A few headlines caught my eye recently regarding Facebook and its role in marriage problems. The first article defined the problem of “phubbing.” This is where couples neglect one another for social media. According to the article, 46% of people complained that their significant other snubbed them for social media or their phone.
The second was an article by Samantha Yule in The Mirror: “Facebook now crops up in a third of divorce cases over cheating and old flames.”
Yule reports that many married people get in touch with old flames through Facebook. Worse, people tend to portray the best of themselves on Facebook when the reality of their situation may not be so great.
The third was from CNN by Ian Kerner: “E-motional affairs: How Facebook leads to infidelity.” Kerner does an excellent job of listing the factors that lead people down the road of infidelity by the door of Facebook. He encourages people not to “romanticize the past,” “don’t keep secrets,” “Facebook friends can be more powerful than porn,” and he suggests that if the temptation is too great, get off Facebook.
His article hits a lot of great points. I’ve counseled a lot of fallen pastors in the past few years who were able to carry on an emotional relationship with someone online that got out of hand and eventually turned physical.
A disclaimer, though. Is Facebook the moral evil? No, it’s not. And I don’t think Kerner or Yule would say that it is either. Any type of technology we engage in can be used for good or evil. When our lusts and sin get out of check, we can find ourselves in dangerous and deep waters. We could just as easily be talking about Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram or texting.
We have to remember that social media is not a reflection of people as they are. It is a reflection of how we want others to see us.
There are two things I’d add to the previous authors’ observations. First, most of the things we are fed electronically these days are built on the premise of addiction. We like things because they’re easy and fun. We keep clicking the button to see more. Some like social media to unwind after a long day and for some, it’s their means of communication. It can become a problem when we begin to cross lines of morality in the virtual world with real people that we would never cross with them face to face. We have to keep our hearts in check.
Secondly, I’d also add that what we see of people on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other media are the best of what they have to offer. It’s easy for a person to look back at someone they knew in high school on Facebook and say, “Wow, they have it all together. Look at their wife, their new house, their new job.”
Well, yeah. Because we typically post only the most flattering things about ourselves. We post the high points in our lives. The vacation shots, the perfectly positioned selfies, the shots of us in the clothes we look good in. We don’t post the picture of ourselves after we’ve first gotten up in the morning. Or after we’ve gotten mad at our precious child for leaving their backpack that we tripped over in the floor (for the billionth time) and we yelled at them.
We have to remember that social media is not a reflection of people as they are, typically. It is a reflection of how we want others to see us.
Is Facebook ruining marriages? Facebook is a complex program that we are able to access and if we are not careful, allow it to consume us. Worse, we can use it to propel our sinful desires forward into inappropriate behaviors.
I can tell you this. It’s not the basis for judging someone’s soul. And it’s definitely not a dating service for married people.
(But hey, have you messed up in this area? Are you a pastor, church leader? I’m here to help without judgment. Contact info is below.)
Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
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