If Facebook were a country, it would be the largest country in the world. For most of us, it is a good and useful tool, though it is not a surprise how it could be a source of temptation for the lonely, dissatisfied soul.
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- Jeremy posted his wrong age on his Facebook page.
- Phillip has no picture of his wife in any of his photos.
- Camille has replaced watching Oprah for Facebook.
- Jan has reconnected with two of her old college boyfriends but did not tell her husband.
- Wallace has no idea how much time his wife spends on Facebook.
- George does not state his marital status on his page.
These six scenarios are more common than you might think. I know people who use Facebook in these ways. There is no place where Facebook’s sinful side is more prominent than in marriages that have not lived up to one or both of the spouse’s expectations.
Will You Like Me?
Facebook is the world leader in false intimacy. It presents itself as relatively safe because it provides a perception of genuine relationships. It seems better than other “technology silos” like video gaming, but that is one of its biggest traps; it provides a dangerous temptation through cyber relationships.
Jeremy told me the reason he uses a different name and age on his Facebook profile is that he wants people to like him and he feels his best shot at being liked is to change his identity.
His Facebook name is “Al” and instead of using his real age, 43, he poses as a 23-year old single college student. He told me he did not think he was a bad person, as his wife tells him. His reasoning is that people on Facebook “like” him.
He says his real-life relationships are dysfunctional, while his Facebook relationships are satisfying. Jeremey explained this by saying his real-life relationships do not understand him and his Facebook friends do. His conclusion is that his real-world friends are at fault.
Sin With a Ubiquitous Twist
I am sure you are not surprised by the sinful temptations of social media. Sin is our ever-present adversary, and because sin is part of our lives, bad things do happen everywhere, even in social media.
Facebook provides a somewhat sanitized way to flirt with people in a presumed risk-free way. These kinds of temptations that used to be the exclusive domain of the business traveler have now been brought into our homes, free of charge.
Today, more people have more access to the world than at any time in our history. The angry teenager, lonely housewife, dissatisfied line worker, and the overworked engineer can travel the world without leaving their homes. Cyber-travelers should enjoy this new privilege with caution and accountable conversation.
- Parent, do you have access to your child’s Facebook account?
- Wife, do you have access to your husband’s account?
- Husband, do you know the people your wife is talking to on Facebook while you are away?
The Dating Analogy
I have a “love-hate” relationship with Facebook. It has been a remarkable redemptive tool for my ministry. But because of my business, I have seen the unsavory side of Facebook. Facebook is like a dating relationship.
Dating has aspects of artificiality, limited intimacy, and some realism. After the boy and girl marry and settle in for the long haul, they can no longer hide their real selves behind dating’s limitations.
While they were dating, they were able to take breaks from each other. When the couple had married, they could not separate. After two years of covenantal living with few breaks, they grew weary of each other. The temptation to find satisfying relationships intensified.
Facebook becomes the new dating context for the dissatisfied. It provides all the accouterments of dating without the commitment or expectation of marriage.
You do not live with the people you socialize with on Facebook, and that is the draw. It is akin to dating; you put your best self forward for your Facebook friends to accept.
Your cyber-friends do not wash your underwear or smell your breath. They don’t listen to you snore or nag. After a while, you begin to think your Facebook friends are better than your real-life friends. And it is when you believe the people on Facebook are different from the people you live with that you get into trouble.
Your spouse lives with you. Keep that in mind if you are tempted to cross the lines of inappropriateness when relating to a friend on Facebook. The person you’re flirting with is a fallen sinner too.
Some of you have no idea what I am saying. I praise God for you. May you be protected from the seamy side of social media. Others of you are facing the sinful prospects of Facebook currently, or you are already involved in inappropriate relationships.
To the tempted, I appeal to you to find help today. Nothing good can come out of cyber-flirting no matter how bad your real-life relationships are. Facebook can be fun, but it is only cyber real, and it should not replace doing authentic life with a real person in your real world.
For the Glory of God
Think about how you can use Facebook redemptively.
- How can you put Christ on display through your cyber interactions?
- How can you promote the gospel through Facebook?
The answer to the Facebook dilemma is not necessarily abstinence unless it has caught you (Galatians 6:1). If that is the case, the wisest thing for you to do is to cut ties with Facebook (Matthew 5:30). Maybe a “Facebook fast” is all you need. To help you think about this practically, here are eight suggestions on how you can make your social media experience a redemptive experience:
- Ask your spouse or friends what they think about your Facebook updates.
- Give your spouse your log-in info.
- Link or share gospel-centered sites with others.
- Share quotes that God has used to encourage you.
- Seek to encourage your friends.
- Keep in touch with friends and family members.
- Learn the security settings and use them.
- Guard your heart (and your time) against the Facebook trap.
Also published on Medium.