Validation is something that all people crave and need. We need to know that we are loved and of value. I say, “of value,” rather than valued, because I believe that “of value” better captures the idea of external usefulness. We are not by nature designed to live and exist in isolation. God’s plan for man has always included being “of value.” Adam in the garden was to fill and subdue the earth (Gen. 1:28), Abraham was blessed so that he could be a blessing (Gen. 12:2), and Joseph was sent to Egypt by God to preserve life (Gen. 45:5).
We are designed to be useful, to be of value in the world around us and we need to know that we are fulfilling that purpose, we need validation. The problem is not the need for validation. The problem comes in where and who we seek this validation from. I’m going to put my student pastor hat on for a minute. I have noticed an dramatic increase in the number of posts on social media that directly seek external validation from social media circles. THIS is a problem.
Most of the posts that I have seen have been junior high and high school age girls, though, I have seen a number posted by guys as well. Unfortunately, it’s not even just students doing it, I have seen many adults make similar posts. Most of the adult posts seeking this kind of broad base validation though are a little more subtle than “like this if you think I’m beautiful.” Students are openly seeking validation for physical, emotional, and intellectual insecurities on social media and adults are often doing the same, if a little less openly. We (the church) need to respond to this problem at the root of the problem rather than at the head of it.
First, we need to check our own hearts and attitudes. As believers we need to remind ourselves that our ultimate validation should come from God. We should seek God’s will and do God’s work for HIS pleasure (Phil. 2.13). We need to remember that we are redefined by our faith, we are given a new nature through our faith (2 Cor. 5:17), so only HE can give us the validation that we truly need.
Second, we need to respond to the situation biblically. Look, I am as millennial as the next person of my generation, but some things need to be dealt with offline. Believers, we need to have conversations with our friends, family, and fellow believers when we see them seeking this unhealthy validation from social media. One of the things we can do to make social media a healthy thing is to make sure that we are still engaging in biblical community and this includes accountability for what we post on social media.
I do believe that there is good earthly validation thought. Believers, give your friends, coworkers, neighbors, and fellow believers validation. Pay enough attention to see what people are good at and take notice, tell them. Most importantly of all, parents, give your children the validation they need and teach them not to look for it in the world of social media or in the world at all. Social media can never give people what they are looking for. But we do have the answer, Jesus Christ can give them what they need. Show them 2 Corinthians 5:17-19, Jesus reconciles people to him, he gives them a new nature.