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?
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: http://www.reaganramm.com/2014/08/emotional-purity-part-1.html
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!
But . . . doesn’t being off Social Media make you some sort of hermit in today’s tech -savvy world?
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)