Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Cost of Social Media

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For the last month of my life, I have not spent more than a minute or two browsing the Facebook Newsfeed.

The only updates I see are those which appear on my screen immediately after logging in, and friends or blogs that I specifically purpose to check in on.

I desperately needed to make this change. I was spending way too many hours of my life pouring over it, neglecting other things that really mattered. And I often walked away from online time feeling rotten.

While I know this kind of change isn't necessary for everyone, and I have no desire to make it a "law of holiness" that everyone who wants to be godly must adopt,

I would like to share the reasoning behind my decision, in hopes that if you are having the same problems as me, this will be an opportunity for you to reevaluate your use of social media.

Social media comes with a cost. We spend our time, our mental energy, and our emotions on social media.

Time. Maybe, like me, you often decide to spend "just five more minutes" surfing your feeds. But five minutes turns into ten, then fifteen, then twenty... and you are left wondering where your day went, why you haven't accomplished your "to dos", and why your children are misbehaving (starved for attention!).

Instead of investing extra chunks of time into projects or people that you value, you have nothing to show for it, and you are barely keeping your head above water.

Mental Energy. Christians are called to renew their minds in the Word of God. Everything that we spend time reading or watching fills our mind, making an impact on our attitudes and thought processes.

The problem with a social media stream is that you don't have much control over what sorts of messages will be coming your way. Reading excessive complaints or rants, unnecessary vulgarities or profanities, and blatant glorifications of immorality and idolatry will have a negative drain on your brain.

Emotions. At the beginning of this year, Slate posted an article about a Stanford study entitled, "Is Facebook Making Us Sad?" Researchers found that after browsing Facebook, people (especially women!) actually felt worse about themselves.

Because Social Media allows us to present the best side of ourselves, we see all of these happy, healthy, and prosperous people... and think that they have their lives all together, unlike us... which makes us feel depressed.

The reality? Nobody is perfect! We all have issues, sin struggles, heartaches, and trials. When I spent all of that time reading my newsfeed, I kept myself busy comparing, coveting, and complaining about those people who "had it all together."

"She's the same age as me, yet she already has a really nice house, while we're still stuck renting."

"Why does everything work out so well for them? I've worked hard, and I got the same degree as they did!"

"Wow, she has really done well for herself. Why didn't I take that course load in college? Would I be just as successful as her if I had?"

"Wish we could have gone on that amazing cruise for our honeymoon..."

And on it goes.

Beyond the coveting and comparing, certain status updates would seriously grieve me.

That girl that went to youth group with me all through high school? She's now denied the Lord and is living a blatantly sinful life, which she loves to proclaim from the rooftops of her social media status'.

The guy that I attended Bible college with? He's no longer claiming Christ, he is now "out of the closet," his back turned to the clear teachings of Scripture that he once received.

Friends supporting causes and politicians and opinions that I personally find to be offensive, unbiblical, and/or foolish.

While I loved finding out who was getting married and who was having a baby and what life was like for the so-and-sos as oversea missionaries, one seriously negative post from a former friend was enough to send clouds over my otherwise lovely day.

As much as I got a kick out of finding out that the girl I went to 5th grade with was expecting identical twin boys, this fact made no significant difference to me. I still don't really talk with her ever... I wish her the best and am overjoyed at her blessings from the Lord... but if we're no longer keeping up, why do I need to know?

I've found much freedom in letting go of the feed, and stepping back from the hundreds of "friends" that I haven't spoken with in ages.

Instead I've chosen to invest my Facebook time in checking up on the people that I really do care about, intentionally catching up on how they are doing, and how I can be praying for them. Leaving a message or a wall post just to say "hello" and leave a few words of encouragement.


You see, time is short, and the cost of the Newsfeed was just a bit too pricy for me. I don't want to be a slave to Facebook (or Twitter, or blog reading/writing, etc.)- I want it to serve me. When those roles are reversed, I have a problem.

What personal boundaries have you found helpful with regards to Social Media? How do you maximize its positive potential, and limit its negative potential in your life?

1 comment:

  1. Amen!! I find myself thinking the same exact things about social media. When I was on a missionary trip to Russia last month, for 3 weeks we survived w/o FB and internet. We found ourselves not sitting around on our phones, but instead asking each other questions, getting to know each other. It was amazing and some days I wish I could just dump my smartphone somewhere and live simply. I agree with everything you wrote, thank you for sharing!

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