A few years ago, before I began attending Eternity Bible College, I took a class at a Pennsylvanian university in child psychology. Though I forget her name, the professor was the best professor I ever had. She connected well with her students, she was extremely passionate about the subject, and she designed every assignment with a specific purpose. In class one day, as she leaned back against the metal desk that stood in the corner of the room, she tossed out a question to us: “What impact do you think social media has on the development of children and teenagers?” Since then, I’ve never viewed social media the same way.
Some students quickly claimed the obvious answers, such as children and teenagers spend too much time on their phones or computers, they waste time playing Farmville, or they become addicted to the internet. Other students tried to appear smarter by saying that they start viewing friendships or relationships differently and it breaks down social skills by allowing students to rely on technology to communicate. “The number one effect social media has on students,” the professor paused, “is suicide.” Social media depression is a real thing.
We’ve probably all been there before. At least, I know I have. I scroll through my Facebook and Instagram feeds every morning and I’m met with pictures of people announcing pregnancies, weddings, and relationships. But the single friends I have don’t post pictures of babies or nuptials. Instead, they post pictures of traveling, or shopping, or adventuring. Question 1: Where do all the happily married people find their spouses? Question 2: Where do all my single friends find time and money to travel to Rome and Australia, and Bangkok? On social media, everyone’s life is seemingly better than my own. They’re traveling cooler places, meeting cooler people, and spending money on things I dream about doing. Nobody on social media shares the funerals, the miscarriages, the divorces, the breakups, and the day in and day out grind of the 9-5. We’ve become what A.J. Swoboda describes as “self-selective”, selecting things we want to share to make ourselves look flawless and hiding the parts that detract from our beauty. Even our profile pictures are carefully selected to make us appear more attractive and successful. Nobody has a profile picture of themselves that they took the minute they woke up that morning.
And this is why social media causes depression and suicide in so many people. We deceive ourselves into believing that everyone is more successful and more attractive than we are, and that we are truly alone in our sin and imperfection. Social media isn’t all bad, but it can be deadly. Literally.
Unfortunately, Jesus never taught on social media. He didn’t mention Twitter or Facebook once in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). But he did show that we are ferociously loved at the cross. Jesus sold His life on the cross to purchase our souls. He sold His life to buy us, the treasure in the field (Matt. 13:44). He endured the pain and torture of the cross for us, His reward (Heb. 12:2). Despite the fact that we sometimes believe that we are unlovable, we’re reminded that Jesus died for the unlovable. Jesus also showed us that He’s right there with us in the darkness of the empty tomb. Jesus is with us in suffering. Even as Jesus’ body lie rotting in a grave, God was still at work. The Sunday of Easter, the joyous and glorious day of Easter weekend, could not happen unless we first experienced the pain and sadness of Saturday. Even though we may suffer depression, anxiety, addiction, or discontentment, we know that Jesus is still next to us in the darkness. He may remain silently wrapped in linen and smelling like nard for a time, but Jesus always speaks in resurrection.
Practically speaking, maybe it’s not the best idea to scroll through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter constantly. Remember, people are only showing you on social media what they want you to see, not what’s actually behind the mask. Social media does not define other people and therefore it cannot define you. It’s probably not that great to rely on social media for communication, because people only communicate on social media what they want people to see instead of what they’re trying to hide. Real community happens when people do life together in the real world. They spend time together. And spending time together can be messy because in real life people can’t hide behind a screen to edit their words and camouflage their questionable choices. My encouragement is simple: Daily remind yourself how Jesus sees you to rely on your identity in Him, not what Facebook makes you think you are.
You can also check out my personal blog at http://aspiringtheologian.wordpress.com
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