Justification by Facebook

One of the reasons social media works so well is because we all like to talk about ourselves. It’s a basic, universal fact of communication.

The difference in social media is this: we can talk about ourselves to a massive crowd inside our minuscule screens, feel our confidence balloon as “likes” multiply like rabbits, and—thank goodness!—no one is there to rudely interrupt us by talking about themselves. 

But there’s something else going on, too. Social media helps us to justify our existence. It’s a venue for us to prove to the world, and especially ourselves, that we matter. We are somebody. It’s our visual résumé to prospective admirers. We can showcase our newly toned body, brag about our latest accomplishment, or even wink our way into a new relationship by putting our best Facebook foot forward.

@@One of our worst modern fears is anonymity.@@ We equate not being known with not mattering. So we strive to matter. We’ll even lie to matter. We’ll ham up, twist around, or completely invent statuses on social media simply to garner attention. We’ll post pictures of our gargantuan dream home--the one that the bank will soon foreclose on. We become drama queens to attract attention, divulge secrets to elicit sympathy, or post controversial statements we don’t even fully believe just to spark a brawl on our wall.

In short, we want people to notice us, know us, like us, or even hate us. Just please don’t ignore us. Social media is the ego’s dream come true.

In her newly released book, Home: How Heaven and the New Earth Satisfy Our Deepest Longings, Elyse Fitzpatrick points out how we seek “to justify ourselves by our experiences,” things like Bucket Lists. She writes, “We might call it ‘Justification by Facebook.’” “An entire industry has sprung up around our drive to share about how much we’re enjoying life…Look at me! the post proclaims. See, I really am happy, well-heeled, in control, fun, strong, brave…wonderful. Don’t you wish you were me?

We justify our existence on the basis of what we have done. Then we crank up the volume of that justification by trumpeting it through social media. And beneath that proclamation is an ugly theology that says, “I am important. I matter. I am worth something because of this thing I own or this work I accomplish. Look at what I do and you’ll see who I am.”

It’s as old as the hills, as ancient as the serpent’s song, this unquenchable drive to define our worth according to what we do instead of what is given to us by God.

A whole book has been written about why you matter; it’s called the Bible. And it too is a facebook—a book full of faces. The face of Adam, made from mud, kissed by God, oxygenated by the lungs of eternity. The faces of ark-building Noah, giant-slaying David, lion-petting Daniel, God-birthing Mary, and lots of other household names.

But there’s more faces without names than those with names. Anonymous saints who transform little acres of earth into the kingdom of God. Runts. Beggars. Invalids. Children. Slaves. The Bible never names them, but the God of the Bible never forgets them. Why? Because they matter. They matter to him. They matter to God more than anything else God has in this gigantic universe.

There is nothing more important to Jesus than you. If Jesus had a Facebook account, he could post 1000 times a day, “Thinking of you, loving you, caring for you,” and never lie or exaggerate.  You don’t matter because you think you matter, but because Christ affirms that you do. You don’t matter because of your degree, your children, your spouse, your career, your wealth, or your reputation. Strip them all away and your worth will not change one iota.

@@Your worth is defined by what you receive not by what you achieve.@@

Social media has many wonderful features. I do not deny that. But what it cannot do is provide any justification for our existence, our worth, why we matter. Nothing we ourselves do can provide that. God alone does. Christ alone does.

The face that proves, once and for all, how dearly God loves you, how much you mean to him, is the face with two deeply sunk eyes darkening into the midnight of death, the face splotched with the spit of his haters, the face sprayed with the lacerated veins of his tortured body, the face whose beard has been plucked out, the face that gazes in death throes upon a creation spiraling into the deep pit of destruction, and says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

That face reveals the face of God. It is the human canvas upon which is painted the vivid colors of divine love. It is the face that looks at you now, yes, even as you read these words and says, “Oh, how I love you. You mean more to me than life itself. You, my child, are everything to me. My lifeblood. My heart. My desire. My all. That is who you are. I am not only willing to give up everything to have you. I did it. I gave up all, even life itself. And now, you are mine. You matter. You are the object of heaven’s high, relentless, lavish compassion and mercy.”

That face, the face of Jesus, is the sole book in which you find perfect justification.