Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday: Social Media

Social Media: What’s not to “Like”?

Facebook and Twitter are more addictive than alcohol and cigarettes.

Yes, you heard right. If you don’t believe me, just type in “Facebook more addictive than” in your browser and scroll down through the news articles provided. This recent revelation was the result of a study by the University of Chicago, which polled over 200 people in Germany for urges (rated from mild to irresistible) they were experiencing each day. More often than not, those polled found it harder to resist checking their Facebook notifications than alcohol, cigarettes, and even sexual desires.

Shocked? So was I when I first heard the news. No one I know of willfully lets their kids indulge in as much beer or smokes as they want. That would be both very foolish and very harmful. But yet, if this can be said for something that is less addicting than social media, why are parents so detached when it comes to the amount of social media their children take in everyday? (You can also type in “The amount of time teens spend on social media” in your browser if you want another shocker)

I think the simple answer is that parents see no harmful effects in letting their children catch up with friends online. How cool is it that in our digital age you can have an almost day-to-day relationship with friends, even friends who live miles away! But now I have one more interesting browser search for you. Type in “F.A.D.” or “Facebook Addiction Disorder” and take a peek at what pops up.

Then tell me how cool Facebook is.

But really? Could I just be flying off the handle here? Sure, there are extreme cases of whackos (350 million cases, if the studies can be believed) who can’t live without Facebook. Or there is the often downplayed and laughed at example of teens surviving a day without their smartphones. But for the rest of us, can social media be a beneficial way to build relationships with friends?

Below are my honest thoughts on social media.

Addicted . . . to what?

First of all, we must define what I mean by “social media”. After all, it is not a bad thing to be “addicted” to something if it is beneficial to us (as long as this something never takes us away from Christ). For instance, I am “addicted” to water. That is not a bad thing. I also am “addicted” to writing (that is, I really like to write). Also not a bad thing, if used at proper times to glorify God.

So what is Social Media, and can it be described as a good thing? Social Media to me means any interaction with friends through a screen. This includes (but is not necessarily limited to) Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Plus, Blogger, LinkedIn, Myspace (that still exists right?), and Instagram (whatever that is). I am sure my more tech savvy friends could fill me in on several more sites . . .

Basically, if you are checking in on people’s lives and interacting with them through comments/chats, then in my opinion you are using Social Media. Is it a bad thing to interact with your friends/family? Of course not! But is it important how you interact with friends/family? Yes. So the question isn’t if Social Media is a bad thing in and of itself, but if it is being used in a mutually beneficial and God-honoring way between you and your friends.

And I just can’t see how most forms of Social Media are beneficial.

Believe it or not, I have perhaps been the most inclined towards Social Media of my family. I have a Google Plus account, and have posted about half a dozen times. What’s more, I have written a couple scores of comments on friends’ posts. As a writer, I can write witty comments with the best of them. What is more, I enjoy it.

But, forcing myself to take an honest look at Social Media, there is really no other conclusion I can make but that the overwhelming majority of posts have very little takeaway value. Sure they are amusing, but that’s just the point. The prefix “A” always means “without” (like, A-theist means without God). So, A-musing means, essentially, non-musing—or in other words, non-thinking. And it seems to me that social media only encourages this “non-musing”! After all, it is much easier to post or comment some witty bit of amusement rather than a long, thoughtful post. I have seen this tendency even with my blog, and have had to fight it. Thoughtful posts like this one receive about half the amount of views and usually about all of zero comments. If it wasn’t for my commitment to be intentional in devoting my writing to the Lord, than I would probably be sharing with you some silly something for your amusement right now.

Also, I have found that the posts that aren’t just amusing in nature but offer some insight into the poster’s life to be rather non-beneficial as well. Sure, it’s cool that you bought a new pair of shoes or made spaghetti for dinner, but is that really a fact the general public needs to know? 

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17 NASB)

Please know that I am not judging you, dear friends, family, and brothers and sisters in Christ! I would urge you as Paul would, though, to take a serious look at the social media you are involved in. Does it help you understand more fully what the will of God is, or is it foolishness?

Are you being careful how you walk?

Just “Friends”?

Emotional purity.

