The Cost of Social Media
📱 Technology is good.
The story of the Bible starts in a garden (The Garden of Eden, Genesis 2) and ends in a city (The Holy City, Revelation 21). Technology is part of God’s good plan! Despite this, we as humans often have a tendency to take good things and mess them up…
Welcome to Part 1 of our brand new series: #SocialMediaSOS! We hope the articles coming up will give you really practical knowledge about the effects of social media, as well as real-life tips about how to approach social media in a godly way. Most importantly, we're praying it would equip a generation of girls & young women to shine bright for the Lord in the way we use our phones and social media accounts! Let's begin... MP Team x
Social media is great isn’t it?! I love those videos of cute babies cuddling dogs or getting a message from a friend I haven’t seen in yonks or hitting that “100 likes” on a post
🤔 My question is, what is going on behind the screens that can take us from casual enjoyment of social media to almost obsessive use of it? We’re going to look at some really practical reasons to start off with...
1. Psychological reasons
Social media causes our brains to release something called dopamine which is a highly addictive chemical, linked to rewards. Dopamine means social media works like a slot machine:
Slot Machine / Social Media
Coin in / Unlock phone
Pull lever / Tap Instagram icon
Watch the fruit spin for a few seconds / Wait for the app to load (this is where dopamine hits!)
Fruits line up / Notifications pop up
No match (lost the slot machine lottery…) / No likes (lost the social approval lottery…)
Well, this time we lost, but that almost doesn’t matter. We know that sometimes we’ll win; that’s the fun with dopamine! It makes us go back again and again, each time needing a little bit more to get the same dopamine rush.
2. Commercial reasons
Social media companies are businesses whose primary target is to make money. They must compete against other social media companies for our attention, because on the internet:
Our time ⏳ = their money 💰
👩💻 Social media companies employ psychologists and tech designers to create apps that are as addictive for each individual user as possible. Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple 🍏 revealed that when his kids were young, he severely restricted the time they were allowed on screens. Why? Because he knew the power of his products, and that the easiest audience to win over is us young-uns.
😱 The problem is that social media is now so compelling, it can take us away from the things we really want to do, like spending time with God or friends, and persuade us to click on link after link that we really don’t need to. I mean, who needs to “Take this test and find out what kind of cheese you are”? The apostle Paul articulates the struggle against the internet perfectly in Romans:
‘I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate’ (Romans 7:15)
More seriously, social media can persuade us to ignore basic human instincts, like our need for sleep and face to face relationships, and it can even negatively affect our mental health. There is strong evidence that more time on social media can heighten feelings of depression and anxiety in some people*. Yancey Strickler, the CEO of an arts company, made a chilling comment:
“It’s not hard for me to imagine that in 20 years, we find that social media does to our brains what smoking does to our lungs.”
🙇🤷 So, where do we go from here?
The answer can’t be total avoidance because technology is a gift from God - and we are called to be in the world, just to live distinctively while we are there. Plus, social media's place in our everyday lives is only going to increase!
But it is a good idea to be aware that social media companies can use us rather than serve us. Here are some, I hope, helpful suggestions for how to learn to enjoy technology as God intends.
First, we must be honest with ourselves about our use of social media. Are you addicted to that dopamine hit social media gives?
🙌 Confess this addiction to God, and choose to worship God for technology, rather than worshipping technology
📚 If you’d like to know more, a great book to start with is 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke.
Deuteronomy 4:15-24 says:
Don’t ruin everything and make an idol for yourself... Don’t look to the sun, moon or stars and be led astray, worshipping and serving them. The Lord your God has granted these things to all the nations who live under heaven. But He took you and brought you out of Egypt so that you might be his own treasured people, which is what you are right now
📲 Next, why not turn off all notifications except direct message apps (WhatsApp and SMS). Try deleting social media apps, and only use it in browser format, so it’s not so immediately available.
Think about how much time you spend on social media each day. Now ask yourself: what it would look like to spend an equal amount of time with God...
✈️ Lastly, why not choose some particular times of day to put your phone on flight mode, before bed is a great one. Maybe commit to never having your phone in your bedroom.
We'll be back on Saturday with Part 2 of the series, exploring how we can rely on the goodness of GOD rather than the instant kick of social media to distract us or cheer us up. A big thank you to Hatty for guiding us through these practical tips today! MP Team x
Hatty moved to London last year to work with the Christian Union at City, University of London. Her weeks are full of meeting up with students, studying a bit of theology, training for the London marathon and preparing to get married in August!