Thursday, August 30, 2012

Think Before Your "Share."

Think Before You “Share”

Recently I saw a YouTube video posted on facebook called “Rich Kids of Instagram.” (  The video featured a group of twenty-somethings unselfconsciously sharing their pictures of lavish beach parties, consuming countless bottles of Dom Perignon champagne, getting off their private jet in the Hamptons, all of which they post on websites to impress their friends. Over the top—right?

It got me to wondering if those of us with more modest means who try to hold to a Christian ethic of a simple life, attempting to respect the environment and meet the needs of the poor, have not succumbed to a similar temptation. When does sharing our blessings on Facebook become flaunting them?  A few cases in point culled from those I follow on facebook:  A priest wonders whether three trips to England is too much for one year. A deputy to General Convention posts the nightly dinner menu (with pictures) taken at Indianapolis’ most posh restaurants. A vacationing Senior Warden shares several pictures each day of the lavish golf courses he is playing in Hawai’i; a bishop poses with glamorous Hollywood celebrities at a recent fundraiser.

For my part I can think of times where I have done similarly, including sharing snapshots of the red rocks taken from the balcony of my home in Sedona, Arizona, purportedly one of the state’s more affluent communities.

What must our readers think?  What are we thinking? Are we on some subconscious level advocating our own Episcopal brand of the “prosperity Gospel” (follow Jesus and he will add to your bank account) or is this simply inadvertent boasting—”see what I have?” Don’t you wish you you had this too?

And can we include in our public boasting our quickness to broadcast photographs of our beautiful grandchildren, or gatherings of our  huge number of happy wine-drinking friends, or our designer wardrobe?  It is likely that those of our acquaintances who don’t enjoy such gifts will either be hurt, or simply envious, and envy is one of the seven deadly sins we don’t want to be responsible for engendering in others.

I am convinced that we Christians, especially those of us who are ordained, are not doing ourselves or our church any favors by these public displays of our material blessings. We are a Christian denomination which has always advocated for the poor and for a just economy, but do we practice what we preach?  Or are we more driven to impress our friends with what we have than to advocate for those who have not?

We might fool ourselves by thinking that our postings are only for our friends—although why should we boast to our friends?—but if there is one thing that social media has taught us, it is that anything we post on the web has the potential for becoming public in a big way. The average facebook member has several hundred friends and they in turn each have several hundred. In such a geometric progression it doesn't take much for our innocent boast about our new SUV,  European vacation, or five-star restaurant meal to go viral.  

Jesus is always reminding his followers about the danger of attachment to things,  material possessions, power, and prestige—you all know the proof texts.  What is even worse for Jesus is when we use our possessions in ways which harm others.  It is often said that social media is “word of mouth on steroids” for its power to reach so many people so quickly. What are the words in our mouth, or on our facebook page?  Facebook bragging is bragging on steroids and it has the power to harm not only our own soul, but the faith of those around us.  

Let’s “share” the things that really matter.  


Wormwood's Doxy said...

Can you explain why you think that posting photos of our families is "boasting"? I use Facebook, in part, to stay in touch with family and friends in far-flung places, and I am often asked to share photos. I hadn't considered that doing so might be considered boasting, but I am willing to consider the idea....


Anonymous said...

Sell your pectoral cross and bishop's ring and give the money to the poor and then your admonishment may ring with more genuine spirit.

Anonymous said...

Anyone can simply email family, (real) friends, professional associates news with attachments. Who else should be interested. Facebook represents the current "Look at me; I'm so interesting culture" as do Tweets and many blogs. It didn't take Wall Street long to assign a value to Facebook, and the young and the trendy will run from it like crazy now that their parents and grandparents are active members.

Denise Yarbrough said...

There is much merit in your argument, Bishop. I find I rarely post on FB, except when on vacation so as to share photos with family who are far flung. FB has become a place where one has to show how happy, productive and meaningful one's life is, and woe to the person who is going through a bad time (other than the extreme crises of family deaths or similar catastrophes where the online "community" can make a person feel supported in important ways). And there is an element of narcissism - just exactly why do hundreds of people need to know what you ate for lunch today??? That said, there are some good uses for FB, like getting the word out about ministries and activities to which people are invited. But I agree that we should be cautious about showing off our prosperity and how well we're living the good life, if we truly want to be bearers of the gospel to a hurting world.

Matt Marino said...

Wow, I am surprised you didn't garner many more negative comments. You just called out our narcissistic "as if anyone cares" weblife-in-lieu-of-actually-living-life...comments that I make while being glued to my laptop on a holiday. :-)

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