I watch sports, take care of my kids, go on date nights with my wife, wait in traffic for hours, work long shifts at my job, and waste a lot of time taking naps — not necessarily in that order. I love my life, but when I flip open my laptop I suddenly become a different person.
I have multiple online identities, the result of subconsciously trying to be a better version of myself — a better follower of Christ. But these various personalities that I portray among social media sites are fabrications. Here are a few examples why:
The single verse I post on Twitter is the only Scripture I read all day — even though my Facebook profile claims that the Bible is one of my favorite books.
C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Donald Miller, and Francine Rivers are also listed, but only to prove my Evangelical IQ.
I’m #prayingforSandyHook and #prayingforBoston and #prayingforOklahoma, but I rarely pray.
I repost memes about global poverty, loving the poor, reconciliation and promoting peace, but I spend all of my spare time watching Netflix.
I “Like” and “Favorite” my friends’ statuses when they talk about their faith and God, but I haven’t had meaningful conversations with them in years.
I subscribe to the podcasts of pastors and theologians, but I’m always too busy to implement anything I learn.
I carefully select which pictures I post — the ones where I’m constantly smiling and with friends and doing cool things — but my life is filled with many problems, pain, suffering, conflicts, fears, and doubts. I never reveal any of those things.
I Tweet inspirational quotes after much personal thought and reflection, but I never filter what I say to my spouse and kids.
I spend hours browsing through YouTube and Reddit, but I can barely sit through a 20-minute sermon at church.
I share links about Christianity, but I never talk about Jesus in public.
I debate theology via Twitter, Facebook, blog feeds, and message boards, but I’m embarrassed to discuss my faith anywhere else — I never evangelize.
I use PayPal to donate to Christian charities and mission organizations because I don’t want to leave the comfort of my home — others can do all the hard work.
Religious Views: Christian — but not in practice.
I’m a #Christian, and my online faith is radically different than the one I live in real life.
Hashtag Christianity isn’t necessarily bad, but it can cause self-righteousness and provide a false sense of spirituality. It has the danger of making us believe we’re living out our faith without really doing anything.
It forces us to move at the speed of light as we constantly keep up with trending developments, unintentionally creating a spirituality that is superficial and easily distracted.
The online version of our faith is often unrealistically clear and concise and clean. If negative comments or links challenge our faith, we can delete them. If people disagree or attack our faith, we can block them. We curate and maintain a false version of ourselves, keeping up with an ideal that is fake and impossible to fulfill.
I wish I were half as holy as my online profiles claim I am. In the meantime, I’ll continue being a Cyber Christian, full-time hypocrite, and completely forgiven sinner.
Stephen Mattson has written for Relevant, Red Letter Christians and The Burnside Writer's Collective. He graduated from the Moody Bible Institute and is currently on staff at University of Northwestern – St. Paul, Minn. Follow him on Twitter @mikta.
Image: Social media illustration, Qiun / Shutterstock.com