Is Social Media Perpetuating Our Craving for Affirmation?

Some might say that I have a social media problem, of sorts. I am constantly linking things from Facebook to Twitter to Tumblr to WordPress and back again. Whether it’s connecting with friends on Facebook, crafting witty tweets, blogging about the ideas that spill out of my head, or posting a new song to Tumblr, I am somehow connected and sharing information through social media.

Recently though, I read an article which asserted offhandedly that if no one craved affirmation from others then social media would “wither and die.” They essentially said that social media’s allure is solely propped up by humanity’s incessant desire for other people to affirm their being, creation, and emotions. And to be honest, as someone engrossed in online media, I was troubled by that statement. Partly because I know in some ways it was true. It didn’t sit well as I scrolled my browser through pages of status updates.

In many ways, this is a relevant topic for Christians. It is important to consider how little things are affecting our minds in cultural ways that we rarely dive into. Because, certainly, if something is perpetuating sin in our lives then we must distance ourselves from it in obedience. But does social media perpetuate our craving for affirmation? Is that the sole reason why we partake?

On the surface, this statement seems to be very true. Why else would we post things on the internet for the world to see? We pine for more views, more status likes, and more retweets as if those are what signify that we have something to say, something to offer. Why else would we painstakingly post on the best pictures of ourselves online and why else would we get giddy over the number of followers we have on Tumblr?

If we aren’t careful, social media can become something that we base our value on. It is extremely easy to crave the affirmation that a like, retweet, or reblog can bring. It’s also easy to hide behind social media as a cover up to the lives that we are disappointed with in reality. But social media also reflects important desires and information about the human race.

We are information gatherers & sharers.

Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I get excited at the thought of finding interesting information and sharing it with others. Essentially, this is how all social media began and is now being utilized: as a medium of information. We were not created to harbor and store up information; we were created to share it. And technology has infinitely aided us in this endeavor. From African messenger drums to cryptic scrolls to scribes to the printing press to social media, humanity has been in the business of developing means of sharing information. Through social media, we Christians have the opportunity to share information in vast, far-reaching, unknown ways. This leaves us, however, with the responsibility to account for the information that we are sharing.

We long to share our lives in connection with others. 

This is one of the deeper joys that I believe social media brings about. Along with being gatherers and sharers of information, we have been wired by God to share our lives. While yes, I do believe that interpersonal sharing of life, or doing life together, far outweighs virtual life through social media, the motivation of sharing life through any medium is not a wrong desire. We desire to know and to be known. Though social media may reveal the ugliness of this desire tainted and twisted by sin, the heart motivation of sharing lives can be harnessed for redemptive and community-building purposes. As Christians, we have the weighty opportunity to vulnerably share our life of transparency with the Father to those who do not know Him, sparking questions, conversations, and life change.

With these desires, however, comes responsibility. We are accountable for what we share and we are accountable for our heart motivations in the way that we use social media. Social media is not a partner of sin; it is a tool through which our sin can be exposed and magnified. We see our hearts better through the way we use and respond to social media, whether it is a genuine attempt to share our life to others or a desperate clawing for affirmation from virtual peers. Social media exemplifies sin but can also spread witness.

So does social media perpetuate our sinful craving of affirmation? Perhaps. But I think that social media mainly reflects the craving for affirmation that already existed in our hearts, as we have failed to trust in the overwhelming message of God who leans to us to say “I love you. You’re enough.”

If we can satisfy our affirmation-hungry souls in Christ, who knows how powerful our presence on social media might be. After all, saved sinners affirmed in Christ have great information to share.

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