the sacred things of your heart! So my advice is to steer clear of online dating, and entrust this area of your life to God. He does not need you to make yourself a beautiful profile and prove to the world why you’re a good catch in order to write your love story.
Key Truth No. 5: Protect Feminine Mystery
Leslie Ludy: The fifth principle for social media is to guard what is sacred. I really believe that we have exalted the wrong kind of honesty in our culture today. You’re constantly hearing about, I just need to be honest! Can I just be honest? I just need to share this thing on my heart! I just have to get this out! And we often use social media as a platform for ranting and venting our emotions, for sharing our very personal struggles, our anger towards other people, and even our intimate thoughts and emotions.
This is like, as I said earlier, showcasing your private journal to the entire world. You can oftentimes use the banner of “honesty” to share things that really should not be shared with the world. They should be guarded. They should be taken to the feet of Jesus, maybe shared with a trusted friend or mentor, but not showcased to the entire world. Again, it’s the opposite of guarding our feminine mystery when we blatantly rant and vent about every emotion, thought, struggle, and desire that comes into our mind.
I love the example of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in Scripture because so many times Mary could have travelled all around the countryside and shared with her friends. She was going through something so amazing in giving birth to the Christ child and raising the Son of God! Yet in Luke 2:19, it says that Mary, “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” She had such a sense of guardedness — of guarding what was sacred — not just rushing around the countryside to tell everybody everything she was thinking, feeling, and experiencing. But she kept all of these things and pondered them in her heart. And “pondered and kept them in her heart” means to guard, to protect, and to keep within one’s self. Very likely I believe that Mary’s discretion and guardedness was one of the reasons that she was chosen for the sacred task of giving birth to Jesus and raising Him because she wasn’t one to go blab her thoughts, feelings, and emotions to everyone. She was willing to keep those things hidden and sacred.
That is what God is calling us to as set apart women. Just because we see other people blabbing their thoughts, their emotions, their desires, and their struggles under the banner of “honesty” does not mean that it is the right way for us to live or to handle social media.
In 1 Peter 3:4, Peter is talking about the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is very precious in the sight of God. Now having a gentle and quiet spirit, if you’ve ever studied that, it doesn’t just mean having a quiet personality. It actually means keeping self quiet so that Jesus can be seen clearly through your actions and your words. You can actually have an outgoing personality and still have a gentle and quiet spirit because your “self” that loud, draw-attention-to-myself, “I want everyone to notice and see me” personality — If that is kept quiet, if you decrease so that Jesus can increase in your life, then you’re truly able to showcase His nature to the world as opposed to putting yourself out there for everyone to notice.
I would really encourage you to look at ways that you might be sharing too much and not showing true discretion and guardedness on social media. Learn to follow the example of Mary who kept the sacred things close and pondered them in her heart, rather than using social media as a way to vent and express them.
Leslie Ludy: So here are some final thoughts about social media. Think about the fact that God has prepared good works in advance for us to walk in (Eph. 2:10). Every day He has these good works ready for us to walk in! Even though digital communication has its place, there is a much greater real-life, daily adventure that God has planned for you! So put down your phone, close your computer, and open your eyes to see the people that He has placed right in front of you today. Don’t waste your life in a virtual reality. Live in a real world. Learn the art of face-to-face communication — the hands-on Gospel work. Facebook, texting, and Instagram should never dominate your life. Those things will not last for eternity. So don’t build your life around social media; build your life around Jesus Christ.
Thank you for listening to the Set Apart Girl Podcast. I pray that you have a blessed and Christ-centered week!