In the last decade, a social phenomenon that has taken the world over has to be social media. Something that was unique to young people eventually became an interest to parents and older adults.
I remember heavily using Myspace during its peak years in the mid-00s then gravitating to Facebook then completely removing myself from all social media until a few years ago by embracing this platform.
No doubt that social media has improved our lives in various degrees, but much has been written on the biopsychosocial and social effects regarding social media.
I am a middle school teacher so I’m familiar with allegations of cyber-bullying online which researchers indicate social media plays a big role in. In addition, hyper-texting, which researchers at Case Western Reserve considers “clocking in more than three hours a day on social-networking Web sites” puts students on a path of numerous at-risk behavior such as sexual activity, illicit drug use, and fights.
From an adult perspective, social media sometimes reinforces negative self-worth especially when people compare their lives to others that are successful. The New York Times published an article this year releasing new statistics from Nielsen which sheds light on social media usage (link below). The Times reported that:
Americans from 18 to 34 are less obsessed with social media than some of their older peers are.
Adults 35 to 49 were found to spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media networks.
That’s a huge number of adults that are spending time on social media.
As I mentioned at the beginning, there lies practical positive outcomes in social media. Ranging from connecting people globally, business networking, increasing communication, socialization, and sharing breaking news in other parts of the world.
With all that has been said, what’s a Christian to make of this? A couple of things.
At the heart of my sometimes disdain for social media is the devaluing of human dignity and uniqueness. As humans, we carry self-worth and inherent value. This is not a theistic concept, but a universal maxim. At times we may have failed to embrace our value, but that doesn’t negate its truth. As Isaiah in 64:8:
Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
God has created us. Not only has he created us, he has imparted the Imago Dei, the image of God, which refers to our unique creation and relationship to God. We forfeit God’s imprint on our creation when we seek other things to imitate rather than the Creator. As Romans 12:2 points out:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.
We are conformed to the world and its patterns when we covet and envy others. Instead of focusing on God’s standard, his word, and failing to imitate the saints and most importantly his Son, we elevate man’s standard.
I think what’s most troubling is the gap social media creates in our relationships. Far too often, social media creates a wedge in our human interactions. At dinner, couples have their phones searching their profiles or people take profiles or statuses at face value instead of engaging in meaningful conversation.
This is problematic because we’re relational beings. Just as the persons in the Trinity enjoy complete relationship perfection, we have a desire for this kind of relationship also. The Argument of God’s existence by desire sheds some light on this topic. Abraham Maslow even reached this conclusion in his famous Hierarchy of Needs.
We substitute authentic purposeful relationships with those of internet connections. We even claim to have “friends” when in fact they’re just extremely loose defined connections. This absence of genuine relationship prevents us from fulfilling the greatest commandment our Lord gave us of loving our neighbor and loving God.
Overall, much could be said about the use of social media. We shouldn’t allow it to lead us away from our focus on God and our love of neighbor. Let us maximize the good of social media and technology by carrying out love, concern for others, and showing God’s love to others.