What does that phrase mean to you? To me, it means setting apart your emotions and guarding them for the only one they are to be shared with. More often than not, when we talk about emotional purity, we are talking about it in context of saving all romantic thoughts for your future or present spouse. Obviously, a huge part of guarding your emotional purity is not putting yourself in situations where you or your fellow sister or brother in Christ might be tempted to attach any romantic attention to you, especially if one or both of you is not ready to pursue a serious relationship.

In latter times, these situations were pretty hard to come by. A guy had to ask the father’s permission before hardly even getting to know a young lady in a private way! Romantic feelings weren’t given much of a chance to develop before the courters and their families could take a serious look at whether the couple would make a good match or not.

In our times, however, such a situation is often one click away. Thanks to online chat and text messages, two people can talk virtually whenever they are both online or on their phones (which, if you googled that one lead about how often teens are online, you will know is a lot) Moreover, these chats are often private.

How could this possibly not provide temptation?

The evidence of the flirtation that can be so easy to fall into through Social Media is everywhere. I greatly appreciate fellow blogger Reagan Ramm, who shared his own experience on his blog quoted below:

“As I began to spend less and less time at public school, and ended up joining a homeschool writing forum, I became a witness to a new problem. When I joined that forum, the idea that two people could “fall in love” just through communicating online never even occurred to me. But it happened. A lot. Something about the nature of online communication makes it easier for people to open up and share deep and intimate parts of themselves with other people, people they've never met. The caring or understanding of the other person is often enough to push someone over the edge emotionally. Often times the these emotional entanglements were due solely to ignorance. Other times, there was deliberate manipulation involved.”

I would agree with Reagan, both from what I have seen and—to my shame—in my own personal experiences. I have had at least one relationship go farther than it should have through chat, this even after I posted about how important it is to work hard towards manhood before becoming romantically inclined towards a young lady! Like Reagan says, something about online communication makes it easy to open up with whoever you are chatting with, more so than you would ever do in person. It is easy to see how such openness would progress to a mutual care for one other, and eventually in one or both “chatters” falling for the other.

Maybe I am just over sensitive, but I have personally decided to completely discontinue my use of chat and include my dad in all e-mails to my sisters in Christ. It’s not that I don’t care for my friends, but that I truly care for them. The last thing I desire is to hurt a sister in Christ by unconsciously “leading her on” to assume more of my friendship than is there, and I don’t know how to safely do this while still using a means of private communication, like chat.

Would your future spouse be embarrassed/ jealous at your private communications with members of the opposite gender? Would you be having these same chats if you were married? Again, these are just my honest thoughts, and I mean nothing more than to bring these ideas to your attention. I hope you all will take a serious look at your communication with friends and affirm that everything is done in all purity!

You can read a great series on emotional purity on Reagan Ramm’s blog by following this link:


Another obvious negative about Social Media is that it is obsessed with self. And I am not just talking about your occasional catch-you-up-with-my-life post, but in everything, right down to your Facebook “status”. I think most of the time this obsession with self is carried out unconsciously. There is nothing wrong with posting to keep your friends informed about your life (if done for the right reasons), but when it becomes a habit or is all you focus on, than it can become a very dangerous thing.

I have also seen a tendency to not only post obsessively about yourself on Social Media, but to glorify yourself through your posts. Like never before, Social Media gives us the chance to put “our best foot forward” as it were. After all, how much stuff do we post that we are not in some way proud of? The temptation to give friends a great impression of yourself often leads to slightly self-biased posts. I have seen this with myself, even with goofy things like not posting that picture because I don’t think I look great in it! Humans and their egos are strang things. Humans and their Facebook accounts are even stranger. ;0)

Did you know that the word “Selfie” was recently added to the dictionary? If you didn’t know, a selfie is a picture taken by you of yourself. Though funny pictures of yourself might be all well and good occasionally, I think a selfie in essence is a perfect example of the infatuation someone can have with self! Which leads me to a knew word I believe should be added to the dictionary: Selfieishness. ;0)

As Christians, the last thing we should be focusing on is ourselves. Our focus should first be on God, then on serving our fellow human beings. Can you imagine the apostle Paul spending the time to post about that awesome new tent he just finished making? In fact, Paul’s account about himself can be found in 2 Corinthians 11. He is clearly wary of glorifying himself in any way and has some tough words for those who would glorify themselves. Despite all his amazing accomplishments, Paul chooses to end with these words:

 If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.
(2 Corinthians 11:30-31 NASB)

I cannot claim to know where the balance is between keeping people informed about your life without drawing too much attention to yourself or your accomplishments, but I hope Paul’s example is convicting to all of us!

