Religion Isn’t Dead – It Has Been Resurrected as a Bragging Tool on Facebook

A warm breeze tickles your neck and condensation from your decadent tropical cocktail drips onto your lap as you watch a breathtaking sunset in Oahu. It’s an almost-perfect moment, a moment that could only be elevated to perfection by bragging about it on Facebook.

But you don’t want to feel like an asshole crowing about your vacation while friends at home toil at terrible jobs they’re nevertheless terrified of losing in this sickly economy. Not to worry, there is no need to keep your perfect Hawaii moment to yourself – just add Jesus.

Then “Watching the most gorge sunset ever in Oahu from the balcony of our hotel right on the beach!” becomes “Watching the most gorge sunset ever in Oahu from the balcony of our hotel right on the beach. Feeling sooo blessed right now!

Boom, insta-humblebrag. Problem solved.

It appears that Christ has become incredibly industrious in the last few years, given the ramped-up number of blessings people cite on Facebook daily. Does being backstage at the Oscars really qualify as a religious experience? Even a celebrity favoriting a person’s tweet is enough to trigger thankfulness to Jesus these days.

These Facebook-reported blessings clearly aren’t just coming from the faithful anymore; people who haven’t stepped foot in a house of worship for at least 15 years nevertheless seem to feel the need to praise Him for their good fortune with growing frequency.

Celebrities likely have helped usher in this attitude of gratitude. People grew weary of the brash excess of the ‘80s and then the trend of cynicism and irony in the 1990s and 2000s, making heartfelt expressions of humility refreshing. It could partly be the surge in reality programming, which has made ordinary people “stars” without the need for drama school, agents and hard work; plucked from your cashier job in Kentucky and achieving fame and fortune for letting a camera crew follow you around for a few weeks, and you’d be wise to publicly express some thanks.

But now, the “blessings” party line isn’t so much refreshing as it is expected. Not to mention cloying.

Social media gives us unprecedented opportunities to alert others when we’re having a positive experience. But even if your closest friends might indeed be delighted to hear that you’re having an awesome time on vacation, most people realize that 98 percent of their Facebook friends couldn’t give a shit. So adding, “Feeling so blessed!” to a braggy post takes the edge off. Or so we hope.

But what if you ARE religious, you ask, and just thanking God for your good fortune and innumerable blessings? You should shut up, too, actually. Take it from one of your own…

In an insightful 2012 article for Christianity Today, Leslie Sebek Miller wrote:

“We American Christians have our own version of the humble brag. Instead of prefacing our brag with phony humility, we sometimes soften it with expressions of blessing and gratitude. We want, like everyone else, to show that our life is good, happy, and exciting, but we also don’t want to seem self-important. So we append our posts with praise to God. This is not to say that all online praise is unauthentic—some is, absolutely. But I suspect that some of our expressions of praise are also motivated by a desire to display our life in only a positive light.

Guilty as charged. On a recent vacation, I uploaded a sunset photo with the caption, ‘Grateful for God’s creation.’ I certainly was grateful, and our Creator deserves such praise. But one primary reason for posting the photo was to show everyone in my Instagram feed that I was having a great time in Hawaii.”

In addition to not wanting to appear disingenuous, there’s another reason to curb the habit of adding a Jesus reference to a humblebrag: It makes you look even more self-conscious than a nonreligious brag. The author of Bullets and Blessings hilariously explains the humblebrag-insecurity connection:

“What many people don’t realize when it comes to the precious art of humblebragging is that it also highlights your insecurity. It clearly defines your priorities by shining a spotlight on what your idea of impressing others is. For example, I love when girls post pictures of their new boyfriends doing the most mundane shit for them like, ‘Babe picked up dinner tonight. He’s such a good man.’ No, he went to Boston Market like any hungry-ass man would do. This does not make him Boyfriend of the Damn Year. Even worse it shows that you’re about to bust out doing the cabbage patch because some dude brought you rotisserie chicken. I hate to break it you babe but you’re not special, hundreds of men across the globe are taking their girlfriends to Cheesecake Factory as we speak and they’re not getting a gold star.”

But how do you stop putting Christ in the sidecar of your Facebook humblebrags? Although meant to help readers be better Christians, Miller’s advice about posting on Facebook can help us all be better Facebook friends, too:

— Thou will question his/her own motives before publishing content. Ask yourself if the content you’re posting is God-glorifying or self-glorifying.

— Thou will praise God privately before praising publicly. If you witness a beautiful sunset, sit in the moment before turning to your phone. Sometimes you might realize there’s no one better to share it with than the Creator himself.

— Thou will post the good and the bad, within reason. There are natural boundaries for what to share on Facebook, and trying to articulate pain, grief, sadness, or simply boredom to an online audience is trickier than uploading photos from a trip to Barbados. Give thought to how your pictures and words might contribute to healthy community building.

Maybe you don’t give a shit what others think about your Facebook posting habits. As someone who posts many pictures of my cats, I would have to put myself in that group. Just be aware that all those blessings aren’t fooling anyone; you’re still just bragging. And if you really want to serve Christ in your life, there are better ways to do so than blithely mentioning him on Facebook.

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.