I wonder how many people check social media during their bathroom breaks? Isn’t that a prime place to catch up on anything you may have missed, or to respond to someone who may have commented on your Instagram picture?
More often than I want to admit, I am describing myself. I have to consciously restrain myself from overusing social media. I have set parameters and limitations on myself because if I don’t, I find myself constantly running to it with every spare second of the day.
Have you ever wondered why we are drawn to something like social media? Have you ever wondered why social media can be such an attractive way to spend our time?
I believe one reason is because we are created in the image of a communal God, so we crave relationship with other humans. Social media has made a unique way for us to be more connected than ever before. But this connection is not always the biblical, healthy community that we desire down deep. Being more connected does NOT mean that we have deeper, healthier relationships or that we live fuller lives. In fact, I would argue that social media has the potential to create a fake community where we confuse acquaintances and friends, and that it can actually create a deeper hole in our hearts.
One thing I have realized is that the sins of the human heart are the same every generation, but they may manifest their fruit differently. Historically, people did not have access to internet pornography, but sexual sin has always been a problem. The way a problem manifests itself may be more unique in this generation, but the underlying temptation is the same one that every human has faced. This broken world has caused us all to develop various forms of coping mechanisms. Some of us drown our problems in alcohol. Some of us numb ourselves with pleasure. Some of us depressively sleep hour after hour so we don’t have to face reality. With the rise of technology came the ability to numb ourselves by escaping the present moment or trouble.
For me the most chilling realization about social media is that I run to it to make me happy (I just want to laugh) or to give me worth (how many likes/comments?). In a real way, I can use social media as my savior. It is always available. I can always find something else to look at or search. There is always something else to read. Instead of waiting on God, pursuing God or listening for God, I can take matters into my own hands. I can do something with tangible, measurable results like check social media, and it can be devastating to my spiritual vitality.
If you resonate with anything I have said, would you honestly ask yourself some questions to diagnose your heart?
- How many times do you check social media per day? Be honest. Most of us open our phones and click the Facebook app without even thinking about it. It is a habit. Do you have a framework for how often you check social media? How many hours do you spend on social media?
- Are you using social media in an attempt to solve a deeper issue in your heart? The human tendency is to attempt to make God’s gifts do the things that God is supposed to do. Are you attempting to use social media in place of God? If so, do you think this points to something deeper like a lack of trust in God to be faithful, good, true or loving?
- Do you have anyone in your life who truly knows you? Do you have someone that knows more than what you want them to know? Do you have someone in your life who knows you AND has permission to speak into your life?
These questions are revealing, and sometimes, when our hearts are revealed, it leaves us feeling like a failure or full of shame. The gospel of Jesus doesn’t simply change our behavior. It doesn’t simply change how we use our words or the filter we use on Facebook. These things are good and need to be exercised with wisdom, but the gospel goes past our behavior to the depths of our heart. The gospel digs into the roots of why we do what we do and leaves us exposed revealing who we are in our depths (Hebrews 4:12-13).
If those three diagnostic questions above expose your heart, know that you don’t have to stay there. When God reveals our sin to us, it is called conviction, and it is a gift! He is showing us what is hindering us from fully walking, knowing and communing with him.
One of the the beauties of the gospel is that while it does fully expose us, we are not left there. No, through Jesus, we are welcomed into the family of God. We are invited to life and relationship with our Creator. We are pursued by someone who knows everything about us and still loves (and likes) us. The more we can grasp the depth of our sin and neediness, the more we will understand the infinite love of God toward us in Jesus.
Meaning this, you are convicted and exposed not because God is mad at you, but because God loves you and is calling you to something deeper, something better. This is how the Gospel frees us. We don’t have to look for something in social media that we already have in Christ. What could we possibly gain from social media that we don’t have more fully and more beautifully in Jesus? How could we find better approval? How could we attain to more joy than the source of joy itself? How can we find more hope than the essence of hope, our eternal God?
Social media is good, but it can be used in harmful, unwise ways. What does it look like for you to redeem social media for God’s glory and for other people’s good?