Social media and the need for validation

Twitter Follow Me BirdI recently read where a social media guru said something to the effect of, “there are two types of people involved in social media, those who want more followers and those who are lying about it.” There is a part of us that wants to be validated by those around us and social media provides a means of numerically providing that validation.

In contrast to this, the Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 1:10, “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” Paul makes a distinction between pleasing men and serving God. The servant must find his validation in his master and not his peers. Christians should find validation in relationship with Jesus Christ and obedience to his commands.

Part of living in community is to refrain from giving offense to your neighbors. There is something appropriate about taking feedback from the people around so that we can know how we are perceived by the community. Those who do not accept this feedback are considered antisocial or worse.

Paul is not saying that he does not care how he is perceived. What Paul is saying is that he cannot let public opinion keep him from following the path laid out for him by his Master, Jesus Christ.

While the desire to be liked may not be inappropriate, if that desire keeps me from doing what is right, it then becomes an improper desire. As a recovering man-pleaser this can be a struggle for me.

There are times when I should speak up and say something appropriate to the situation but remain silent for fear of causing someone to dislike me. There are other times when I have joined in conversation in an inappropriate way so that I better fit in with the group. I can cave in on something that I think is important so that I do not make any waves. I have found that peer pressure does not stop with the end of formal education. I can be side-tracked by emotional bullies.

Perhaps I might make a case that my compromises are small ones, yet they are still compromises and some of them are sin. Paul sets the example by stating that the only thing that matters for the believer is whether or not he pleases God. While we cannot earn our salvation, by being obedient, we can one day hear that coveted blessing, “Well done, good and faithful slave” (Matthew 25:21).

While the drive to be liked, followed or otherwise connected on social media is morally neutral, if it keeps me from being obedient to God, then it is an idol that requires smashing. The same is true of setting up other measures of “man-pleasing” such as church attendance, sermon downloads, etc.

We are called to emulate Jesus in being full of grace and truth. If we compromise on the truth for the sake of popularity or acceptance, we are not being faithful to our call to live as salt and light in a world that desperately needs it.

Discussion question: How do you determine when you are becoming a “man-pleaser?” Please add your thoughts in the comment section below.