When X Marks Nothing: Some Thoughts About Social Media Christianity

Last Thursday, as I was scanning Instagram, I noticed that a number of my good friends were posting pictures of the letter X. Some wrote X on their hands. Others wore t-shirts or hats featuring X. One guy even put an X on his forehead.

Suddenly, after seeing all of my friends posting their Xs, I felt compelled to Instagram my own X.

To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure why everybody was putting Xs on their bodies and showcasing them online. Still, I started thinking about what my X would look like, how I would display it, what app I should use, and what filter would make it look cool(er).

Of course, I assumed it was a good cause, and I was pretty sure, based on the tweets and comments, that the X meme involved trafficking or slavery. But at the time, the only thing I knew about the End It Movement was the hashtag.

But not wanting to appear uninformed or uninterested or uninvolved, I quickly created my X and posted it on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Afterward, I Googled “End it movement” to make sure it was a decent cause, and it was, so I started writing/editing and didn’t think about my X for the rest of the day.

Not a big deal, right?

Sure, it was fake, an action caused more by peer pressure as opposed to passion.

But it’s just an X. And it’s for a good cause—to end slavery!

And yet it’s just an X, that for me was more about fitting in, the appearance that I am truly concerned about the millions of people around the world who are victims of various types of slavery. If I’m truthful, my X did nothing to bring awareness to slavery. It just made me look involved, look informed, and look like I was somehow passionate about the war to end slavery…

And I am passionately against slavery. I mean, I want to be anyway. I’d love to see it come to an end. Because I hate slavery… but I also rarely wake up thinking about how much I hate slavery, about how much God hates slavery.

Sometimes I’m far more Christ-minded online than I am in real life. Online, I stand up for what I believe to be right causes. I stand against what I believe are bad ideas. I promote my beliefs and thoughts about God with passion, emotion, and the occasional big words.

Sometimes my social media Christianity is far more engaged and aware and fearless than my real life faith.

Though I sincerely try to never say or promote or write anything online that I don’t believe or believe in, I fail sometimes. Sometimes I fall prey to using other people’s good ideas or good causes or some aspect of the Christian faith to promote me as opposed to those ideas and causes. Again, but for some of my sarcasms and punch lines, I do my best to only promote or retweet ideas/causes that I believe in…

I mean, I believe in what the X stands for. I believe in it wholeheartedly. But still, that X doesn’t reflect my real life passions… ending slavery is not something I wake up thinking about or go to sleep worrying about…

But it’s just an X, right? Yeah, for me, it’s just an X. But for others, that X represents a travesty that they shed tears over. It represents a concept that they are engaged in, informed about, and passionately pushing to resolve. So no, it’s not just an X. Not for a whole bunch of passionate people dedicated to ending slavery.

I don’t want to be just a “good cause” advocate on social media. If I promote a cause online, I want my words to reflect a part, even if it’s just a small part, of who I am or what I do or what I support in real life.

My feeds are buzzing with a plethora of social media Christianity, people making big statements about God, life, and faith online. And it’s so easy, regardless of who we are—from progressive Christians to conservative Christians to Christians who fall somewhere in the middle—to fall prey to using God and Christianity simply as tools to promote us, to reflect an ideal online that in truth, doesn’t come close to portraying who we are in real life…

Because it’s not just an X. It’s an idea or cause or belief that, on some level, affects real people…

So please, let’s not make it about us forgive me for making it about me.

Comments

  1. LaurenVenn says

    Dude-this is so true. It’s so easy to inflate our online Christianity when our real-life Christianity is pathetic and weak. Social media makes it way too convenient to make ourselves into something that we aren’t.
    I saw the X thing too and had to look up what it was….I felt like I didn’t get the memo….but you are right on that note. Putting an X on our hand and taking a cute selfie is not going to stop little girls from being enslaved and used until they die. Training our boys not to objectify women and handing them down healthy views of sexuality is where the change begins. But it is more hipster to slap an X on something and tweet it.

  2. PatrickOlp says

    Slacktivism is appealing because it has the appearance of involvement without the inconvenience of pain, or really having to actually DO something. And damn it if those likes don’t get me all fired up every time, like 84 thumbs up equals greater solidarity like “we” accomplished something. Guilty as charged.

  3. jennadewitt says

    It takes not being ok with ignorance. Once ignorance is unacceptable instead of bliss, we are open to hear their stories. Once we hear their stories, we get to know them as people. Real people. Once you know them as real people, you wake up and go to bed thinking about what that X means.

  4. AudreySmithAteca says

    I agree.  I didn’t put an X on my hand, but I admit, I felt guilty for not doing so  I am passionate about ending slavery and I try to speak about when I have opportunity and I try to buy fair trade products, but I admit I felt a little guilt about not doing the X,.   The thought of,  “Oh, no , people will not think I”m against slavery.  I have to let people know I”m ‘with it’ ”  .    Challenges me to think,  am I more concerned with what other people think or what God thinks.

  5. pthalomarie says

    This is why activism via social media is so problematic. It gives us the illusion that we’re making a difference or taking a stand, when really all we’re doing is drawing X’s.

  6. 317Russ says

    PatrickOlp  I like that term “slacktivism”… I’m going to borrow it!

    My sister in law did this the other day on Instagram, and before I read the description, I wondered, “What #hashtag #gimmick is she representing today?” And honestly, I looked at it with indifference because I did think of it as a gimmick, and not for what it really was. I’m not sure if that’s my shame or the gimmick’s or what, but that was my immediate response.

  7. momofmanysheep says

    Yeah. And don’t be surprised when you get slammed for posting this on your Facebook page, especially if you chose not to wear the ‘X’.

  8. KarenSicheneder says

    Thank you for this. I noticed the exact same thing.. and my first reaction wasn’t to join in the trend. In fact, I noticed who WAS joining in and realized that those who were did not ever post or mention anything about any other Christian cause ever. In fact, it was like a generic trendy thing people could get behind without feeling like they’re were forced to become activists. I mean, everybody hates slavery, right? 
    But we do notice. We notice that you’re real life does not reflect the person you represent yourself to be on social media, we notice that you’re not concerned with important issues, we notice that you’re a hypocrite. (not directed to any person in particular)
    It’s nothing more than faith by manipulation… which isn’t really faith.

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