Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
I didn’t actually think I would ever write this post, but since I deleted my Instagram account back in February after a three month break, I have been asked by so many people why I stopped. I am reluctantly writing this because I know the topic of social media gets pretty dicey rather quickly. But here we go…
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author (me, whom has an all-or-nothing personality) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of all millennials or evangelical Christians. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They could be utilized in real-world analysis of social media use as they are based on open source information (the Bible). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of all Christians. The author invokes the scripture Matthew 10:16 “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves,” as you determine whether social media is for you.
The Journey | Summer 2018
Last summer I kind of had a lot going on and I started to notice how verrrrryyyy much I was on my phone, specifically, on Instagram. I started noticing things about my behavior like how I mostly watched the 4th of July fireworks while on the White House south lawn through my screen instead of actually viewing the spectacular display and taking in the enormity of the moment. I noticed how I would put off answering my little girl or my husband when they would ask me a question because I was busy scrolling or responding to a comment. I noticed how I would get frustrated at my family because “couldn’t they see that I was trying to respond to someone, I mean, I can’t be rude to the well-wishers.” I noticed how almost every picture I took or video I recorded was for the sole purpose of posting it to my social media account. I started to notice that I was actually planning trips and things to do with my family because I knew it would look good on Instagram and people would think we were so fun and adventurous. Seriously. I noticed that a 4.7 inch screen was ruling my life. Somehow, that piece of glass and metal was calling the shots in my day-to-day choices.
So I did what many “self-controlled” Instagrammers do, and I took a break. For a week. What I learned that week was that I was absolutely addicted to Instagram. I found myself sitting at red lights reaching for my phone to scroll, only to remember I had removed the app. I was on a break. I remember feeling ridiculously out of the loop from my friend’s lives and I often felt the need to explain my ignorance in group settings with, “oh, I’m on an Insta break, what’s going on?” Just as I thought the world was surely moving on without me and I was on the verge of dropping off into anonymity, my week ended and I rejoined the masses with much relief. I posted something about how nice it was to take a break and “focus on what really matters” and went on my merry way as a happy member of the social media club.
By the winter, my life had drastically changed. I had looked cancer in the face (not for the last time) with my mom, and my husband and I had plunged headlong into the adoption process. I had posted about our adoption on my Insta account and received the most ‘likes’ I’d ever received on posts. I was becoming more skeptical about social media and starting to feel really protective of my family. I didn’t like how some people elevated us for choosing to adopt as if we were some kind of super heroes. I also became painfully aware of how many couples have exploited their precious adoption and foster journeys on social media for some paltry ‘likes.’ The whole idea of putting our children’s lives on broadcast for the world to see had become disgusting to me. Being on social media at all was starting to rankle with my convictions. I texted a couple of my close friends that I was thinking about deleting my Instagram account, and they suggested taking a three month hiatus. So I did.
In February, my three month trial period was up and I was more certain than ever that it was time to do away with social media. During my time off, I encountered convicting quotes that made it evident social media was an absolute waste of time and a distraction from the devil. Yes, I know I sound like a total weirdo saying that. Let me explain. While reading “Letters to the Church” by Francis Chan, this quote made it so apparent to me that social media is a form of idolatry and that I had to stop… “What is a tremendous, unspeakable honor [speaking of worship] may feel insufficient for those who are used to being god of their own blogs and Twitter accounts. It feels insignificant to those who have erected their own shrines on Facebook and Instagram, filled with beautiful pictures of themselves. Herein lies the danger of clamoring for attention: we don’t realize that true joy comes from the opposite.” I had never heard anyone ever describe Instagram as a shrine before and with that light, I saw it for exactly what it is. I was reminded that God called his people to be holy, to be set apart. To be what the culture considers weirdos and radicals, at times, for the sake of His Name. And that was the end of social media for me.
In my journey through breaking up with social media, I have learned a few things and become convinced of a few more.
