Life is complicated. We feel it every day as we struggle between choices we must make, and circumstances we find ourselves in. Through social media, we find ourselves in a new position of complication as we navigate relationships. People will say things on social media that they would never say to your face, or make stands on principles that they would waiver on when having an in person conversation. In fact, I find myself encountering more people who seem to be one person online and a totally different person in real life.
I’m not the only one who sees this, as there are many other articles on the subject. This is now making our relationships very complicated, more than ever before. We see photos online that give an impression of a happy and perfect life, without the knowledge of elbow deep debt or fighting when the camera lens is not present. We see Christians spouting off Christian rhetoric in the public sphere, and not living it out in their real lives. Social media exposes this on a regular basis.
A long time ago, we wouldn’t be able to see this exposure for ourselves. It was easy for people to sequester their friends into tight groups that didn’t intermingle. With social media connecting us into a public forum, as people talk their talk… there seems to always be the person who can call them out when their walk doesn’t match their talk. It may be one of the most damaging facets to our Christian walk, because at any moment who we are when no one is looking could be exposed. Social media connections have taken away our ability to control how the world will know us.
We can’t stop a friend who tags us in a photo, or responds to one of our posts with an embarrassing story from our youth. We can no long sequester our friends from each other, to hide our secular friends from our Christian friends and vice versa. I suppose a blessing in social media is that the more we realize we are exposed, there will become a point where we are forced to simply be exactly who we are… virtually forced to be our authentic self.
But what does that mean for our relationships? It’s complicated, really. It means that some of our friends are going to find out things about our past that may skew how they view us. It means that someone in our life may out us for being less than the perfect Christian we attempt to show the world. It means that a knowledgeable person in our life may correct our theology or challenge our interpretations in front of everyone on our friends list. It means that others may see embarrassing things that our spouses say, or prodigal things that our children do and we will feel judged for it. It means there will be documentation of the stupid things we said when we were still forming an opinion or jumped to a conclusion without all of the facts.
Our relationships are going to become more complicated because we are going to be more real, authentic, and transparent than ever before… and it may not be our choice to be so.