A few years ago the question, “Who are you following?” would have seemed odd. Honestly, it still does, but it’s one that has come to mind recently.
I follow many friends and family on Facebook and Instagram. I love seeing what their children are doing, where they have been on vacation, and I even enjoy the photos of winter weather and what they’re eating for dinner.
Social media has been an amazing gift to our family. We have been able to see into and comment on—consequently, feel involved in—our friends’ and families’ lives even though we moved across the pond to the USA more than a decade ago. Social media has helped me feel less distant from those we left. For instance, I especially enjoyed seeing newborn photos of my great-nieces and -nephews when they arrived on the other side of the world in New Zealand. In another time, I would have been waiting for physical photos to arrive in my mailbox before I knew what they really looked like. Social media was also an amazing blessing to my mum. When my mum was alive, we taught her how to use Facebook. It was a proud moment for this daughter when I walked my 83-year-old mother into the Apple store to buy her first iPad. She did it because she wanted to stay current and connected, and I loved that about her.
There have been many blog posts written about how we still need to interact with each other face-to-face and not just rely on virtual interactions through technology. I agree, but we should make the most of all these new ways of connecting to enhance our relationships rather than using social media as a substitute for real relationships and connection.
Let’s assume you social media sensibly. I still would like to ask: Who are you following? Why? Are you following Taylor Swift on Instagram, so you feel like a Swiftie? Are you peering into the lives of the Kardashians because you want to be shocked and entertained—in equal amounts—by their lifestyle? Are you following people on Instagram whose lives you would secretly like to have?
I often ask myself: Does following Pottery Barn make me feel better or worse about my house? Does it inspire me to be creative and use what I have, or does it leave me feeling dissatisfied with my furniture? I think it is the same with lifestyle blogs—do they make you compare and, therefore, cause you to feel frustrated? Do you follow Christian bloggers as a shortcut to deepening your own faith or opening up your own Bible?
By becoming a follower you are giving the other person some level of leadership or at least a voice and an entrance into your life. Do you actually look at people’s lives before you give them a place of influence? In Luke 6:44, it says “for each tree will be known by its fruit.“ What fruit are we looking for?
On the Internet, you can pretend. You can simply share only the good bits of your life and, to some extent, that is understandable. Photos of burnt meals and untidy houses are not as charming to us. We all know this, but have we really accepted it? The truth is that it is simply not real. Is it time we looked at people’s whole lives, not just the one they present on the screen? When thinking about this, I ask myself would this person be the same if I unexpectedly knocked on his or her door tomorrow? Would the profile match the heart, the character and the life? We are not talking simply about whether the house would be perfect, but would it at least resemble the recently posted Instagram photo? Would the person match the image they post and the words they write? Would there be evidence of generosity, authenticity and a deep, wise faith? Surely these qualities should matter to us. Surely we should be weighing peoples lives and words on social media just like we would if they were with us in person at a coffee shop. Does longevity not play a part too? How amazing can someone seem for a short time? How sparkly and shiny does the new toy look when we are a child?
We have all had that experience where the person you thought was going to be a best friend rapidly became only an acquaintance. Over time you discovered things in their life that you wanted to keep your distance from or at least didn’t want them speaking into your life and leading you.
This is not about not walking and loving people with all of their failings. This is about who are you letting be a leader in your life.
I am simply encouraging all of us to look at the people we follow on social media. I would suggest you include me and my social media profiles (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Periscope) in this observation too. Take a look at my life, and see if you want to continue following me.