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The Perils of Social Media
Social media is like cake. In moderation, it is tasty and enjoyable, but consume too much of it and it will make you feel sick. Like anything that takes too much of our time or attention, social media runs the risk of becoming an idol that takes God’s throne in our lives.
The world has changed since I was younger (and that’s saying something because I’m only twenty-five-years-old). More children under the age of ten have access to social media than even ten years ago. This might be because so many of them have their own smart phones. Even as I write this and listen to the birds singing outside my living room window, the kids who live in my apartment complex are recording videos in the parking lot on their phones. Astonishingly, they look to be between the ages of seven and eleven. When I was eleven, I was building fairy houses in my backyard with my sister. What a different world we live in now.
Social Media and Mental Health
Yes, the world has changed within the past decade. I even find myself falling down the perilous slope of social media sometimes. I used to open my phone and click on the day’s devotional when I would wake up in the morning. Now I find myself gravitating towards Instagram.
Not that Instagram is bad in-and-of-itself. To its credit, I’ve actually made several new friends on this platform. Instagram has also helped me to keep track of parts of my life through picture and video memories. Yet starting my day with social media definitely affects my mental health, and I know it affects more than just me. There have been psychological studies that point out how social media can contribute to greater rates of depression, anxiety, body image issues, and esteem issues. This is concerning, considering how the teenage years are often times where there are already struggles with identity and awkwardness. Social media also has hindered my ability to focus. Too often I absent-mindedly reach toward my phone when I should be with my friends, at work, or even when I’m using my phone to call people! When I go through and scroll to find new friends or check up on people from my past, it feels good in the moment, but I have to admit is a hollow way of connecting with them.
Comparison as a Thief of Joy
Also, there is a fine line between keeping a social media account as a virtual journal for oneself and posting to receive validation from others. It can additionally be very easy to compare your life to others as you consume social media content. I’ve noticed that hardly any social media shares the “bad days.” You know the days I’m talking about; the ones where you were too tired to clean the house or you had a rough day at work. Sure, some accounts are more “real” than others, but a majority of what I’ve seen appear to be highlight (and therefore unrealistic) reels of people’s lives. I’m not saying people need to post solely about their tiredness and rough days, but if all we are consuming is the highlights of everyone’s lives, the difficult times in our own lives suddenly feel magnified. I’m reminded of Theodore Roosevelt’s words: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Everyone wants to live a life filled with joy. But if we continue to willingly subjugate ourselves to social media, it seems like it will lead to so many negative effects like with esteem, psychological wellbeing, and depressive and anxious conditions.
Building Healthy Boundaries
If my generation is already addicted to their phones, who will teach the next generation about healthy social media boundaries? After all, there appears to be a generational gap in the use of social media; and if my generation is using it unhealthily and the next generation doesn’t seem to be showing signs of change, we come to a question…Who will step in to help build healthy social media boundaries? What would it be like if instead spending our time searching for likes on posts, we found solace in God and worshipping Him? After all, we were made to worship Him.
And this gets at a deeper issue with social media. When it sucks our time away, makes us less authentic with those around us, and takes us away from spending time with God in His word and in prayer, it changes social media from a helpful tool to a potentially malevolent addiction. No longer is it a way to connect with friends over long distances, nor is it a way to share publicly the things going on in one’s life, but it is instead an idol. A twisting of something good that oversteps the bounds it needs and takes priority over God.
Social Media's Power
And with social media (or other idols) it is easy to point to as the rock in the rapids that is throwing the raft off course. But this type of thinking gives social media more power over us than it should have. The real rock in the rapids is not so much the social media itself as it is the wayward desires of our own hearts that do not always incline towards our God. And while it will take some degree of self-control and discipline, and a lot of leaning on God for strength and renewal, our desires can be changed to be more in line with His. And this is good news for the question from earlier! We can be the people who step in to help foster social media boundaries! It takes time to build a habit, but habits are a part of what makes us who we are. What would it look like if we spent time before each meal in prayer? Or what if we were intentional about resting on the Sabbath and fasted from Social Media for the day? What if we carved out time in our busy schedules to spend with fellow believers? What would it look like if we really forgave people for the things that we secretly want to hold against them? And how much more would we know God’s word if we spent more time reading His word daily? Building good habits of like these—and other things—can help replace the hold that social media has over us.
So, if you’re like me and have felt the pull of social media, why don’t you join me in beginning your morning with Christ in prayer or by reading scripture? Wouldn’t it make your day so much better than scrolling through people’s posts? Our Father created such a beautiful world. A world filled with great trees born from little seeds, and intricacies we cannot comprehend. A world where there are awe-inspiring landmarks, and joy-giving animals like cats and dogs. There’s so much more that can be said about His wonderful Creation, but ultimately, He is our Creator and the source of our lives. As Jesus says in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." We cannot live or breathe without Christ.
Engaging in the Real World
So through Him, may we enjoy this life we have been given. Let’s put our phones down, and instead of being LinkedIn to social media or having our Facebook in front of our faces and on our mind, let’s laugh more, run barefoot through the rain, read those books we’ve been meaning to read, go apple picking, learn to roller skate and do all the things that make life as a child of Christ so magical.
As I’ve been sitting next to my open window writing this, I’ve noticed that one little boy (from the group of children in the parking lot), has brought a baseball bat and a kickball outside. Now all the children are taking turns swinging the bat and kicking the ball into the air. I’m smiling as I watch them play because this is one of those joys of life that God gave us to bring our thoughts back to Him. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:5, "take every thought captive to obey Christ."
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Alexandra Dieckmann graduated from Liberty University with a BS in Journalism. Alexandra has worked in several career fields since graduating including both print and broadcast news. As a former reporter, her written work has been published in The Long Island Herald, on Long Island, NY. Alexandra has also published freelance articles for organizations such as The Arts at Henson-Parks, Inc., a non-profit in Jamaica, NY, and Reformation Metro New York, Inc., a regional church outreach program.