True Friendship

But . . . doesn’t being off Social Media make you some sort of hermit in today’s tech -savvy world?

Well, maybe.

Sure, you won’t be in contact with your old high school classmates or that friend of a friend who happens to want to add you to their circles, but are Social Media friendships really something we should be bummed to miss out on? From my personal experience, I don’t think so. Believe it or not, I have many different friends from all walks of life! Whether we are praising our great God and Savior on Sunday morning, fellowshipping on Sunday afternoons, playing Ultimate Frisbee on Wednesdays or Saturdays, sending thoughtful or encouraging e-mails over the week, playing cards and enjoying a meal on a weekday evening, or heading out to some event together, I find plenty of time to catch up with my friends without the “aid” of Social Media! In fact, I find my friendships to be strengthened far more through these avenues than Social Media!

You may also ask, “Hold on a minute, Kyle, why is it wrong to share a laugh on Social Media? If done in moderation, is the joking around over some hilarious post a bad thing?” I should clarify that I love joking around with my friends. I think it is wholesome to laugh with friends! However, I find this much more fulfilling in person than in sitting by yourself in front of a screen!

Perhaps you have found a good balance to using Social Media; I am not saying that it can’t happen. After all, there are many people who like an occasional beer but are not an alcoholic. Maybe you can still make the most of your time while checking up on your friends occasionally. Maybe you can help each other put off foolishness and grow in the knowledge of God through Social Media. I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. I will only say with Paul:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
(Philippians 4:8 NASB)


  1. Thanks for your thoughts, Kyle. I agree that the majority of people these days are over the top with their social media addictions.

    My solution? Set boundaries for yourself. I have G+, share a Facebook, and--believe it or not--was forced to get Twitter (because I joined a Christian filmmaker's group--I pretty much never go there, it doesn't make a bit of sense to me, and half the time, I can't even remember my password!).
    With Facebook, my personal stand is to not scroll down the newsfeed because I already use G+ primarily. My extended family is on there though, and I want to be able to connect with them; it is a way to reach out to them in love.
    You know how I don't have this long-reader's attention span and that has been so helpful for me. For instance, if there is a post on G+ longer than 5 lines... I don't read it (unless it is something of great importance). Since I also help run the largest prolife page on G+, I kind of have to have an account. ;) It has been neat to meet lots of new people through it and then met quite a few of them in person. In fact, G+ has been a wonderful way to network with many like-minded Christians. And there are certain friendships that have been such a blessing to me that if I didn't have a G+, I would have missed out on so much.

    So you have to be balanced. :) Too much of just about anything isn't good for you. ;)

  2. Thanks for the comment, Bethany! Sounds like you might be one of those few who can find a good balance to Social Media. Just curious, would you say that the majority of what is posted has some takeaway value, if not in a spiritual sense, than at least in a practical one? I have seen advantages to networking via G+, but I just can't justify the time spent on G+ that could be spent elsewhere--including in real face to face relationships. Also, have you ever tried a complete media fast? We did it for a month, and I couldn't believe the difference it made in my life!

    1. To answer your first question, I would say it depends on the person. ;) Some people post some really good things (and by saying that I mean both spiritually and practical) and others post their own "ho-hum" stuff. I go through the feed quickly, so I don't really look at the "ho-hum" because it doesn't interest me.
      Of course anyone would LOVE a complete face-to-face relationship with all their friends! But sometimes that isn't always possible. ;) Random thought (I'm sure by now you know I have a lot of those ;) ): back in the day when pen-palling was a big deal, were there people that insisted on face-to-face relationships?
      Come to think of it, I've never ever posted a picture of food. :P However, some of the status updates that may seem ridiculous like "I just painted my bike", "look at this shirt I bought", etc... are things that are often in our normal face-to-face relationships.

      Oh, and something I really appreciate about social networking? I get to hear so much about the hot news topics all over the world. :) Yes, I'm kind of a political activist.

