We are more connected to people now than we ever have been. Or so it appears. How deep can a connection through social media really go? We only get a partial view into people’s lives. It’s like looking into someone’s windows as you drive by their house. It’s only a partial view. Not until I actually step inside their house do I really have a clear picture of what’s going on in the inside of their house, how they’ve decorated, or if they’re neat or messy. Our lives on social media are very much a partial view inside our lives.

On one side through social media photo sharing sites like Instagram we get a glimpse of how people perceive beauty. We invite people to see a day to day of our lives, read our thoughts in 140 characters or less, and update people on our life happenings, inviting others to celebrate with us in our happenings.  But it’s only a glimpse, what happens when we pull back the veil?

The statement, “you can be anyone you want to be” is really only true in the realm of social media. It allows us to create an image, hide the dirt under the rug; we are in complete control of what people know about us.  I could be extremely hurting on the inside but you would think all was great by the activities I am doing, the meals I’m eating, and the scripture verses I quote occasionally.

I don’t think social media or the internet is evil by any means. But I do think we need to be cautious and wise up to how we use social media. Social media and the internet is not a substitute for genuine community.  We do so much online, connect with high school friends, promote our lives, share in our excitement and sometimes in our tragedies, some people even meet their spouse online. Even with all the benefits or ease it can bring to our lives it’s still not going to fill our need for community.

You can have a billion followers on twitter, but of those followers how many of them are going to dig into the trenches of life with you. Genuine community begins with spending time face to face with like-minded people, who share your beliefs and are willing to open their lives to you, the good and the bad. People whom you can actually do life with and who invite you to do life with them.

When we substitute social media for community we quickly become defeated.

When you only read the highlights of people’s lives you get this glimpse that everything in there life is amazing. People invite us in to celebrate with them in their engagement or announcement that they are pregnant. We can read social media and think nothing bad ever happens to the people we follow. Genuine community celebrates when things are good but yet mourn with others as they are mourning. But also, genuine community confesses sins to one another.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” James 4:16

We should confess our sins to one another so that redemption will happen. As we confess our sins to one another we are reminded we are not the only one who sins and we aren’t left in our sin alone. We invite others in to pray for us and to speak truth in love, "that you may be healed." Someone is more likely to journey with me, care for me, and hold me accountable when I confess my sin to them directly.

Often when we let things stew within us, we go online and it feeds our unbelief in that moment.  Regardless if you are struggling with loneliness, comparison, or seeking acceptance, none of these things will be healed or addressed, but rather fed through time and energy spent online.

Some of us need to take a step back in how you communicate through social media because you share too much. Others use social media as an avenue to get even or to get in the last word. It’s not a soapbox to stand on, you’re still accountable for what you say and do.  As people of faith we should be responsible and filter our words and photos through the lenses of faith, not lenses of self-promotion.

Your heart is far more valuable to the Lord than your image and the amount of followers you have on the web. Spend time cultivating that (your heart) and let it overflow into how you use, respond, and process social media.  Use it not for your own gain but for the glory of God. Let’s take off our veils and be genuine people who point people to Christ in all areas of our lives.

Amanda Edmondson is on staff at Sojourn Community Church is Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow her @amandaedmondson.