By Brad Harrub
Twenty years ago I would not have ever considered writing about social media—as it did not exist. Today it impacts almost everyone under the age of fifty. Even many people in their 60s and 70s are jumping on social media to keep up with their grandchildren. Facebook has 1.86 billion monthly active users. In the first quarter of this year Twitter averaged 328 million monthly active users. This is a massive influence in our culture—and yet, the church has been slow to respond to it.
How is it impacting your children or grandchildren? A study in March 2017 revealed that frequent use of multiple social media platforms caused feelings of social isolation. Think about that for a moment. We are the most connected generation of all time—yet we are more isolated that ever before. Many young people have lots of “Virtual” friends, but few real friends. Research published December 10, 2016 showed that using social media is associated with depression and anxiety. Add to this that suicide in young people is up 13% since 2010. Most scholars point to social media as the causative factor for this dramatic increase.
Here’s what I intend on teaching my children about social media.
Your mom and dad grew up in a simpler time. We weren’t bombarded with dings and vibrations from a phone alerting us of every new Instagram or Facebook post. We had friends-real friends, who we rode bikes with-friends who were not constantly putting only their very best highlight reels out there for everyone to see. Social media is amazing in that you can instantly be connected to hundreds or thousands of people. You have information at the tips of your fingers. However, these conveniences can be intensely distracting and can get in the way of our duty to glorify God. Allow me to share several lessons I hope you will learn regarding social media.
- Lesson One: Be careful—social media is addicting.
Make no doubt about it, social media has been engineered to be as habit forming as crack cocaine. If you are going to use it then you need to have discipline and war against spending endless hours surfing your friends posts. “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
- Lesson Two: Constantly ask yourself: Is this the best use of my time?
You have responsibilities. As a servant for Christ you have additional responsibilities. Set limits and have some time you turn it completely off. James wrote “whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
- Lesson Three: Walk in the Spirit not the flesh!
Be careful as social media feeds the flesh. It enlivens your emotions and carnal nature. It is easy to step into social media and get swept away by the flesh. Paul warned, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:16-17).
- Lesson Four: Do not miss out on the joy of face-to-face contact.
As humans, we read body language. It tells us a great deal about the tone and feelings behind a particular conversation. You can’t get that with social media. “Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face-to-face, that our joy may be full” (2 John 1:12).
I hope these first four of sixteen lessons (more next week) will come in handy as you navigate the waters of social media, and I pray you will use it in such a way that it strengthens your relationship with Him.