Do You Even Gram Bro?
A few years back I was visiting my sister and she was telling me about this new social media app where you take pictures, add a caption then post it online. I remember thinking, “People would never get into this, what a waste of time.”
I was wrong. This app has become a worldwide sensation that has ultimately defined a new way of how we interact with each other. It also gives us glimpses into other people’s daily lives. Nowadays I can’t even eat a meal without someone saying, “Wait, I have to post this.” I remember a funny saying that went, “If I didn’t post it, have I even eaten it?”
The Church and Social Media
The church has been getting better about staying relevant in recent years, and a lot of it is due to churches and leaders utilizing social media. It’s become a valuable tool to get the message of the gospel out to the public. As a leader, I was eager to learn how high profile leaders were using social media for their cause. I observed leaders utilizing their platforms to build an entirely new way of spreading messages through these new avenues of social media. Along with their messages, we are given access to personal glimpses into the lives of high profile leaders; what they think, and the day-to-day.
Heart Issues Exposed
I eagerly followed my favorite leaders from afar. What began as admiration quickly became an overwhelming sense of inadequacy with my own life and ministry. High impact leaders would post stories about preaching in front of stadiums, visiting exotic locations, feeding hundreds in less fortunate countries, and impacting thousands. Some were even eating at amazing restaurants, and hanging out with celebrities. Somehow it became increasingly evident to me that my life didn’t exhibit the same feats. Some of us may have felt like this at some point or another. During this time, God used how I was feeling to expose some things in my own heart.
Navigating the Difficult Things
I had to learn to navigate what I was feeling on the inside in a healthy way. I realized that I was making their social media stories the measurement of my own success in what God was calling me to do. I needed God’s help to stop comparing my life to what other leaders were doing. I had to see my life through God’s lens of hope. If I didn’t, I would get discouraged at what God wasn’t doing in my life and lose focus on what He was doing. I finally realized that social media stories do not take away from my own successes. Through this process, I learned how to gauge my own level of authenticity, success, and self worth. I began utilizing some principles to remain full of hope in a social media age. Here are three things I learned to manage my heart in a social media driven world.
1) Stay Away from Self-Comparison
Self-comparison is a killer; it kills uniqueness, identity, and diversity. It does so by saying you have to compare yourself to the people you see and whom you think are doing better than you. If you draw your self-worth from that comparison, it could be detrimental to the process of growth in your life. It is so easy today to log onto your favorite social media app and see what your favorite people are up to. They could be wearing the clothes you wanted to buy but can’t, eating at the super-expensive restaurant you wanted to eat at, or visiting the exotic locale you dreamed of visiting but couldn’t afford. Then you may think, “I wish I could do that. I wish my life was that exciting.” That “I wish” thought is not healthy.
Living in a world where everyone covets what his or her neighbors possess is the norm, creating a void of satisfaction in our own lives. When we do this, we look at what others are doing instead of rejoicing and being thankful at what is going on personally. We must not compare our lives to the lives of everyone’s projected social media life. If we think that our life is not as good as the people we see, we begin to create mindsets of hopelessness and ingratitude.
Instead of measuring my life against others social media lives, I have had to learn to celebrate the success of people that I see. It starts with your own heart, knowing that God has a unique plan for you. Then realize that your plan is just as great as everyone else’s. The more rooted you become in this thinking, the more celebration you can do for others’ achievements. God wants to build great people that don’t allow the success of other people dampen their spirits. We are called to champion people. Championing people can mean that you take greater pleasure in other people’s achievements than even they might.
2) The Highlight Reel
One thing I enjoy before going to bed is watching ESPN’s Sportscenter Top 10 Plays of The Day. They collect the best one to five second clips of all the sport plays of that day and show them in a countdown. Some of the plays they show are downright amazing and shocking. In any given day you can see plays from a basket being made from the other side of the court, to winning a game by some outrageous catch. But it would be inaccurate to think that these amazing plays were the norm. For a two or three hour game, out of hundreds that were played that day, you would have a one to five second clip of one amazing play.
This is the concept of life in the social media world. All the pictures, all the stories, all the adventures, are simply highlight reels. You are getting a one-second, purposely chosen look into that person’s life. Nobody ever posts the second they get out of bed, or when they are sick, or feel like giving up. Everyone posts the best one-second event out of an entire day to put on social media. Although some people may lead more interesting lives than others, I assure you that nobody is living that social media highlight every second of every day. If we compare our lives to the highlight reel of somebody else’s lives, of course our lives will feel much less exciting. We must remind ourselves that it’s just fine that our lives don’t look like a 24/7 highlight reel.
3) Your Social Media Following Is Not an Accurate Measure of Success
I remember hearing my friend preach about a leader he knew who had over one million followers on social media. He talked about how his friend hung out with famous rappers and celebrities, all while still being used by God in ministry. My friend said something that was deeply profound, “You should never gauge your success or impact by the amount of following you have on social media.” He went on to say that God had called this certain leader to that arena while calling my friend to a different arena. To compare the two would be to question God’s very plan for each of their lives.
So many in society are addicted to the validation that comes from social media. It is an epidemic that has affected many people to the point of disaster. People have become obsessed with how many ‘likes’ they get or shares they have. Many are looking to be affirmed and will use social media to find that validation. As followers of God and leaders in a social media age, it is important that we learn to distinguish our ability to use these tools to build the kingdom without relying on them to measure our success and impact. We also must never lose sight of the fact that God’s acceptance is all we will ever need.
As powerful and massive a social media following can be, it will never take away our role as support and guidance to the people we are called to lead. Social media has a tendency to lose connection with people. As leaders, it is important we never use social media as a substitute to connecting with people on a personal level. The kingdom is built around community and connection. Social media will never be able to provide these on a genuine level that humans need. Learn to utilize social media as a tool but never as a point-of-contact for those you are connected to.
The principles have helped me to use social media as it was created for: a tool to help me spread my message. It has also helped me learn what I can from high-profile leaders and connect with their platforms in various ways. Through the application of these principles, I developed healthy engagement with social media. I no longer find myself comparing myself with other ministry leaders, but rather, I celebrate their lives and what God is doing both through them and for them. The sense of hopelessness in my thinking is now replaced with gratitude in what God is doing in my own life. I too can celebrate my own highlights with my social media following and feel good about what God is doing in my life. Social media is a powerful tool, and if we can learn to utilize it in a healthy way, we can use this powerful tool to develop our influence as leaders.