You Are Not Made in the Image of Social Media

I love Twitter.

Anyone who knows me has probably caught on to this. I think it highlights peoples’ humor, insight, and experiences in a unique manner. Because of social media I’ve met best friends from distant areas of the country, and I did so while browsing through my no-longer-in-touch middle school best friend’s wedding pictures. But like many pleasures, I often overindulge.

In the past few months especially, I’ve tried to be observant of my social media habits, and after paying closer attention, I’ve found an alarming trend.

Talking Without Mouths

Psalm 115 talks about the supremacy of God over against the false idols of the psalmist’s day. He writes:

Their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands.
They have mouths but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk.
They cannot make a sound with their throats.
Those who make them are just like them, as are all who trust in them.
Psalm 115:4–8 (CSB)

Scripture tells us that in time, idol worshippers will become like the idols they worship. In the same way, golden-clad idols are lifeless, idol-worshippers, too, become lifeless—not physically, but spiritually. They have faces but know not how to use their features. They have mouths, but they can’t talk. They have eyes, but they can’t see. They have ears, but they can’t hear. They are, to put it rather politely, fools.

Social media has made me ask, “What happens when our idol isn’t made of gold or wood, but is made of flesh and bone? What happens when we don’t worship a statue but instead worship our personalities, our self?”

In other words, what happens when self becomes our idol, as it so easily does online? Or, perhaps worse, what happens when our idea of our self becomes our idol?

If we aren’t careful, we do something strikingly similar to the idol worshippers of Psalm 115. We, too, worship something other than the true God, but there’s a catch. Online, we are given space to talk, see, and hear without ever taking notice of what our faces actually look like. We actually end up doing the inverse of what these idolators were doing.

Because we hold the “self-idea” in such high regard, we change our social media habits so that we gain as much affirmation as we can.

We take tens of pictures, hoping that one of them has the best lighting, the best smile, or the best pose (If we’re really vibin’, we’ll get all three!). We spend minutes crafting an image, composing tweets, writing posts so that they will gain the most number of likes—entire minutes that will never again be regained.

I don’t want to over-exaggerate. Like I said, I like social media. I’m simply afraid that it too easily takes captive some quadrant of our spiritual well-being.

Our hearts don’t rest in God; our hearts appear to be restless until they rest in retweets.

If we don’t leave it unchecked, we will become what we post.

Made in the Image of the Triune God

Self-idea worship sneaks in subtly, but subtleties can kill a man.[1] So, in case you’ve forgotten, let me tell you who we are.

In the beginning, God created us in His image (Gen. 1:26–27). After doing so, He sweetens the deal in His loving kindness: He puts His very breath in us (Gen. 2:7). And as great as it was, that’s still not the whole of it. God planted us a Garden—a Garden for us, a place to find meaning and vocation in the presence of the Lord (Gen. 2:8). It’s a truly beautiful picture.

Though the Fall augmented the way God’s glory can be seen by us on earth, it couldn’t take His image, His breath, and His mercy away from us.

You—yes, you who didn’t get as many likes as you anticipated on that thing you posted today—you were made in the image of the Triune God of the universe. And Christ is coming back someday soon to make that image evermore glorified.

The digital age is a distracted, busy place. But you were formed from the ground—which means you were not formed by your own two hands. You were created by the Maker of heaven and earth, the One to Whom and through Whom and for Whom all things live and move and have their being.

[1] This clever phrasing is actually from Levi the Poet. I can’t take credit for its brilliance.

Cody Barnhart (@codygbarnhart) lives in Maryville, Tennessee, and is an MDiv student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He attends Pleasant Grove at College Street, where he is a church planting intern.