Part II of Four Ways Social Media Makes Us Really Bad Christians. Click here to read Part I.
3. Social media is an idol.
When I’m stressed, I find my first reaction is to get on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I want to scroll and forget, to distract myself from whatever is worrying me. I try to find relief in my feeds and lose myself in the lives of other people so for a moment I can take my mind off of my own problems. More often than not, I turn to social media for relief rather than turning to God. Social media is so instant, so accessible, that it’s easier to turn to rather than talk to a God who’s online profile doesn’t exist. Sometimes it’s hard for me to even put down my phone long enough to read my Bible for a half hour. I am hardwired for instant gratification and the instant, easily-heard audience social media offers me.
Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly, would probably call this action “numbing.” Numbing is the tactics we use to not feel our feelings, meaning we think that if we fill our time with other things (alcohol, shopping, social media, etc.) the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.
But the truth is a relationship with God demands that we feel our feelings; even the really bad ones. It is only through facing how we are really feeling, whether it be joyful or anxious or depressed, that we can truly be ourselves before God and invite Him to into every single detail of our lives. But if I refuse to turn to Him because I am distracted or numbing myself with social media, whatever it is I’m trying to solve for the moment is never truly healed.
4. Social media gives me value.
Last year as I became more immersed in social media on a daily basis, I really struggled with separating my real worth from my “online worth.” The more likes I got, the more important I felt. Sometimes if I didn’t get many likes on a post I would think about it for hours afterward, feeling anxious that others would think. I also turn to social media for love and validation. I post pictures hoping people will like them and I will get that rush that says, “You are worthy. You are important. You stand out.” I crave likes, retweets, favorites. How often do I turn to God anymore for these things? Not as often as I turn to social media.
In fact, this has become especially true since I began writing this blog.
Once I began writing more I wanted the opportunity to publicize my blog to more people. And how do we publicize anything these days? Social media.
For me, writing characterizes so much of my identity. I am, by nature, a writer. So when I publicize my blog, I’m essentially publicizing something intrinsic to who I am, something very special and important and a reflection of my life. So if I publish a piece on Facebook or Twitter and don’t receive any likes or new readers, it’s as though who I am and what I have to offer does not hold value. The analytics of my blog’s Facebook page explicitly tell me when no one is paying attention. When this happens, it’s incredibly difficult not to wrap up my value as a person in a lack of likes. The same is true for when my blog receives a great deal of traffic.
If social media is a tool to determine what people consider interesting and worthy, how do we in turn not allow it to determine our own worth? If I continue to turn to social media to tell me how I am viewed and valued, the value God places on me every day is lost in the chaos of likes and follows.
Jim Carrey has this great quote:
“I hope everybody could get rich and famous and will have everything they ever dreamed of so they will know that’s not the answer.”
I can long for my popularity on social media to rise so I will feel accomplished, important, and valued. But the truth is even if I did reach that point I would probably still crave more, never to be fully satisfied. God alone can quench this thirst.
What steps have you taken to combat these pitfalls of social media?
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