      (And for the record... with my short--yes, that word is just me--attention span, I didn't even read your entire blog post word for word. ;) )

    2. Hmmm, so it depends on your definition of ho-hum then. And I would agree that the silly things in person is fun and hilarious. (you know how much I like to tease you all in person) It's not wrong to joke around with your friends, but the problem with Social Media is that you can do that _all the time_! I think you would probably agree with me that no matter what boundaries you try to set, commenting on posts, 1+ posts, and seeing who's online to chat with is quite a vacuum of your time. My dad compares it to those who spent afternoon after afternoon hanging out at the mall in his day. Oftentimes, they were just there because it was the social hangout spot, not because they had any good reason to be at the mall. Its not wrong to catch up with friends, unless it takes you away from productive work/activities you should be doing. I just have a really hard time reconciling consistent use of Social Media with Ephesians 5:15-17.

      Pen pals are completely different than what you see with Social Media. There really is no comparison between the two! With social media the back and forth chatting is often--put bluntly--completely frivolous. Writing a letter or an e-mail forces you to be intentional and thoughtful about what you say. You would hardly write a letter just because you can. In fact, I have been a pen pal with several young Christian men recently and have found our e-mails to be much more encouraging and much more of a boost to my walk with Christ than all my interaction on Social Media combined! Oh, and then there are those crazy-huge e-mails a couple of friends have been sending me about Reformed Theology . . . which have also been very beneficial! ;0)

      Did you know that our generation is one of if not the most distracted generation in modern history? Many attribute this to the overwhelming amount of Media options available to us virtually wherever we go. I think that being attentive and having an apt attention span is a great character quality for all of us to work on! Granted though, my post was really long. :0P

    3. What I mean by "ho-hum" stuff is the random fluff that someone posts. It could be a reshare, a video of their favorite song, a picture, a meme, etc. Of course you could do that joking *all the time* on social media, but who has time to do it all the time?! I don't. So I don't participate if I don't have time for it. (I guess this goes back to settling boundaries for yourself.) Also, my short attention span to these things lets me get away super easily without getting sucked into the "vacuum" of time. :) Can social media be reconciled with Eph. 5:15-17? If social media can be reconciled with Phil. 4:8 then yes, it most certainly can be reconciled with Eph. 5:15-17. :)

      Okay, well, it might depend on your chats then. ;) I'm usually not the one to start a chat, but there are quite a few young girls that like to chat with me and I take it as an opportunity to mentor them. Maybe there is that one person that always pops in at the wrong time (and believe, it happens)... but I want to be able to reach and not be too busy for these young people that want to talk with me. Yes, there must be a balance, but you can't write it all off. For me personally, I have had some crazy opportunities where I was able to strengthen a certain friend during her times of trials. We have had some of the most deep and incredible conversations that have really helped us grow spiritually and closely as friends. Her and I have a very strong relationship and even thought her family is a missionary family overseas, I have been able to get to know her through social media (well, I knew who she was before G+ existed, but we got to know each other through chat, emails, etc.).

      Wow! Reformed Theology would be such an awesome email thread. :P

      Ironically, I have not a single problem with my attention span when I am practicing violin, learning a foreign language, reading an autobiography, spending time with people, studying for a CLEP test... in fact, I am a very focused person (just ask my mom ;) ). It's the fluffy stuff that doesn't interest me. I think it's a personality thing, really. ;) I think the fluff, ho-hum makes me board... and I would rather be doing something that I have to think and figure new idea out (which is probably where I get that knack for pranks :P ). Anyway, I'm glad I am the way I am (who wants to watch some silly music video--yes, those are incredibly boring, so I don't watch them--when you could be working on a violin concerto or putting the pieces together of the next awesome prank?) because it sure makes my life easier! :D

      Thoughts? ;)

    4. coughs

      Sorry for such a long comment, but you provoked me into writing it. :P

    5. Totally agree! If Social Media can be reconciled with Philippians 4:8, then it follows that its use will be in line with Ephesians 5:15-17. I don't write off _all_ Social Media. I do, after all, have a blog that I post actively on, despite the fact that I included blogger in my list of Social Media sites. ;0) Really, we have the same perspective on Social Media. You just set your boundaries a little more liberally than mine in this case. And that is (to use slightly hip language) "all good"--if you are fully convinced that you are living for the Lord through it. (And yes, I have in mind Romans 14) ;0)

      I wonder, though, could you not have these same relationships with young ladies over e-mail? It would save you from having to deal with that bored friend who always pops up at the wrong time. How do you gracefully set boundaries to your use of chat when any random friend can chat with you whenever? I find it better just to e-mail, as not a lot of bored friends take the time to send a thoughtful e-mail. ;0) It makes fulfilling 2 Timothy 2:16 so much easier when you don't even give it a chance to start (at least online) in the first place! ;0)

      So what, my post is part of the fluffy stuff? Oh. Wow. Thanks. JK :0P

      Anyway, those are my thoughts. May the Lord bless you as you live for Him, sister!

