Proverbs 27:2 and Social Media Self-Promotion

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 27:2 (ESV)

The popularity of social media has outpaced the ability of users to wisely use this communication technology and warped our perception of ourselves. Prior to this age, only celebrities of sports, media, and politics had a following and a platform in which to express their thoughts and influence how they are perceived. They had paparazzi following them to take pictures of mundane events like shopping, eating, and family outings and commenting on their purchases, acquaintances, and vacations. With social media, users are their own paparazzi sharing pictures, stories of mundane daily events, and who they are with while doing what.

There is a fine line between what is sharing and what is self-promotion.

The proverb above, and similar admonitions not to brag, were regular parts of my mother’s admonition to a son who often could be too full of himself. “No one likes a braggart” I would hear, and she was right. On the other hand, much of business success today depends on getting your name and skills in front of potential employers and reminding your supervisors of the value you bring to the company. We have to stand out from the crowd of other candidates and, during times of downsizing and layoffs, make sure our employers know that we are doing important work for the company when we are one of many people they manage in addition to the many tasks they perform. And so the modern worker in the business arena must walk a fine line between bragging and making the case for being a valuable employee.

Building a professional platform without bragging

One of the distinctions for the professional is that bragging or boasting involves exaggerating one’s worth and skills beyond reality or hyping mundane abilities. When hiring administrators, I was often amused at the resumes that touted the ability to operate copiers, shredders, and browsers from diverse manufacturers. If you cannot operate any of these without a couple of minutes of training, you are in the wrong field. Likewise, I have seen interviewees who touted computer programming language skills melt when a real programmer asked them to explain some of the simple things about the language, commenting later that the applicant must have “walked by some programmers talking and felt he was qualified.” When crafting a resume, emphasize the real skills you have (and get valuable skills to add to your qualifications) and demonstrate the value you have provided to your employers.

Professional social networks such as LinkedIn (my profile is here) allow you to post a digital resume and have others recommend you for skills they observe and write testimonies (really, its a review!) of your work with them. This allows others, as the proverb says, to praise you. By expressing what you have done in quantitative ways (“I increased revenues 25% and added 5 new clients per year as a sales representative.”) or describing your skills (“I have developed several computer programs and two apps in the Apple iStore.”) you are not bragging but showing to employers what you have done. Writing “I’m the best salesperson (programmer) in the city” is bragging and is probably easy to disprove.

On personal social media, managing this takes additional thought. Are you bragging about your work or is posting what you have accomplished your work? One of the criteria is probably, are you trying to build an audience for your business or just trying to get attention for yourself. I know a Christian lady who publishes posts and videos of her recipes and dietary advice frequently. It is her business and social media is how she builds an audience with which she can approach advertisers and gain presentation opportunities. Posting is her business. I know insurance agents, restaurant owners, and others who sell to individuals who post relevant information and business promotions to get business. Bloggers post links to their work to get readers. These seem to be valid uses though they can be abused.

However, I’ve always been curious about “checking in” at work. Aren’t you supposed to be there? There are other posts where it seems like the person could be bragging “see what I get to do” or “can you can imagine how much I’m paid to do this?” Worse is the “oh how hard my job is” posts to a bunch of people who probably are working as hard, or harder, than the person posting. And don’t complain about your boss, co-workers, or customers ever. Not only may it cause problems, including unemployment, but future employers may see your posts and fear what you might say about them.

Boasting about doing God’s work

This is one of those fine line issues for Christians and especially those who are fully-supported by Christians to preach or do other work in the kingdom. On the one hand, I’ve seen discussions among Christians who note that discussions of spiritual work is encouraging as they see things being done in other places and have gotten ideas for evangelism or service from things other people are doing. Also, we can find out about events, such as gospel meetings and opportunities to learn or serve. Some posts demonstrate to non-Christians that we are serious about our faith and active in service to others, traits needed in a world that is increasingly hostile to Christ and His followers.

On the other hand, when does our announcing a work, discussing how tired but joyous we are having just finished a work, or sharing that we are doing some devotional service cross the line into bragging? Here is a picture of how pious I am, or the study I’m doing, or the good work I’m involved with. The “humble brag” is a term coined to describe the post where the person wants to shout how great they are but the nature of the event is such that they shouldn’t brag about it: “I am humbled and honored to be invited to speak at this lectureship knowing the other speakers are much more qualified to present” or “I am humbly thankful to have been part of this charity effort today.” We can even brag about what our church is doing. I’m not making a blanket condemnation on such posts but ask what are we trying to gain with the post? If you walked up to a casual acquaintance and said the same thing how do you think it would sound or how would you hope or expect them to respond?

