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What is your online profile really saying? 

Social Media Image by mkhmarkeNorfolk Christian speaker Ruth Tong considers the tricky balance of presenting ourselves truthfully through social media while avoiding inappropriate openness. 

I have a wonderful friend who is a prolific social media user. My friend has been going through a very painful time emotionally and although they are in the public eye what’s happening in private is unknown to the world.

This is tough because they are required to project an image which masks their ‘real life’ pain. My friend commented: “I know looking at all my posts and tweets, it seems like I’m really busy, out at events all the time and surrounded by people, but actually I spend a lot of time alone”. Their words broke my heart because someone going through such heartache needs a trustworthy hand to hold.

Our conversation got me thinking about the validity of social media - what are we really saying when we tweet/ post/blog or whatever?

I believe the truth will set you free – so how free are we when we are projecting a particular slant on the story of our lives? Speaking from experience I know faking it is hard work and takes regular maintenance – I’ve worn false tan, eyelashes and nails! What’s produced from this maintenance is a burden. A burden for ourselves and others to carry because it sets a totally unrealistic standard!

Advertising thrives on such stuff! Look at the beautifully smooth legs in a lady shave advert. What most blokes don’t realise is that 48 hours later there’s horribly scratchy stubble, producing in-growing hair and spots! The smoothness comes at a price and is only temporary. Likewise when we try and project an image it comes at a cost and will only ever be a temporary fix. However walking in the truth that the utopia of smooth legs is momentary will set you free! But let’s consider the other side of this coin -being too open.

How often have you gone online, read something and thought: ‘Nooooooooooo!’? I have seen many inappropriate and way too personal details posted online and cringed. In fact I’m sure I’ve done this myself!

There is wisdom in knowing the difference between public truth and private truth; balancing the two is necessary to stay safe and be at peace. Some things should remain between you and the Lord; deep things, personal things, particularly where other folk are involved. But there are many more bits of our world fit for wide consumption - births, deaths and marriages - things which we can be free and open about without regret.

There is a side to our worlds which brings life and light when we share it out there in cyber space but there’s also a side which will bring destruction.  I’ve found it helpful at times to take a social media fast, using the time to be still and know that He is God. And He is God! God of the trial, God of the pain, God of the mess. He’s also God of our comfort, God of our peace, God of our purpose, God of our strength …. You are who He says you are, He sees your precious heart, He looks at you and says, ‘it is good!’

Photo:  The Art of Social Media by mkhmarketing on Flickr under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License. 

Ruth Tong is the Coordinator of Women’s Ministries at Downham Market Christian Fellowship and the author of ‘Love Drops from Heaven’.  Ruth regularly blogs at http://lovedropsfromheaven.blogspot.co.uk

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