A Simple Exercise To A More Real, Online You

My name is Bryan and I’m funny and intelligent.  I have the perfect marriage.  You wouldn’t believe how awesome my kids are, too.  Lots of people like us, we go to church and have a dog named Spot.

You might think we sound too good to be true, but I can prove it to you.  All you have to do is  look at my Facebook account.

Everything is AwesomeCreative Commons License Matthew Jackson via Compfight

The Half-truth Of Social Media

Obviously, that little blurb isn’t true.

Most days, at least part of the day doesn’t go so well.  Sometimes, it’s something minor like feeling sluggish and unfocused at work.  Getting annoyed at the drivers around me on my way to work.  Not following through on some detail because I was lazy.

Other days, it’s more significant, like not putting the effort into engaging with my family.  Or God.  Holding onto anger with people who are close to me.  Being driven and not slowing down to love the people around me.

And some days, it’s even worse.  Like yelling at one of my kids.  Or getting angry with my wife and going off to my corner and stewing.

I’m guessing your life is a lot like mine.  Because you are a lot like me.

But most of the time, we don’t admit it publicly.  Our social media profiles and Facebook pages are often designed to project an image of ourselves that doesn’t really exist.

It’s not that what we post isn’t true, it’s just that what we post is only half the truth.  It’s kind of like we take a picture of our lives, touch it up with our favorite Instagram filter, and then post that.

Don’t Get Me Wrong, But…

I’m not saying that sharing our graduation pictures, kids’ accomplishments, wedding photos, and job promotions is bad.  I love knowing what’s going on in the everyday life of my ‘friends’, and social media is a great way to do it.  It’s visual, quick and accessible any time we have time.

But, sometimes, don’t you look at other people’s posts and pictures and feel like your life is going nowhere?  Or, that everyone else is killing it and you’re failing?

I know I do.  I have several Facebook friends who are popular Christian authors and always seem to be writing something amazing.  Others are sought-after in the media or in academia.

Some are younger than me, so it’s easy to feel like I’m ‘behind’ where I’m ‘supposed’ to be.  And that if were just more or less [whatever], I’d be there by now, too.

And lots of other people say stuff that lets me know they’re struggling with that, too.  Maybe you can identify.

In the last part of this post, I’d like to share my quick assessment of what’s going on, and some small, practical steps we can take to change the way we relate online.

What’s Going On?

So, what’s going on?  Why do we struggle with telling the whole truth?

I think that our struggles are as old as Adam and Eve.  You remember the story: as soon as they disobeyed God’s command to not eat from the forbidden tree, they hid and sewed together fig leaves to cover-up.  Not just their bodies, but their shame, too.

It didn’t work.  In the worst game of hide-and-seek ever, God ‘found’ them immediately and exposed what they had done.  Their punishment of leaving the pristine garden, and God’s presence, was nearly unbearable.

As their descendants, each of us knows that we’re deeply flawed, too.  We’re afraid of what will happen when others find us out.  And that’s not an accident: we’ve all been judged by others for our weaknesses and failures.  So we hide, carefully crafting our personas and posts to reflect who we’d like to be.

I know I’m oversimplifying things here.  There are other factors at play, but this is the deepest.  By selectively revealing what we want others to see online, we’re trying to create our own safety and tell others that we’re really OK after all.

These are our modern-day fig leaves.

It works better with each other than it does with God, but it doesn’t really work.  What we really want is to be known – and accepted – for who we actually are.

Your Online Makeover

Now that we’ve made the diagnosis, how can we change the status quo and move in a more authentic, honest direction?

Here’s a simple exercise that I think can help.  Ready?

Go through your last 10 Facebook posts.  (If you mainly use another social media channel, check that).  What did you post about?

When I checked mine, I found 3 posts expressing thanks for others, 2 requesting help for people I know, 2 requesting help for me, 2 funny stories about my kids, and 1 celebrating a new stage of life our family was heading into.

Reflect.  Do your posts generally reflect the major parts of who you are?  Do they reflect the joys and sorrows of your life?  What’s good, and, what’s missing?

In my case, I think my posts reflect my heart for networking and helping others, and, my love and thankfulness for others.  And my dry, straight-faced sense of humor.

But, my last ten posts didn’t contain a single thing about me personally.  They didn’t let others in on any of the challenges I’m going through.  I wasn’t vulnerable.  And that’s a pattern for me sometimes.

What do your posts hide and reveal about you?

Talk to God about what you learn.  Did you find anything to celebrate or change in that last step?  Take a moment and have an honest conversation with God about it.  Healing and growth occur as we come to God.

Take a small step forward.  OK, here’s where it all comes together and gets fun.  (Or scary.  Or both).  If you’re anything like me, I’m guessing you discovered a few things you don’t really share with others online.

So here’s a challenge for you.  Sometime before you go to bed, take a little leap and share about one of those areas you tend to hide.  It doesn’t have to be a total exposé, just something real.

If you head over to my Facebook page, you can see an example of what I mean.

When we remember that the God of the universe loves, forgives and accepts us for who we are in Christ, then we can let others see the real us online.  The freedom, authenticity and deeper connections we’ll create will pay crazy dividends on the little effort we invest.

Let’s live it out: What one side of you do you need to be more intentional about revealing online?  I want to invite you to head on over to my Facebook page and share it beneath my post.