Jesus devoted significant attention in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:1-18, chiding those who gave, prayed, and fasted in order to be seen by others. In the rebuke of the givers he condemned those who literally “tooted their own horn” to draw attention to themselves though the givers probably rationalized it by saying they sounded the horn to make sure those in need knew where the alms were. Regarding fasting and praying, Jesus said not to bring attention to yourself in this service.  In fact, in Luke 17:10 Jesus said we should conclude such service recognizing this is what is expected of us: “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’.” Our challenge is to be content with God’s observation of our service and to let all things be done to His glory and not ours.

I’m not offering hard and fast rules, only suggestions that we check and double-check our motives for our social media posts. Is the good that can be performed improved by informing others about this? Are we trying to draw a crowd to where we are preaching or let people know we are in demand? Are we wanting people to think we are hard-working and generous people in case they have their doubts? Do we just need attention and validation?  As I’ve asked myself and others before, can you live without Internet celebrity?


Video – Lifeline to God: Using Social Media to Teach and Edify

This is a video of a presentation I did in July 2016 at a teen gathering on using social media in a way that glorifies God.

This is a video of a presentation I did in July 2016 at a teen gathering on using social media in a way that glorifies God. I hope you will find it encouraging. The document I reference early in the presentation on things young people wish their parents knew about how their social media use impacts them can be found here.


Are Virtual Friends Inferior to Physical Friends?

At the beginning of 2011, Simone Beck committed suicide after posting a suicide note as a Facebook message. As expected, the continued debate about true friendship and the value of online friends reignited. Having read several of these debates arising from various events, I believe the debate is primarily among those who are in their mid-20’s and older. For those who are younger, their friends have always included a blend of friendships made or partially developed through online communication: Facebook, MySpace, texting, email, etc. For older people, especially those who are not comfortable with, or have animosity towards, computer technology, these “virtual” relationships are suspect at best or an indication of the demise of civilization at the worst.

The article title is a little misleading because all the friends under consideration are physical beings though they may not frequently enter the physical space we occupy. The question addresses the most common way we communicate with these friends or where these friendships were formed: in person or online.

Many consider a friendship that is formed in cyberspace does not have the value of a friendship formed in “meatspace” (physical reality). However, devaluing an online-only friendship because it takes place through email, chat, or social networking sites reflects an “old world” mentality. Why is the relationship with the people who just happened to buy the houses around me or work in the same building considered inherently more valuable because of physical presence? Some neighbors and coworkers are nice people and I like them, but we have nothing in common but physical co-location. I have some online friends that I have not met physically, or limited encounters, but I enjoy communicating with them and feel a connection with them.

Why is sitting on a front porch talking about uninteresting info or gossip considered an inherently more valuable interaction than an excited chat/email session with someone across town or across the world on a subject that we are both passionate about?

Then there is personality. Although I do many public facing things, I am an introvert. It is difficult to call people out of the blue no matter how much I like them. I’ll call for business or to address an issue if a call requires it, but it is very difficult to call my friend to share a joke or ask what they did today. I will however check that person’s FB page and exchange email jokes or discussions. I communicate much better and exchange on a deeper level via the written word than through phone contact. Many devalue the email communication compared to the phone call. Other personality types need to have someone in front of them–physical presence–and do not enjoy the virtual exchanges as much. Neither personality type is the right one, just different ways of interacting with the world.

There are friends from high school, college, prior jobs, and cities I’ve lived in that I would have no contact with today if it were not for LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. because we are no longer in the situation that brought us together physically. Does that mean our continued friendship maintained online is plastic? Do I have to fly/drive across the company to get back into physical presence with them or call them weekly to turn it into a genuine friendship?
Of course I have people on my Facebook and LinkedIn friends lists that are acquaintances but we share some common interests and have good discussions. I don’t expect them to drop everything in my hour of need but I’m sure they would show concern and many would offer genuine help if I needed it. But I had those same kind of relationships in high school, college, and every place I worked–physical co-location and communication methods were irrelevant–but no one questioned the value of those relationships.

Remember this when spending time with friends: If you are spending time with friends physically, don’t interrupt that time to interact with people online (email, Facebook, Twitter). That’s just rude. If you are at the birthday party–be at the party. If you’re having dinner with friends–be there. If you need to step away to help a friend through a difficult crisis through a phone call or text, do that. But that’s an issue of courtesy and respect for those with you and has nothing to do with technology or the value of the friendships.

In the Simone Beck story, many criticized the lack of help by those on her “friends” list on Facebook. However, upon reading the article, it appears that Simone Beck’s “no local” FB friends (therefore not real friends by some people’s estimation) were trying to get phone and address info to help her and urged the local “friends” (physically co-located and therefore “genuine”) to act.

What is your answer to the title question? Do you have strong relationships with people that you only know through online interactions?

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