Stand Up To Social Media
Do you turn to social media to distract us or temporarily cheer us up? Us too! Article 2 of #SocialMediaSOS unpacks some answers and solutions! MP Team x
One of our favourite things about social media is its ability to distract us. It turns any moment that was once boring or awkward (a typical British queue, for example) into a potential to be educated or entertained by unlimited reels of news, photos, videos and podcasts.
But social media doesn’t just distract us from feeling bored or awkward. It also has the power to distract us from deep grief and pain when life gets tough…
As we scroll through social media, (along with the dopamine we talked about in the last post), our brains release something called oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle chemical” because it makes us feel great! You know those YouTube videos of super cute and fuzzy baby ducks that make you feel all warm inside? That’s oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a good chemical; it’s associated with ‘falling in love’ because it’s released when we see something we feel strong affection for. It can also decrease stress and increase feelings of trust and empathy. However, social media companies use oxytocin to keep us hooked to spending time on their apps and falling in love with cute videos or beautiful photos.
When life isn’t going so great for us, it’s easy to turn to social media to make us feel a bit better. Maybe you’re going through a tough time personally; you’re under stress or suffering with low self-esteem. Or maybe you just look at the state of the world and feel agony for the brokenness you see.
Whatever it may be, you always have two ways to respond:
1. Engage with the pain
This is the difficult option. It means accepting feelings of helplessness. It can be painful and costly, but dealt with in the right way (seeking wise counsel from family, church, mentors and friends you trust - as well as through prayer), it will ultimately lead to growth and maturity.
2. Distract away from the pain 💻
This is the easier option; putting our pain away in a box and saving it for another day. Watching TV shows and YouTube clips provide the perfect escapism. But it doesn’t last long...
I have chosen this way many times, and it has never led to freedom. In fact, it cuts me off from the promise Jesus makes:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus calls himself the light of the world️ and as Christians, we have the privilege of having Christ live in us. Through him we are able to stare the darkness of the world in the face, and stand up to it:
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
This is a high calling, and one we have no hope of pursuing if our minds are constantly bombarded with the internet, even if it’s “Christian stuff”. Just like with close friends, intimacy with God is found in spending time without distractions.
In The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis pretends to be a “senior devil”, giving advice to his apprentices on how best to distract Christians from being in relationship with Jesus. He says:
“The only thing that matters is that you separate the person from Christ. It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that they edge them away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than [social media] if [social media] can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts”
🤷 So, where do we go from here?
First, we must be honest with ourselves about our use of social media. Is it the first thing you turn to when you’re bored or sad? Do you use it to distract yourself from reality? If this rings true with you (even a little bit), consider:
🙏 Asking God for a changed heart that seeks true comfort from him rather than the temporary relief from social media.
💪 Praying for strength in the fight against choosing the easy option of distractions.
👧🏾👧🏻👧 Getting trusted friends to ask you how you’re doing with social media, and have honest discussions together as a group.
‘Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matthew 6:33)
We'll be back next Saturday with Article 3/4... we hope you're enjoying the series so far!
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!