Are we living out our online image?

These days you can find out almost anything about a person on social media sites. You can see their photos, where they’ve been, things they like, who they know, and even how they feel…  No wonder our society cares so much about image.

More interestingly though is a new study that has been researching the correlations between narcissism and the motives behind using Facebook and Twitter. The study says:

“Narcissism does appear to be a primary driver for the desire for (Twitter) followers, which in turn drives tweets.”

They found correlations between the amount of tweets a person made and other narcissistic tendencies that people had. They also noticed the differences between the age groups and the sites they used. Twitter was mainly popular with younger, college-aged users, whereas Facebook was popular with middle-aged users. With Facebook, traits with narcissism were linked with the amount of time spent on Facebook and a drive for more friends.

Now, I’m not going to say that everyone who posts things frequently for attention is narcissistic. Everyone needs attention in some form or another. But attention from other human beings is something that we can unnaturally crave at times. Sin can easily distort something that should be good and turn it outright ugly.

Narcissism in the Bible

The Bible has one good particular example of narcissistic people… Yeah, you might’ve guessed it… the Pharisees.

The Pharisees were the hypocritical, self centered, and legalistic antagonists, who would continually try to patronize Jesus and his disciples for not obeying the additional man-made laws which they added to Moses’ law.

They would make these laws impossible to follow for others in order to make themselves look pious and holy when in fact they couldn’t even follow it. Like Jesus said in Matthew 23:

“They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.” (Matthew 23:4)

They were the religious narcissists of their time whenever they tried to get people to notice them because of their spiritual works. Jesus continues in Matthew:

“But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues,  and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.” (Matthew 23:5-7)

Jesus didn’t really have anything good to say about them.

Today’s Problem

Today with social media it can be easy to become Pharisaical by posting things that make you seem religious.

Again, I’m not trying to say that if you post a Bible verse you’re a narcissistic Pharisee.

What I am trying to say is that the temptation of acting spiritual for others to see is even greater today than it was for the Pharisees. Never before has it been easier to just copy and paste a Bible verse for everyone to see, and then go on living hypocritically afterwards. The thing is, everything people post about themselves are things that they want people to see.

No one has ever posted something on purpose that they really didn’t want to be seen (although they might regret it later).

The purpose of Facebook is to display yourself to others. The question is are you displaying yourself as a humble servant of God, who seeks to glorify Him? Or are you seeking the attention and recognition of others through your spirituality?

And if we are displaying ourselves as humble servants, then are we living that way?

This problem, like most, is a problem of the heart. So examine your heart behind how you display yourself, and live by the grace of God, not by the attention and opinions of others.

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Author: Trevor Vanderburg

I've been blessed to grow up into an amazing Christian family with two older brothers and three adopted sisters. My parents were missionaries to many different countries in both Africa and South East Asia. We came back to the States when I was young, but my life still remains an adventure. Today I go to school full time and spend my time with school, writing, reading, rock climbing, and hanging out with friends. Some of my most passionate subjects include Theology, Philosophy, Psychology, and Anthropology. Among many other things I love to teach, and travel, but above all I love God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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