Do you have mixed feelings about social media like I do? I was an early user of Twitter, but I dumped it quite a while ago. I never really bothered with Instagram. I have a presence on LinkedIn, but I don’t go on it. I’ll scroll through Gab because it’s one of the few uncensored sites where you can see unfiltered discussion, but it can have so many profane & hateful posts that I have to block many posters. And of course, I’m too old to bother with more youth-oriented apps like Snapchat & TikTok. So, I’ve settled on Facebook for many years now.
As you may know, Congress is debating banning TikTok right now due to its connection to Chinese spying & data harvesting. But maybe as, or more, dangerous than its political implications has been its corrupting & addicting influence on young people, rotting their brains & morals. It has been a serious contributing factor to damaging mental health & destroying youthful innocence. They feel pressure to compete with the distorted realities presented there. It preys upon their vanities & depression. A simple TikTok search will turn up thousands of videos of trans-identifying girls showing & promoting their body mutilations. From promoting LGBTQ involvement to negative self-image to suicide, it’s creating stressed & miserable youths. At our church, our student ministry does not use TikTok.
Some younger people in the U.S. are beginning to realize the damaging effects of it all & are looking to limit screen time by ditching their smartphones for “dumb” or light ones that are stripped down to a few basic apps. While it’s unrealistic to hope that we’re going back to a time before social media, it’s at least hopeful that some are trying to minimize the damaging effects.
However, we live in an app-driven world. Social media is ubiquitous. Today, nearly all teens are owners of smartphones & use social media. But it hasn’t just negatively impacted kids. It has disrupted the way we all interact. It has increased narcissistic behavior as people focus on how many followers & likes they can garner.
Social media is also notorious for pushing progressive points of view while censoring, suppressing, & shadow-banning content that our digital overlords don’t approve of — including simply posting certain Bible verses. I believe I’ve experienced this on some of my FB posts, & I’m always conscious that I risk preaching something that may get banned.
I’ve recently deleted the Facebook app from my iPhone & iPad because it’s become such a cesspool of time-wasting posts, commercials, & lewdness. Yet, this blog will be posted on FB. For me, FB has been a way to stay connected with people through personal messaging. I did live Bible studies on FB during the pandemic. I invite people to follow me there…yet, I don’t really want to incentivize people to go on social media who wouldn’t otherwise do so. I feel I need to be on social media because that’s where the people are, yet I don’t want them there!
Social media sites are being used in positive ways too. Plenty of educational, enlightening, & wholesome content can be found. The Gospel IS being proclaimed there! Yes, we livestream our worship services on FB & YouTube. But then so much more immorality, atheism, & toxicity are being promoted than ever. It feels like a losing battle because it’s a technological tool that surrounds us, subsumes us, & addicts us. We’re shaped by what we view (the massive amounts of money put into marketing proves it), & by our habits (that’s why we encourage daily Bible reading).
So here we are; what do we do with it? I would suggest cutting back. Delete apps that tempt you to waste time, view inappropriate things, or create anxiety. Limit your time with social media. It takes self-discipline. It’s difficult enough for us adults to restrain ourselves, let alone youth.
Don’t give children unfiltered smartphones & tablets. Parents are the shields against what would harm them. Or at least monitor them when they use these devices. Teach them what God says about the traps of temptation & spiritual warfare. Explain why social media is problematic & dangerous. Train them to be discerning, think biblically, & make wise choices. Encourage them to do more in-person socializing (bring them to church & youth groups!). But be sure to break your own bad habits & set the example. The less addicted we all are to the digital world, the happier & healthier we’ll learn to be as we use our limited time for more important, uplifting, & fulfilling things.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that we need to be more diligent than ever. Psalm 101:3 would be a good theme verse for social media usage: “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless” (ESV). Or as the NIV phrases it: “I will not look with approval on anything that is vile.”
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