SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE ERA OF TRANSPARENCY VS PRIVACY
In our world today we often face this crucial balance. We’re connected more than ever in social media. Often times many of us even conditioned to say where we are, what we’re doing, and what our thoughts are about a plethora of situations and issues. Why do we find it alluring to share this information? I have myself come to realize that it’s okay to tone this down. As much as I love to collect milestones through pictures and posts via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – there’s definitely something to be said about maintaining privacy. Enjoying the moment rather than trying to capture it in a way that oversells it is a dying trend. It practically seems secondary if we are living the moment or not, and a higher priority to show off our vacations, life highlight reels, and play-by-play life analysis in these social media formats.
I believe that transparency is integral to living, and especially echoes as crucial in the life of a Christian. As believers we want to showcase what a life surrendered to Jesus Christ looks like. It’s part of our calling to be in the world, but not of the world, showing everyone that it’s distinctive from surrendering to the passions of the flesh.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV).
It’s counter-intuitive for a non-believer to think how surrendering to Jesus Christ is true freedom, and freedom to sin is actually bondage. We can’t demonstrate this reality without sacrificing some level of comfort and privacy for the sake of transparency in light of God’s Kingdom. Yet, we can be certain, that privacy is still valuable in many areas of our lives. Concealing the intimate details of our family and best friends is important. Just because I enjoy being more transparent than most in my writings, and in the way I publicly comport myself with my testimony, doesn’t mean that everyone wants to follow that route.
There are also many people that share their every day lives on Youtube. I don’t want to criticize them in the slightest, but it does appear like a conditioning that I don’t want to fall into. In fact I have stepped back a little bit from throwing out every little detail about my life on other forms of social media. This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t take a selfie with a friend at a new restaurant, share a few pictures from my favorite vacation with loved ones, share an amazing picture of a meal, or share my testimony. I think we cross the line when we throw away our sensitivity towards placing a value on the privacy that we can still cherish. There’s a peace about not being a slave to our phones, or other mediums we use to update our network with these sorts of posts.
The other way we cross the line is when our motivations are flawed. Are we posting these updates in an effort to entice our friends to envy or become jealous of us? Do we share the posts for the sake of showing off without any redeeming value? Has it become such an ingrained part of our life that letting it go for a while creates a giant void? Do we find it awkward to “fast” from social media for a few days, because we’re not up to date on all our friend’s recent adventures? Are we addicted to these sorts of processes or can we turn away at any time for significant periods?
These are questions we have to look in the mirror and answer for ourselves. The counter point of course is when the social media serves Godly purposes. Are we motivating other people with excerpts from God’s Word? Do we share posts, articles, or even book references that build up God’s Kingdom? Truth be told I have many posts like this, but just as many or more that fall into the negative side of this evaluation. It’s not that I seek to cause my friends to be jealous of my lifestyle, but I could see how some of my posts might unintentionally incite that from people. I should take this into consideration and be more careful what I put up.
While we’re on the topic of social media, as it relates to transparency, we should ask ourselves another question. Do we evaluate each post, comment, and picture based on the audience that will see it? Internally ask yourself something similar to: “If the whole world were to read this message, would I be okay with that?” This includes employers, family, friends, and countless others online who may access it if it became popular. You don’t want to write anything that you wouldn’t say in person, and furthermore that digital footprint of your post will not fade.
Hypothetically you could be running for the office of the presidency in 2032, and all of a sudden the campaign ads against you dig up dirt they can find from today. It may even be blown out of proportion in order to negatively impact your reputation as it pertains to another candidate. Think about that, because we’re already there, this level of transparency has already been breached. Whether you’re thinking of becoming president, or have the simple goal of keeping a solid reputation in any other context, make sure you don’t post anything you wouldn’t have openly revealed.
All this talk about transparency makes me wonder what privacy we have left. That’s where it all comes back full circle. Why surrender the little privacy that we still maintain through our own small updates. Nobody needs to know we checked in at the dry cleaners to pick up our clothes. Nobody needs to know that we left the pet clinic with our cat safe and sound. Nobody needs to know how you feel about every single issue that pops up on your timeline, it’s okay to hold back your opinion once in a while. I know I am preaching to myself right here too because God knows I get involved in a lot of Facebook discussions. Hopefully the majority of them bear good fruit, and actually serve a purpose in building someone up somehow. There’s a wide open range of discretion here. Sharing your geographic location, activity, and thoughts with the world isn’t typically sinful or illegal for that matter, however it’s important to see that many of us are being conditioned to do so without much thought.
There’s a reason a lot of our parents don’t bother with Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I don’t have a wife or a child yet, but the majority of my peers around my age I would venture to say do. Let’s not allow the blessing of privacy to die with our parents. The closer we drift from a Constitutional Republic to Socialism or Communism, the closer we get to our privacy being completely destroyed. This goes along with our 1st and 2nd amendment rights, which are constantly being attacked. Without going off on a tangent, as those would be fair game for another article, I encourage you to think critically before you continue to update all your social media with every life event you experience. Live the moment and forget the phone sometimes, it’s a blessing to be free of these non-existent obligations outside of our own vanity. These mediums are a blessing to many in terms of connecting with audiences, marketing their products, sharing the Gospel, and connecting with their family. The real issue is when they are abused and become an obssession. Don’t let them become an idol in your life, it’s not too late to take a break and re-orchestritate your daily habits.
Many of us also tend to compare ourselves with people, and that may be facilitated by social media. Don’t compare your daily grind with someone’s life highlight reel. You’ll often be disappointed, and you don’t know the full story of what someone sacrificed to get to where they are. Comparison is the enemy of contentment, we need to avoid it regularly. Our time is much better invested in improving our own lives in the context of where God has gifted us. If we all had the same gifts, personalities, and opportunities life would be boring. We’ve got unique situations to deal with, and whether God started you off with 1 talent or 10 talents, there’s a reason why you were chosen to be one of His children. (V*1). We’ve been given the responsibility to be good stewards of what we’ve been entrusted. Don’t let that be compromised by the comparison game, OCD [Obsessive Comparison Disorder] is far too common.
6 “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain[a] we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 1 Timothy 6:6-11 (NKJV).
There will always be people who are stronger, faster, richer, or whatever other way you gauge your success. The key to avoid this is to be content where you are and run your own race. This behavior is one of the negative aspects of the transparency we observe on social media. Again, it’s something I think most of us have at least had a mild case of since the inception of these sites. Take care of these detrimental habits quickly before they take a hold of your routine. It can be different if you’re reading someone’s biography and learning from their mistakes or successes. I am speaking more in terms of the aggregate, cautioning you to beware what you take the time to evaluate. There’s a fine line between admiration and covetousness.
15 “And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness,[a] for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Luke 12:15 (NKJV).
14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
20 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 22 He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ 23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’
26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Matthew 25:13-40 (NKJV).