The Social Media Masquerade
By Jenna Cowley
There is a new presence in our lives: it joins us for lunch, work and follows us home after-hours. Its name is social media. According to The Facebook Investor Relations website, Facebook has approximately 1.44 billion users and Twitter has approximately 302 million users. Social media can be used to maintain contact with loved ones who may be on the other side of the world, or organize a braai with close friends for a given weekend. With prominent growth in traffic, social media has been used (to great effect) as a marketing tool for businesses and products, and as an advertising platform for campaigners to raise awareness about important social issues.
However, chief among these applications is the fulfillment of the needs, and wants, of the individual. It’s part of our human nature. We desire to be liked and approved by others. The social media culture, with its various channels for self-expression and interaction, introduces a new dimension to how we desire to meet this innate need. How popular or special we feel about ourselves is dependent on how many ‘followers’ or ‘likes’ we manage to get.
Many social media users begin, and end, their days on these platforms, checking out what others are up to and counting their ‘likes’, ‘shares’ and ‘retweets’. It’s something we think we have to do. We are deeply invested in impressing others through our online profiles. We share all the exciting things we get up to and compare our ‘digital’ lives to those of others. We look forward to updating our profiles with events ranging from the mundane to the extraordinary.
John Piper identifies six reasons why people are so quick to turn to their social media first thing in the morning and before they go to bed[i]. He calls them candy motives and says that there are three different kinds: Novelty Candy, Ego Candy, and Entertainment Candy.
- Novelty Candy refers to how we like to know what is new and happening in the world and among our friends. It’s great to be the first to know what has happened instead of hearing about it at a later stage.
- Social media serves as Ego Candy, as it fulfils our need to be recognised and affirmed by others. We love to know that someone has thought of us and mentioned or followed us on social media. We feel connected and important and this gives us a sense of satisfaction.
- Entertainment Candy is one of the main attractions of social media. It is filled with stories, images and videos that are waiting to meet our need for something thrilling and interesting.
Am I faking it?
We need to ask ourselves: Why am I really using social media? Why am I posting this new profile picture? Do I really just want to share this moment in my life with others, or do I want to let other people know that I’m having a great time?
We could be too focused on the example image we are projecting instead of really living out what we’re posting.
Something else to consider is the amount of time we actually spend on social media. Even if our intentions for using social media may seem innocent and be encouraging to others, we could be too focused on the example image we are projecting instead of really living out what we’re posting. The reasons why we use social media platforms may expose the deeper issue at play here: are we trying to seek the approval of others? Are we running to others for the acceptance that we all long for, yet God can only fully satisfy?
Taking a step back, it’s plain to see the manifold effects of social media usage. The merits are hard to deny. And why should we deny those merits if they enable us to reach people that would otherwise be unreachable and maintain relationships beyond the limits of geography and time? Making the most of social media has many advantages, but with those advantages also come sacrifice. Is it your time? What about your relationships outside of Facebook or Twitter? What about your relationship with God?
The most potentially destructive thing that social media could do to a person is when it consumes them to the point where they forget who they are or what they stand for in reality. Listening to so many voices and craving the instant attention and affirmation won’t live past the day. The only thing that counts for eternity is how God has spoken for you. How He has loved you not only in what He has said, but also in how He has acted. This is the indescribable, soul-satisfying love of Jesus.
[i] Desiringgod.org, “Six wrong reasons to check your phone in the morning”.