If you’re like me, you have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. Yes, it provides a convenient way to keep up with my friends and let them know what I’m up to. And occasionally someone posts an interesting video clip or news item that I find profitable.
However, I’ve concluded that for many people, Facebook is all about “keeping up appearances.” If you spend all your time in the unreality world of Facebook, you’ve probably concluded that every one of your friends is living the perfect life. Awesome spouse. Incredible kids. Fantastic vacations. One fun experience after another.
In the world of Facebook friends, there is seemingly no pain…loneliness…or depression. No one posts anything about marriage struggles or rebellious children or trouble with their boss. In fact, people seem to feel obliged to write a post on their anniversary that says something like, “Thirty years ago I married my soul mate, and we’ve had one glorious year after another ever since.”
The problem is, there’s quite a difference between the digital lives of my Facebook friends and the actual lives of the friends I know in the real world. Maybe I’ve been hanging out with too many losers, but some of my friends have been divorced…have lost jobs…have gone bankrupt…have had bouts with depression…or have gone through agonizing situations with their children.
Of course, I would never have known any of these things about my friends through their Facebook posts. No, I had to spend time with them, face to face, looking them squarely in the eyes. And I had to share my own struggles, so they could trust me enough to share their struggles.
The tendency for people to “keep up appearances” is certainly not a new phenomenon. The Bible is filled with descriptions about the common human tendency to fall into “play acting” or “hypocrisy,” especially for us religious folks.
Amazingly, Jesus was compassionate toward prostitutes and drunkards, yet very severe to people who played religious games for the sake of keeping up their appearance:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness (Matthew 23:27-28).
If I had nothing better to do, I think I should start a Facebook alternative for people who want to be honest about their lives. Maybe I could call it Heartbook, or something like that. It would be the no-spin zone of social media sites.
The theme verse of my new Heartbook initiative would be 1 Samuel 16:7: “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” There would be a strict policy against sharing your selfies unless you also shared the condition of your heart.
You see, 1 John 1:7 says the only way we can have true friendship and fellowship is to “walk in the light.” In other words, transparency and openness are prerequisites for genuine relationships.
That’s why I frankly don’t care how many Facebook friends you have. Heartbook will trump the Facebook any day. (Watch out, Mark Zuckerberg!)
So the real question isn’t your number of Facebook friends, but whether you have any friends you can be real with. You need people who see beyond your appearance to your heart…people who love you unconditionally, no matter how you are doing or what you are going through.
A true friend is worth thousands of people whose goal in life is to keep up their appearance. Don’t settle for anything less.