    6. Right, yes, I agree that whatever is your personal conviction and your family's policy, that is what you should stick with. :)

      Yes and no, to that question. ;) The one friend has a family policy where they don't give their emails out, so if she wants to communicate with me, she has to chat. The other instances with my friend that was going through some tough times called for "real time" chatting. It's a long story, but I was involved in a way that made it important to be there, discussing certain things with her and encouraging her.

      Oh no! Your post wasn't fluffy at all. ;) I just don't read that fast, so I scanned it... so I wouldn't take up as much time. :) I thought you had some very good things to say and I appreciate your thoughts on the matter! :)

  3. Very good post all the way around. Social media really does create the temptation to worship yourself, and it definitely has other risks as well.

    Thanks for writing this, and thanks for the link! No need to ask permission.

  4. Kyle,

    Aside from the points you make on emotional purity, I see social media as a constant breeding ground for all sorts of pride. Selfie-ishness really ought to be a word in the dictionary. For me, it is a constant temptation to post about something for the purpose of lifting myself up above others. "Look at this great time I'm having. Wish you were there!!! (don't you?)" Or, "I just can't wait to go ride my horse (that you guys can't do because you don't own one.)"

    Over the years, I've gone from blog posting to social networks to not doing anything at all. At times, I've been both a producer and consumer of frivolous information. Either jealous of other's propped up self image or working hard to set myself up as someone I'm not. People don't get to read about the days I've struggled, the times I've fallen off my horse, or when I've been spiritually asleep.

    That said, of the forms of social media out there, I appreciate blogs such as yours the most. From early on, I've always been able to read lengthy material and have worked hard to maintain that ability in our age of soundbites. Random facts and photos have basically no value to me other than to be A-musing.

    For those who struggle with the temptation to project a false image of themselves online, a suggestion would be to take a step back and write in a journal instead. Journaling takes your mind off of your self image and puts it back where it should be, considering others around you and your daily life. I've not always been good at journalling, but I think I'll be spending less time on Twitter and Instagram, and journaling instead.

    Thanks for the post!

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Michael! I think that is an important distinction to make. Again, Social Media is not a bad thing in and of itself, but it is _how_ it is being used that is the concern. I too like reading blogs that force you to think and form your own opinions on matters! But the random selfie-ishness that overwhelms most Social Media feeds is just not worth taking part in.

      Social Media could even be used for journaling, as my mom does with her blog! It is beneficial to our family and friends and for us personally to have this blog to look back on! If Social Media was more about serious, what-God-has-been-doing-in-my-life sort of posts, than I would wholeheartedly be a part of it. (though still in moderation) But from my own experience, that's just not what I see.

    2. You hit the nail on the head, Kyle. _How_ it is being used.

      Are we using it and a toy or a tool?

      Just thought I'd pop in really quick. Will get back to you on that email soon.

    3. Sorry- that should say "as a toy or a tool".

  5. Wow:) I can't believe all the comments I had to pass to get here:) I guess I see why I heard about this post while taking my internet fast last week:) it's VERY well written, and biblically accurate. It seems like you took some of my thoughts over the last week, and put them into words:) Thank you So much for bringing light to such a spiritually dark topic.

    BTW I'm planning on doing a blog post on the same topic in a few days:)

  6. Hi Elanee! Thanks for your thoughts! You heard about my post apart from the internet? Wow . . . I didn't know my writings got around that much. (Okay, so you probably heard about it from one of the Strangs, but it was a cool thought) ;0)

    It is good to find another like minded young person on this subject! We are few and far between in this day and age unfortunately. I have peeked at your blog a couple of times and have found your posts to be very Biblically strong and thoughtful. Keep it up! And I look forward to reading your Social Media post!