Social media is both a blessing and a curse.
The blessing part seems obvious to anyone who has connected online. There are resources and knowledge at our fingertips, platforms for expression, conversations that bypass geographical boundaries. They say that the internet, and by extension, social media, is the great equaliser—but what about the curses?
With so many good things on offer can the downside really be so bad? How does it really affect us? It's a complicated matter but we ought to think about it more because of the world that we live in.
Think through the changing world
Ours is a world in which technology is commonplace. Advances are constantly and rapidly being made. Not only do we have greater access to the Internet and smart devices but we have more and more access to fast-growing social media platforms. More of us use them more too. According to the Search Engine Journal, Facebook alone has 1.15 billion active users monthly!
Once we were limited by physical barriers such as slow connections or our computers being at home, immovable from their desk tops. Now it's usual to own a smart phone or device of some kind—Internet access in as many places as we are with as many social media apps as wanted.
This social media phenomenon is not a fad or a teenagers-only domain either. It's become a deeply-ingrained habit across the age spectrum; a habit that is changing attitudes, understanding and behaviour, impacting innumerable aspects of modern life.
Warning signs of a Facebook culture
An article about some of social media's effects that was printed recently in my church's weekly bulletin gives us some examples of social media's broad influence.
The author, Michael Kruger, nods to the positive things about social media but he also voices his concern about its use. He describes five symptoms of a 'Facebook culture' that we would do well to be aware of:
- Developing a short attention span and limited learning style,
- Having a low view of authority and an over-focus on equality,
- Settling for and maintaining 'surfacey' interactions and artificial relationships,
- Lacking a physical presence and,
- Having low commitment and accountability.
Some downsides of social media are common knowledge, such as cyber bullying and low self-esteem. The above list is different. Many of these symptoms are taken for granted as characteristic of the younger generation at least and are often considered quite normal. They are, however, more like curses in disguise.
We can't say that social media use is the sole cause of traits and behaviours like these but the link can't be denied either. These need to be taken into consideration and viewed as the warning signs that they are—we need to weigh all things, the good, the bad and the ugly, so we think through our social media use.
Re-align to the truth
Social media is not a quick formula for a meaningful life or deep, strong relationships. Neither is it the be-all-end-all of self-expression nor the fount of all wisdom. Social media is a useful but limited tool.
In a world like ours even the seemingly benign nature of things like social media use shouldn't be taken for granted. Its effects are more subtle and can be more damaging than we realise. What seems to be culturally normal always needs to be reconsidered in the light of true Truth—God's Word, the Bible.
We must think through the implications of social media use in our daily lives so that even this can be brought into line with God's revealed will.
Help for an unhealthy diagnosis
Does Kruger's list of 'Facebook culture' characteristics strike home? Do we see this in ourselves? If we do then we are facing a rather unhealthy diagnosis. Unfortunately, it only points to a deeper problem of corrupting sin.
Social media doesn't create sin in us. As Kruger writes, it doesn't even necessarily create sin patterns either but it does exacerbate them and it does show us how far short of God's glory we fall.
The remedy for such a diagnosis, our only hope in the midst of our sad state, is to turn to Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour. He can save us; He can satisfy our every need and He can, and will, reorient us when we faithfully follow Him. (Even in the way we use social media.)
Irenie How is young yet, by the grace of God, was saved while she was running away from and fighting against Him. God showed her that He is the Lord and she wants you to know this too. After becoming a Christian she finished studying to become a graphic designer and as this she currently works full-time in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Irenie How's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/irenie-how.html