- It’s a distraction. How many pictures or video do you take just so you can post them on social media? How much time do you spend living through your screen instead of in the moment? How many questions do you miss from your spouse? How many peels of laughter from your children do you watch through a lens? We take picture after picture and video after video because we don’t want to miss a thing, when in fact we are missing all of it. Or how about those posts about social justice that make a poster feel like they are trumpeting a cause when, in fact, you. are. doing. nothing. To quote Truth’s Table on how being anti-racist is in vogue, “When you go home and read a book to your baby boy and your baby girl, is there enough diversity on your book shelf? Is there enough diversity in your children’s church curriculum? Because if your baby and my baby are arguing about whether or not Jesus was white, and you taught them that, you ain’t no anti-racist, you just like to shout on Twitter.” Faith without deeds is dead, my brothers and sisters. Posting on social media is a distraction from actually enacting change.
- It’s an idol. Are you spending more time on Instagram than in your Word and praying? Then social media is not only a distraction, it’s an idol. Listen to this song by Jimmy Needham. Is social media an idol for you? “All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit nothing?” Isaiah 44:9-10
- It’s an addiction. The fact that all the terms interchanged with social media are the same ones we use when speaking of drugs and other addictions, should be cause for a pause. Consider, we use social media. We’re social media users, we detox or quit social media. I recently listened to a well-meaning podcast about how to “control” your use of social media. It went on to document how the creators of Instagram and Facebook actually model their apps off of addictive gambling behaviors. It is created to be addictive, but the podcaster then just says to proceed with caution. Would we give the same advice for drug use? If we know something was intentionally made to addict users, why would we ever submit to it? Jesus came to give us freedom from everything! “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” Luke 4:18
- It’s destroying our relationships. I recently hung out with some precious friends and the majority of the night’s conversation revolved around something(s) posted on social media. Since I’ve spent the last seven months social media free, I was hyper-aware that the bulk of conversation centered around posts. I felt that I couldn’t contribute much to the conversation because I had no idea who or what they were talking about. I began to wonder when our friendships came to this point of mostly connecting in person based on our social media connections. I sat in a room with friends that I dearly loved and mourned the fact that what was mostly discussed was frivolous posts, knowing that there was deep pain and need for connection in the room. Knowing that there were women sitting right next to me that needed to be seen and heard and loved in their brokenness. How many times do we miss out on these opportunities to really connect? How often do we look at a friend’s post and think we know what’s going on in their lives, think we’ve connected when we haven’t? How much more alone are we with our hundreds of “friends” on social media who never get a glimpse of the real you? Has social media made you a better friend, one that’s physically present in the pain, one that listens through the tears, one that reads pain on a face, one that sits with someone in joy and in mourning? Or has it made you more indifferent, oblivious? There’s only so many lives we can connect with, after all. Don’t let social media fool you, we don’t have the emotional capacity to invest in all of our “followers” the way they are meant to be loved. The way we are called to love. Social media is arguably (and it issss argued) a great place for meeting people, but does it foster deep, authentic communion with others or is it just a shallow farce of friendship? Btw, the park is also a great place to meet people.
- It’s destroying our children. Teaching middle schoolers for 8 years, I have witnessed first hand the consequences of social media use on our youth. I have sat with child after child who has had their character defamed on a social platform and feels like it’s the end of the world. I have grieved with girl after girl whose pictures of their body has been illegally circulated by ex-boyfriends and classmates before Instagram or Snapchat could remove it. Please, turn on Netflix. Watch “Social Animals.” Then try to defend how social media is not harmful to our children. If you’re still not convinced, watch “Hot Girls Wanted” (I do not recommend watching this if you struggle with pornography use) and weigh how the use of social media is strongly tied to pornography, child exploitation, and sex trafficking. And then remember this, “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:6 If we don’t want to stop social media use for ourselves, maybe at least consider doing it for our children.
I really think coming to the conclusion that social media is something to be wary of and even quitting is a personal choice that comes from your own convictions. Has social media been used for good? Absolutely! But I’m always asking, at what cost and how good was it, really? I determined it wasn’t worth flirting with for me and my family. Below are some links to articles that have muuuuuuuch more to say on this topic and explain better than my own opinions do. Take a look. Do your own research. Ask God to search your heart. Be obedient to what He tells you.