Full disclosure: I’m not much for social media. I enjoy the occasional tweet, and the odd post on Facebook, but in general I’m not one of those people who’s always pausing to live-tweet my cat’s latest catnip rampage. One thing that does interest me is the way social media gives us a unique way to present ourselves publicly.
We’re living in the age of the personal brand, or “Pranding” as I’m now renaming it (yes, it’s a thing), which is all about presenting the best possible version of yourself. We’re all doing it, apparently – though it seems to be anathema in the middle of a generation that’s known for calling out phonies. It’s an incredible thought, really. Simply by using our phone camera we can craft an image of what we like, how we relax, and what we think is important. Want to be an art connoisseur? No problem. A foodie? Absolutely! A hipster? Show me those mason jars! There’s no way anyone can dispute what they see – it’s all what you choose to present.
Many Christians have jumped on the personal branding bandwagon. (All aboard!) I’d encourage you to check out some Instagram & Twitter feeds from a few well-known Christian leaders – it proves insightful. I’ll give you my short list of the types of posts you’ll see:
- The “What a great night at X! Powerful stuff!” posts. Some of this power may/may not refer to the power of that night’s love offering.
- The “Love this guy/this church/my wife/husband!” posts. Important note: Not posting things like this means that you clearly do not love the subject/person.
- The “Neat quote/life lesson!” posts. There’s some good stuff here, but it’s always awkward when someone posts of a photo quoting something they earlier. #awks.
Now none of these things are wrong in and of themselves, but it’s all we’re presented with! We then see the accounts of anyone who’s in leadership or aiming for a leadership position imitating these well-known leaders. This church is amazing! Thank you Pastor X! What an amazing night! And again, there’s nothing wrong with this, but we know that behind the veneer, that person’s depressed. And that lady’s lonely. And that person’s really unwell. Since our leaders are always presenting (as expected by many Christians) an image of having everything together all the time, we go with it as well. But sometimes I can’t help but feel like we’re just window-dressing our lives, desperately hoping no one’s going to look past the display and check out what’s really going on inside.
The Bible clearly states that God is interested in the heart, not simply how you appear on the outside. We’re encouraged throughout the Bible to build a community that cares deeply for one another, and reaches out to those who are marginalised from society. Ironically, we can easily isolate ourselves as a community through using social media as a constant brand ambassador for our personal brand, never letting our guard down. So here’s a challenge: can we put the phones down for a minute and just be a community? Love each other. Hug each other. Get angry with each other and forgive one another. The heart is what matters, in the end.
With the heart in mind, I don’t care if your pastor tweets up a storm on Sunday or if you post 50 photos to Instagram every youth night. What really matters is the condition of your heart, not the condition of your Twitter feed. So here’s to a Christian faith that gets its eyes off its Klout score, and fixes them on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.