Keeping Up With The Joneses Social Media Style

Most of us are familiar with the popular idiom, "Keeping up with the Joneses", but not all of us know what it means. Therefore, before I write about how we're still "keeping up with the Joneses" in the 21st century, I thought you might enjoy reading about its origin. 

"keeping up with the Joneses [sic]. According to his own account, cartoonist Arthur R. (“Pop”) Momand lived in a community where many people tried to keep up with the Joneses. Momand and his wife resided in Cedarhurst, New York, one of Long Island’s Five Towns, where the average income is still among America’s highest. Living “far beyond our means in our endeavor to keep up with the well- to-do class,” the Momands were wise enough to quit the scene and move to Manhattan, where they rented a cheap apartment and “Pop” Momand used his Cedarhurst experience to create his once immensely popular Keeping Up with the Joneses comic strip, launched in 1913. Momand first thought of calling the strip “Keeping Up with the Smiths,” but “finally decided on Keeping Up with the Joneses as being more euphonious.” His creation ran in American newspapers for over 28 years and appeared in book, movie, and musical-comedy form, giving the expression keeping up with the Joneses the wide currency that made it a part of everyday language."
-Robert Hendrickson, Word and Phrase Origins: Fourth Edition, p.470

Back in the days prior to social media, prior to bloggers and prior to everyone being able to share every detail of their lives online, we used to keep up with the Joneses the old-fashioned way. We used to go outside of our own homes and talk to our neighbors (something rarely done these days). Sometimes we were genuinely happy to see our neighbors and had altruistic concern and regard for their welfare. And sometimes we just wanted to see them to make sure we were up on the latest gossip or to compare how our husbands, children, homes, gardens, cars and wardrobes measured up.

Though keeping up with the Joneses is a shallow, pride-filled and futile activity, when we did it before the social media era, our sphere of comparison was limited to people we actually knew (neighbors, classmates, co-workers). But nowadays, we're keeping up with "Joneses" we know, and don't know. We're trying to keep up with our real friends, and people we hardly know on Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, just to name a few.

The travesty is that though we are children of light, we aimlessly wander about this world, falling into every cavern of what's most popular and "right" in the eyes of this world...or even in the eyes of other Christians. But this doesn't have to be so because the Lord Jesus freed us from the captivity of sin.

As holy and dearly loved children of the Most High God, we know that we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave His life for us (Gal 2:20). We know that our self-worth and value are not in ourselves or what we possess. We know that every aspect of our lives are magnificently secured in Christ Jesus and His righteousness. Therefore, unlike the world, we don't have to hide behind the fa├žade of "I have it all together." We can admit, and even be content in our weaknesses so that the power of Christ may be manifested in our lives (2 Cor 12:9-10).

We don't have to get on social media and talk about the perfect spouses, marriages and kids we don't have. We don't have to post, tweet or share photos on Instagram about the perfect relationship we don't have with our parents, siblings, co-workers, and friends inside and outside the church. We don't have to do all these things because we abide in Christ and we should love the truth. Our confidence and commendation comes from Christ, not from unbelievers, or even other Christians.

"Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another they are without understanding...For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends."
-2 Corinthians 10:12, 18 (ESV)

Can you imagine how confusing it must be for our parents, spouses, children, co-workers, friends, etc. to see a post of how wonderful our relationship is when we both know it's not? Can you imagine the extra friction it causes in our already strained relationships when privately we share how much we hurt one another with our selfishness and thoughtlessness, but then we get on social media and say the very opposite?

Posting and sharing falsified "good" and "positive" things about our relationships with others isn't honoring nor pleasing to God. Rather than lie about our "perfect" lives and relationships, we ought to speak the truth. That doesn't mean we post and share our dirty laundry for all the world to see either. What it means is that as children of the Most High God, we choose to behave prudently and honestly (Prov 14:8). According to God, a lie is never loving—it's always hateful and hurtful (Prov 26:28).

Rather than offend God and hurt others (and really, even yourself), if you see others posting about their godly lives and relationships that you wished you had, then pray and ask God to help you learn from these people instead of lusting after what they have. But if you see people posting about their lives and relationships that are "good" according to the world, then repent and ask the Lord to help you desire what is truly good—discipline, pruning, refining—being conformed into the image of Christ—loving what He loves and hating what He hates.

We're commanded by God our Father to live as children of light, not as children of lies. So rather than trying to keep up with the Joneses, let's keep in step with the Holy Spirit in every aspect of our lives—whether in person or in our social media world. Let's shine the light of Christ rather than expose our vain desires.

"If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another."
-Galatians 5:25-26 (ESV)