I don’t really remember a time before social media. Growing up, my online time was spent browsing Xanga, MySpace, or AOL Instant Messenger, and now it’s Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. It’s pretty rare to find someone (young or old) who doesn’t engage in at least one of these platforms once a day, and statistics show that our generation and culture is widely influenced by them.
We spend a lot of time on social media and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. Yet at the same time, as Christians, it’s extremely important to be wary of the dangers and temptations that arise when it comes to being on these platforms. I have personally struggled (and continue to) with a lot of the bad habits that can arise from social media use, and it’s important to take an honest look at some of those pitfalls so we can fight against them.
Social Media Creates Low-Committed Individuals
One of the most attractive parts of social media is the fact that it requires very little of us. If I want to know what my friend did this past weekend, all it takes is a simple scroll through their Snapchat story or their Instagram feed to get the latest scoop on what’s going on in their lives. It takes very little effort and time for me to feel as though I know what’s going on in my brother or sister’s life and although this type of interconnectedness is something that can be used for God’s glory, I believe it could have a profound effect on how we view and treat other people.
On social media we control the length, duration and the quality of our interactions. There are no obligations and commitments. It allows us to circumvent the awkwardness and the effort it takes to really build a loving relationship because at any point we can choose to ignore or disconnect.
Real life relationships don’t work like this. As Christians, we have a direct command to love and to be committed to one another, and that requires work and patience (1 Cor. 13:4) In our relationships with others, especially those in the church, we cannot assume that we can dictate the timing and the nature of our love for them. Social media interaction, in its nature, feeds into our individualistic desires to feel connected without the sacrifice, a behavior that is not compatible with the body of Christ that God has called us to.
Social Media Feeds Our Pride
God has made it clear through His Word that He hates pride and self-centeredness. If we met people on our campus or at our workplace constantly boasting about their achievements, or showing us the newest thing they had bought, or giving us their opinion on every issue, we would quickly identify them as people who probably thought a little too highly of themselves. However, in the world of social media, it has become a commonly accepted practice to do these same exact things.
Social media gives us an opportunity to engage with the world, but it comes at a cost. We are constantly thinking about how the things we share will be received by our friends, how we can make the wittiest comment, or how fast we can express our opinion. We are currently in a generation in which everyone has an opinion on something, and although I believe in the value in hearing one another out, I also believe that there is a problem with a culture that pushes us to think that we should always say something because we can.
Pride lives and thrives off validation, and in a world of likes and retweets, we are always searching for emotions, opinions and thoughts to be validated. Even if the things we say and share are honest and truthful in content, I believe that it’s important to check our hearts before we press enter on our keyboards.
Social Media Distracts Us From Our Need
For many of us, social media is the place to turn to when we feel bored. Every day I find myself checking my phone when conversations become a little dry at the dinner table, when I’m waiting in line at the DMV, and when I’m ready to fall asleep in my bed. If we’re honest with ourselves, the monotony of real life doesn’t seem as exciting as the endless possibilities and rabbit holes that social media provides us with.
If we dig a little deeper though, we don’t use social media to just alleviate our boredom, but also to hide from ourselves. Silence without distractions has a way of reminding us of our own deficiencies and our failures.
Nothing is scarier than those moments at night when I’m reminded of all my wasted potential, all my past mistakes and I’m confronted with my deep insufficiency. It is in these times, I think God is calling us to go to Him and to “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10) but more often than not we go to our phones instead. We quickly seek affirmation in finding something entertaining or talking to someone interesting because they are short-term answers to our deep need for God’s grace and sufficiency.
There was a reason why there are so many Biblical examples of men of faith like Moses (Exodus 33:7) and Elijah (1 Kings 19) going to be alone to meet with God. Even our ultimate example, Jesus Christ was known to have “withdrawn often to lonely places” (Luke 5:16). In our moments of being alone and disconnected, we understand that we are desperate for a Savior. We understand that the cure for our loneliness and boredom is to behold someone worthy of the worship we desire to give. Although these times can be painful, we must go to these places to feel the hunger for the only One who can satisfy.
Used for His Purposes
Despite all these potential temptations and dangers of social media, there is a place for it in our lives. The connectedness, information and the ideas that it can provide can absolutely be used for God’s purposes, but He is also calling us to be mindful of the gifts He gives us. Whether it is taking time to think about the things we share or organizing our smartphone use, we can and must take healthy steps in making sure we use it in the right way.
Social media isn’t going away soon and I believe it’s our duty as Christians to utilize it in a way that follows God’s commands to love our neighbor, to be witnesses to the world and to obey the Great Commission.
Daniel Nam is a member of Gospel Life Mission Church and is pursuing a career in education.