Seeking Validation through Social Media

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:2-3

Years ago our family shared one computer. My husband and I would take turns working on it, and in between, the kids would play learning games. Once a day, we would connect to our dial-up service to get our email provided incoming calls didn’t interrupt the connection. That was an event.

How far we’ve come in 20 years. Now we’re all perpetually connected to the point that we feel grossly inconvenienced when we’re not. With that perpetual connectedness—thanks in part to smartphones—has come the rise of social media.

At first I resisted social media and smartphones because I resented people retreating into virtual worlds when I was trying to connect face-to-face. It became a matter of pride. “I will never be one of those people whose face is buried in my smartphone!” I would insist. Yeah. Right.

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. – 1 Corinthians 10:12

Then work demands compelled I have constant access to email, and it eventually became impossible to avoid texting. Soon I was not only into social media, I was into social media. My blog presence only added to social media commitments. The sad result is now I’m one of those people whose face is buried in my smartphone.

And I’ve discovered something that I don’t think is unique to me: I began to seek validation through social media. How many people liked my post? Did the right people like it? How many friends and followers do I have? Am I clever enough? Am I funny enough? Am I deep enough? Do I matter?

But the real question is, does it matter? If my mind is set on things above and I’ve died to myself, then I would be intent on doing all things for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). I wouldn’t require validation from people because I’m living in the service and for the pleasure of God.

The very fact that I seek validation from anyone other than Christ means I’m not quite dead yet. Perhaps I’m mortally wounded, but not dead.

So here’s what I suggest—for myself and for you. Assuming you’re maintaining your spiritual health, use social media to make authentic connections. Identify people who need prayer, and encourage people who need encouragement. If you see a friend behaving inappropriately, use Proverbs 9:8 as a guideline in confronting her privately instead of criticizing her publicly in a comment thread.

Share truth—not in an I’m-going-to-bash-you-over-the-head-with-my-faith way but gently and respectfully (1 Peter 3:15). And conduct yourself—always, always, always!—in a way that will glorify God and cause others to want what you have.

Resist the temptation to retreat to social media when you’re around others unless to share something with them. Make yourself accountable to the people who are closest to you, and don’t grouse when they call you on it. Pray for strength to resist temptation – that dopamine surge of instant gratification you get from receiving texts or notifications. Yeah, it’s a bona fide addiction.

Most of all, don’t allow yourself to elevate human relationships above your relationship with Christ. People will never be able to fill that “God-shaped vacuum” described by philosopher Blaise Pascal. They, like you, are imperfect. Fix your eyes on the One who isn’t. You won’t regret it. And you can’t say that about social media.

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