Pop Culture: Social Media


You only get one story.

And most of us hashtag everything with #YOLO.  And it’s true!  You only live once, you only get one story.

And we do everything we can to make that story awesome.  We want to be interesting.  We want to be noticed.  We want our identity to matter.

But this is nothing new: even Jesus’ disciples wanted their story to matter; they wanted their identity to be awesome.  Check this out:

Luke 9.46-48 46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them,“Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”


Mark 10.35-37, 42 35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 

In Brain Rules John Medina writes,

“Our brains are so sensitive to external inputs that their physical wiring depends upon the culture in which they find themselves.”

At the age y’all are at, identity is still something you’re navigating.  So culture is a huge deal.  Especially in terms of forming your identity.

For you 7th graders, you’re still wondering if it’s ok to go play at someone’s house, while you seniors know that it’s called “hanging out.”

You’re testing what’s funny.  You’re testing what’s valuable.  You’re testing whether you want to be a Pokemon master or a team captain.  You’re testing whether you like country music or rap.  You’re testing whether you want to be a skater or a scout (or if there’s a “cool” way to do both).

You’re testing what’s sustainable.  And when you get positive feedback, this helps you start to form an identity.

But like Zac said last week, what if our model is wrong?  What if we’re looking for identity in the wrong place?  What if we’re missing our true identity because we’re only seeing what we want to see?

If culture reflects who or what we worship, what does social media tell us?

You only get one story.  And you want yours to be awesome.  But most of the time who we portray online is not who we really are.  We put our best foot forward, we put our best pictures up, we remove the ugly ones, every status is carefully worded; we’re perfect online, we’re this perfect persona of who we want to be, but that’s not your identity, that’s some false-self.

What price are you willing to pay to make sure your online identity is really you?

We’re going to talk about that today by looking at our identity as Christ-followers and how we use social media.

General Online Behavior

Overall 71% of teens say they hide their online activity from their parents, while only 56% of parents are aware of this.  In terms of specific strategies, 53.3% of teens say they clear their browser history, while just 17.5% of parents are aware they’re doing this. 45.9% of teens say they minimize browsers when their parents are around, while just 16.6% of parents are aware this is happening. 18.9% of teens delete inappropriate videos, while just 5.4% of parents have caught on to this. 19.9% of teens manipulate privacy settings to block their parents, with just 8.1% of parents noticing. 21.3% of teens use their phone to access social media, while just 9.7% of parents realize this. And of course there’s always good, old-fashioned lying, with 22.9% of teens resorting to this time-honored strategy, while just 10.5% of parents are aware they’re being lied to.

Teenage Guys:

Guys have to find a place where it’s safe to learn who they are without letting on that they feel incompetent, unsure, or afraid.  The herd allows a guy to be anonymous.  (Social media interrupts this because you’re trying on a persona without a community.  You’ll be comparing yourself to the lowest common denominator instead of experiencing a growth toward real manhood.)

Teenage Girls:

Some research proposes that teenage girls place a higher value on intimacy and forming an identity in a relationship with others than adolescent boys do (remember, boys want to be anonymous until they feel confident), and that a girl will forego pursuing goals and opportunities if it requires sacrificing a relationship (this is why girls will use social media to “keep up appearances.”  If you could lose a friendship, you won’t change your behavior even if you know it’s wrong.  Because in girl world it is very hard to make friends with people you can trust.  Girls are sharks!  Guys make fun of each other in front of a girl and that’s how they flirt.  Girls make fun of each other and people die.)

Maintaining Relational Presence in a Technological World:

The philosopher and communication theorist Marshall McLuhan said that “Our conventional response to all media, namely that it is how they are used that counts, is the numb stance of the technological idiot.”3  Most of us are largely unaware of the weight of media influence in our lives.  We must begin to start thinking beyond just how we use technology, to how it is actually shaping us. (our first thought is “share” or “like” or “post” instead of “enjoy”)

Social media technologies such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the mirrors by which many teenagers receive back a reflection of who they believe they are, or how they want to be seen.  This reflecting back aids in the construction of their identity. (but remember, social media can interrupt forming your identity the way God designed it, in a community of people rather than a network of liars.)

As a teenager forms relationships, they are often using the technologies available to them such as their cell phones, Facebook, internet chat, etc.  But if they don’t have a strong sense of self already in place, all the technologies that they use eventually saturate them and keep them from developing a coherent identity. (because every experience becomes about sharing it online and deriving value from comments, likes, and inbox messages.  This is far different from bear hugs and laughter)

One of the challenges that technology poses is that it makes “what is happening out there” often more important than what is happening right in front of us. For example, texting friends to see what they are up to can quickly become more important than enjoying the meal with the friends who are physically present with you at the time.


Why people unfollow you on twitter:

  • 48% of people unfollow someone on twitter because of too much self-promotion
  • But 43% unfollow someone because they’re not interesting enough
  •  27% unfollow because they don’t tweet enough
  • 22% unfollow because of check-in abuse

Twitter is gaining popularity (11% of teens send or receive tweets daily)

Who you retweet is part of your identity formation.  You’re telling the world “this has value to me” whether it’s a comedian, a musician, a friend who says things you’d never say…  Remember, you only get one story.  What do you value?  Is it confusing people (like, “I thought you went to church…”) or is it pointing them to Christ?


Why we love posting on facebook:

In a series of experiments, the researchers found that the act of disclosing information about oneself activates the same sensation of pleasure in the brain that we get from eating really good food or getting money in a birthday card…[O]ur brain considers self-disclosure to be a rewarding experience.

Facebook isn’t bad, but it has the potential to be.  If you’re using it to get attention because you’re insecure, stop it.  Jesus loves you.  If you have a secret account that your parents don’t know about, stop it.  Jesus loves you.  If you’re using it because you’re bored, stop it.  Jesus loves you.  Facebook has the potential for you to glorify God in SO MANY ways.  How could you start?

Identity As Christ-Followers

Social media started out as a network.  Now it is a surrogate community.  As Christ-Followers, we need each other.  We need to reclaim relationships.

Genesis 1.27 So God created mankind in his own image, 
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

Our identity is that we bear the image of God.  As image bearers, we need to reflect what God is like.

Colossians 3.1-4 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

“You died.”  As a Christ-follower, you died to yourself.  So according to this verse we are to set our minds above, not on earthly things.  That means our first thought is not “I need to take a picture of my chaco tan on post it on instagram…17 times this summer.”  Our first thought is not “i need to post this now.”  Our first thought is “how can I give God glory on facebook? Twitter? Instragram? Youtube? Pinterest?”  That’s how we set our mind on things above.  The first thing we think about is God’s glory, not our own.

Luke 9.23-26 23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

It doesn’t matter how you use social media if you’re a fan of Jesus.  But if you want to follow Jesus, if you truly are a Christ-follower, then you must deny yourself.  You’re identity is wrapped up in who Jesus is.  How are you using yourself online to point to Jesus?  How are you a missionary in an online world?

How Do We Respond To This?

Social media is all about me.  To redeem it we make it all about “He.”  What He did, who He is, what He likes.

So instead of making Facebook and Twitter all about pictures of your feet by the pool, why not make it all about the Gospel of Jesus?  Because Scripture even says “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News.”

Instead of trolling for sympathy, why not offer compassion in Jesus’ name?

You only get one story.  You only get one chance to represent Christ.  If you’re using social media to promote yourself it’s confusing to people that don’t know Jesus.

If culture reflects who or what we worship, what does social media say about us?  What does it say about you?  What could it say about the Gospel and those follow Christ?