Guy/girl relationships can be confusing, can’t they?
Guy/girl relationships online can be even more confusing.
Does she like me? we wonder. Why is he emailing me? Why does she always comment on my posts? I think he’s flirting . . . is he flirting? Does she private message other guys . . . or just me?
We stalk, we scroll, we like and comment, and before we know it, we have a full blown crush on that guy or girl behind the Snapchats, Instagram stories, and private messages.
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve had a few online crushes. I’ve scoured social media platforms and blogs, unearthing old posts and pictures like a detective. I’ve sent friend requests and accepted friend requests, sent emails, and responded to emails. Often, the guys were the ones reaching out to me, but even so, when I think back on my “online crushes” one thing stands out: regret.
I wish I hadn’t Facebook stalked. I wish I hadn’t day-dreamed about guys I’d never met. I wish I’d been wise enough to guard my heart, instead of thinking my relationships via social media didn’t matter. I wish I hadn’t believed the lie that the need for purity ended when I picked up my phone or turned on my laptop.
But mostly, I wish I’d had greater respect for the guys I knew via technology. I wish I’d learned early on to think of them as brothers in Christ and been able to have healthy, Christ-exalting friendships.
As I’ve realized this about myself and tried to be wiser in online relationships, I’ve noticed I’m not the only one struggling. I’ve seen playful, flirtatious comments on social media and read teasing conversations about who likes who, who’s “dating” whom, and who’s recently “broke up”—all in an online context. I’ve seen things said on social media I know each individual would never say in person.
It’s easy to get careless about online relationships and not apply the same standards we would to in-person relationships. But the effects are the same.
Broken hearts, confused emotions, pushed boundaries . . . they can all happen online. That’s why we need to take our internet relationships seriously and be wise and discerning in our actions and attitudes. It’s possible to have healthy, Christ-exalting friendships online, but like all relationships, we have to be wise and discerning.
Here are 4 ways to maintain purity in online relationships.
1. Understand that All Your Relationships Matter
It matters who we know and follow, even on social media. It matters who we spend our time emailing and private messaging. It matters what we say in our emails and comments. It matters how we interact and with whom.
Because we’re not following a “profile,” commenting on a “status,” or messaging an “account.” We’re interacting with a person.
The barrier of our screens creates one dimensional interaction. It’s easy to forget that every person we know behind the screen is created in the image of God, with feelings, emotions, good days and bad days, trials and struggles.
We place different standards on our online relationships and actions, but they matter just as much. What we do and say affects that person. It can affect them for good or bad, devalue them or build them up, disrespect them or affirm them. It can mess with their heart or it can guard their purity. It can wreak havoc with their emotions or it can inspire them to seek Jesus. We usually know dozens (or even hundreds) of people via our screens, which makes how we choose to act all the more important. Don’t buy into the lie that a comment doesn’t matter. You can delete a comment, post, or story, but what you can’t delete is the impact it has.Don’t buy into the lie that a comment doesn’t matter. You can delete a comment, post, or story, but what you can’t delete is the impact it has. Click To Tweet
2. Don’t do/say something online you wouldn’t do/say in person
A lot of words are said online. Comment threads, Instagram stories, Snapchats, private messages . . . you name it.
We’ve all heard we need to watch our words. Sermons, podcasts, even entire books are dedicated to the subject of words. We know words matter.
But do we know that the words in our posts, comments, and Instagram stories matter too?
Ultimately, it comes down to a heart issue. If our heart isn’t seeking God, neither online nor in-person interactions will stand a chance at purity. But even if we’re genuinely seeking God and desiring purity, it’s still easy to let down our guard and comment or post things we wouldn’t say in person.
If you’re unsure about a comment or post, ask yourself several questions:
- If this person were standing in front of me, would I still say this?
- If this person’s parents were standing in front of me, would I still say this?
- If my future spouse was reading every comment and post, would I still type this?
If the honest answer to any of these questions is “no,” don’t post it.
3. Have Accountability Online
Online communication is intimate.
Think about it.
When you’re private messaging someone, it’s just you, your screen, and the other person. It’s like going into a secluded room and having a conversation. And it’s the same when you’re stalking someone on Instagram or viewing a website.
That’s hard. Temptation is strong when you’re the only one there and anything and everything is just a few clicks away. It’s difficult when you know no one else will read what you wrote in that private message or know how much time you spent stalking that account.
I encourage you to invite others into your online communication. Let someone have access to your email, social media accounts, online communities, and browsing history. Be open about who you’re interacting with and what kind of dynamic the relationships have.
If you feel uncomfortable with someone (like your parents) seeing who you’re communicating with and how, that’s a red flag. If you’re not okay with complete transparency and honesty, something needs to change.
4. Strive to be Above Reproach
Why do these things matter so much?
They matter because God cares about our internet and phone use and our online relationships. Instagram, Facebook, and emails may never be mentioned in the Bible—but purity is.
Ephesians 5:3 says, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity.”
Not even a hint.
Online stalking, fantasizing, and flirting may not be the exact definition of sexual immorality. But it’s edging close enough I can see hints coming through. The same as hints of sexual immorality come through in-person flirting, lusting, and fantasizing.
Our relationships online matter every bit as much as our face-to-face relationships, and require the same level of purity and integrity. It’s a sin to stalk a guy on social media and lust over his profile picture as it is to lust over his body in real life. It’s a sin for a guy to flirt online with a girl he has no intention of pursuing a relationship with, as it is for him to mess with her heart and emotions in person. It’s a sin to type out an overly flirtatious, teasing comment, as it is to encourage attention and lust through our physical body language and attire. And—in the most extreme of cases—it’s a sin to “sext” someone as it is to actually have sex outside marriage. The severity of the consequences may be different and may hurt others in harder, more difficult ways, but the fact remains that it’s still all sin.
Yes, these may sound extreme. But so does not allowing even a hint of sexual immorality in our lives.
I want to be the kind of girl that’s above reproach. The kind that strives for purity in all my interactions. The kind that doesn’t let even the slightest hint of sexual immorality slip into relationships with the guys I know. But mostly, the kind who genuinely loves her brothers in Christ and values and respects their purity.
Because I believe it’s possible to have godly, healthy, pure relationships with the opposite sex. I believe it’s a good thing to know and interact with each other, online and in person, and to learn from one another, pray for one another, and build up and encourage each other as the body of Christ.
The problem isn’t with our having friendships with the opposite gender. I’m not telling you to throw all your online (or in-person) friendships out the window. The problem happens when we let sin slip into the relationship. When we let our own desires, emotions, and hormones muddy our clarity and the waters of purity.I’m not telling you to throw all your online (or in-person) friendships out the window. The problem happens when we let sin slip into the relationship. When we let our own desires, emotions, and hormones muddy our clarity and the… Click To Tweet
Let me challenge you—keep Jesus front and center. Invite Him into your relationships. Invite Him to dictate how you comment, post, story, and private message. Open the door and let Him come in and mess up your prior way of doing things and rearrange it according to His standards.
And above all, let’s ask Jesus to give us His love for each other. May that love remain the focus and may it pour out into everything we do, say, and type.