The Ninth Commandment and the Pain of Social Media
Who are you? If we read your Twitter bio, browsed your Instagram feed, or connected with you on Facebook, would we know the answer?
The school of the world trains us to oversell in our bios, inflate our LinkedIn skills, obsess over the right angle to take the perfect selfie, and have a social stream that is a montage of half-truths (at best) about our lives.
But as Christians, we serve the God of truth. We follow the One who said, “You shall not bear false witness…” (Exodus 20:16). On the world’s largest stage we need to be vigilant. It takes an intentional commitment to truth, and a daily reliance upon the Holy Spirit, to combat the current of our culture.
Worse, social media has become a mask for many deep scars. The smiling teen on Instagram is secretly suicidal. The happy couple enjoying “date night” is considering a divorce. And the ardent defender of orthodoxy (in Facebook comments) hasn’t read his Bible or prayed in weeks.
Although it is no excuse for breaking the ninth commandment, how does a suicidal teen approach their family, friends, or church with the truth of their pain when all they see from those around them is a world of magic moments? How does a couple considering divorce ask for help when all their friends’ marriages are perfect—surely they couldn’t relate? And no other Christian ever struggles with prayerlessness, right?
Our perfect social media lives not only isolate those who are suffering, they deny the reality of our fallen world. And without a fallen world, where is the need for a Savior?
This doesn’t mean you need to share every heartache on Twitter, confess every sin or struggle publicly, or only post selfies when you’re having a bad hair day. But it does mean we should be real—we should be truthful. And it’s not always the perfectly framed moments, it’s what we say in the caption that creates the illusion. The ninth commandment is far reaching and ought to be considered before grabbing the worldwide microphone of social media.
Let’s also not forget that there is an inherent flaw in social technology: despite the many blessings it can bring when used rightly, social technology cannot perfectly replace face-to-face interactions. I know first hand how a suicidal individual can fool those around them, but despite these tragic exceptions, in-person interactions are always better for detecting signs of pain and suffering. Discipleship, friendship, life, are all meant to be lived in a real-world community. Even a recent secular study confirmed this truth—something Christians have always known. Consider the Apostle John’s words:
“Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” (2 John 12)
May we regularly meditate upon the ninth commandment, considering its implications for all of life, and seek to never allow the content of our social media to hinder truth-filled deep relationships offline.