Writers are encouraged to build platforms–people who follow them on social media, who listen to them speak, etc. The idea is that online followers can translate into book sales. One editor I admire and would love to work with stated that they look for an author to have 10,000 social media followers before they will consider publishing their book.

Being the goal-oriented, perfectionist type that I am, once I’d heard it, 10,000 took root in my mind as something of a far-off, best-case-scenario ideal. On one level, I believed 10,000 followers=success.

On a more realistic level, it’s important to me to not be spammy, fake, or selfish. So, I’ve worked hard to keep my online presence positive and encouraging by giving value to people and building relationships. I’m nowhere near 10,000 connections, but I’ve met a lot of interesting people, and overall, the experience of getting out on social media more has been a positive one.

But I’ve noticed some of the troubling traps social media has to offer.

Likes, followers, shares, and retweets can become a bit of an addiction to feed feelings of security and worth.

The same source that feeds an ego can starve it with disappearing likes, unpopular posts, and unfollowers.

A starved or slighted ego quickly resorts to worry. Was that post too much of an over-share? Which of the conflicting online etiquette rules are important? And on and on.

Once the worrying ego gets an answer that says it did, in fact, make the wrong move, regret stumbles through the door until the next positive moment shoves it back out and the cycle can start over.

That’s a lot of problems to deal with and correct, but thankfully, I think I’ve found their one, common root: misplaced value. It’s something we’re all at risk for, whether we’re authors building platforms or casual social media users. Or even if we’re not online at all.

A friend of mine shared an article on Facebook from RelevantMagazine.com titled The Surprisingly Depressing Experience of Going Viral about a man who became an Internet sensation. He’s seen the other side of this social media popularity contest, and he writes, “Perhaps what we really crave, more than praise from ten thousand mouths, is intimacy—truly being known.”

(Notice he mentioned the magic number, too?)

The author’s point and mine is that online popularity will never satisfy us; only God can do that.

If my purpose and my value are tied up in my social media platform, even 10,000 followers wouldn’t lead me think to myself that I’m satisfied for life and wouldn’t care if I never got another like or another retweet or another follow.

The same goes if I try to tie my purpose and identity to a job or a relationship or an address or… you name it.

If, however, my purpose and value are tied up in the One True God who created me, I will never look at him and think to myself that he’s not enough. He is so much more than I could ever imagine or grasp. He is my purpose, my home, my hope, my life, and my light. And yet, he went to the trouble of creating me–and dying for me. He loves me, regardless of how many followers I do or don’t have or whether or not I ever publish a book.

Just typing that out gives my soul a refreshing breath of air!

If you’re wondering about the pastoral pictures I’m using in this post, and thinking to yourself that they’re sort of from the opposite of the social media world, you’d be right. That’s because the grand idea of this post is to check the role social media plays in our lives and to reverse the areas where we’ve let it get out of balance.

Instead of looking to anything else when your soul is hungry for restoration, turn to the Prince of Peace (Psalm 23:1-3). When you doubt your own worth, turn to your Creator (Psalm 139:13). When you’re tempted to worry, turn to your Deliverer (Psalm 120:1). When you’ve made a mess of everything, turn to your Redeemer (Isaiah 43:1).

Is it wrong to use social media ? No. But is wrong for us to find our value there.

I hope you’ll join me in refocusing again on God and placing your value squarely and permanently in his nail-pierced hands.