By Brent Rinehart, Crosswalk.com
My 11-year-old daughter just started middle school, and to hear her tell it, she’s the only one in the entire school without a phone. We hear about it daily. I guess it’s FOMO (fear of missing out), but she watches all of her friends texting each other and posting TikTok videos. She can’t stand not being a part of that world while her mother and I desperately try to explain our decision to protect her as long as possible from the darkness it can bring.
It’s in these moments that I get a glimpse of how God must see us. We clamor for things that He, in His omniscience, knows are ultimately bad for us. Eventually, we find out for ourselves and realize that our Father knows best. Why are we so drawn to the things that could be bad for us? So often, we can’t help ourselves and fall into old negative habits, harmful activities, and even sinful behaviors. It’s like the lyrics in the OneRepublic song “Counting Stars,” everything that kills me makes me feel alive!
This is nothing new. The Apostle Paul shared the same struggles: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate … For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7: 15, 19).
For many of us, our social media addiction may be one of those things we hate that we can’t seem to break away from. Our phones are one of the last things we touch before going to sleep and one of the first things we touch when we rise. Scrolling through our Facebook feed is one of the first things we do. And, I’m sure we’ve all felt the shame that comes from those weekly “screen time” report notifications we receive that show the excessive amount of time we spend on our phones. No doubt, there are positive things that technology and social media afford us today. Especially during the pandemic, social media has been able to keep us connected to people we love. But, it is becoming increasingly clear that social media is bad for your health – physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.
Back to the battle we are having with our middle schooler. Consider this: Facebook officials know that Instagram, the other platform that it owns, is harmful to mental health, particularly that of young teenage girls. Researchers in a study it commissioned found that “over 40% of Instagram users who reported feeling “unattractive” traced that feeling back to the platform.” The recently released results also state that Instagram makes “body image issues worse for one in three teen girls” and that “teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression.”
Despite knowing that platforms like Instagram can be bad for your health, social media companies continue to push forward and make a lot of money while doing so. They’ve had some feeble attempts to address these issues but stand by the premise that social media platforms aren’t “inherently good or bad for people.”
I firmly believe that there is more bad than good when it comes to many of these channels, and it’s important that we as believers are aware of the impact it has on our lives – particularly from a spiritual perspective.
I recently found myself sucked into several debates with Facebook friends – other believers, in fact – over the most controversial issues of the day. (You’ve heard about these divisive issues such as masks and vaccines, right?) While the more prudent move would be to pray, I can’t help but post. While the better idea would be to keep scrolling (or log off the app altogether), I can’t help but make my opinions known in the comments section of a friend’s post. When social media drives a wedge between you and other believers, it’s time to take a serious look as to whether it is beneficial for your walk with the Lord.
The Bible says:
• “Be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26)
• “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1)
• “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9)
• “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone” (Ephesians 4:5)
• “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18)
As I examine Scripture verses like these, I can’t help but think about how toxic social media has become for the spiritual health of the Church. So many people I know who love the Lord share things on these platforms that are untrue, unkind, and certainly not edifying. I’ve been guilty many times of responding in ways that do more to sow discord than to bring about unity.
So, where does that leave us? Is social media bad for your health? There’s no doubt that much harm can come from spending too much time in these spaces. If not controlled, it can damage you physically, mentally, and spiritually.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matthew 5: 29-30).
Practically, this means we need to get serious about how we spend our time. We need to ask for guidance in how we interact on these mediums. And, for some of us, it may mean that we need to “cut it off” by deleting the apps off of our devices and taking a break.
Photo credit: © Getty Images/Antonio Guillem
Brent Rinehart is a public relations practitioner and freelance writer. He blogs about the amazing things parenting teaches us about life, work, faith and more at www.apparentstuff.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @brentrinehart