Last year I was traveling with a small group of college seniors through Europe teaching history and a biblical worldview. After a worship service in Paris, we exited the hotel where they were meeting and started walking toward the Eiffel Tower.
As we approached the tower one of the guys had an idea. “Why don’t we have a contest? Each of us take a photo of the tower on our phone, Instagram it and see who gets the most number of likes on Facebook. Some of the guys had more “friends” than others, so after working out a handicap system, they went to work.
The next morning at breakfast I made the following observation, which I think is important for us older adults to more fully understand the intense pressure our children, grandchildren and we are under every day.
“When I was in high school and college, I knew there were people who liked me and those who didn’t like me. But, I didn’t get liked or unliked in real time every hour. I can’t image the pressure you are under as your “friends” vote on the value of your contribution to their life and entertainment every hour of the day.” One of the guys added, “Mr. De Graaf, its worse than that. Everyone is under pressure to exaggerate, lie, gossip and post more and more outrageous things just to get liked and forwarded.”
True Confessions I have a bit more understanding of this phenomena, because as a writer, your publisher tells you that you have to work on posting content on Facebook and Twitter that gets you followers, friends and likes. So when my book, The 10-Second Rule, was released in February, I began thinking of what I could do to boost traffic on my social media. I was reading blogs on increasing traffic and they encourage authors to post more interesting videos, pictures – anything that would build our platform, which is publishers speak for the people who enjoy regularly seeing what you have to say.
About two months in to it, I found I was checking multiple times a day to see if anyone was following me, “liking” me or commenting. Amazon posts hourly how my book is selling compared to other books, so there’s that constant comparison. I was beginning to care too much who thought I was important or interesting. People told me, “Clare, this is the new way ministry gets done – embrace it!” But, it felt more narcissistic than ministry.
Enough is enough So, I began to “fast” from social media, checking it only every few days, just enough so I could comment on questions or comments my blog or book readers had. I check Amazon only weekly now. I also decided not to have a Facebook page with friends, or have a newsfeed about my friends. Instead, I went back to meeting with friends face to face and calling them on the phone, so I’m developing deeper friendships with fewer people. Old school!
I’m not making a judgment on all users of social media, but I am asking you to judge yourselves. It’s one thing to use social media because your job or ministry requires it. I’m far more concerned about the use of social media out of boredom, vanity or curiosity. Has social media become too important to you also? I’ve talked with Christians who find themselves skipping through their personal quiet time with God to answer email, checking Facebook and texting during worship services, during dinners with their family and friends or while driving. If that’s you, you too may have a problem.
The real dangers of social media are shallow relationships with too many friends and the hours of time wasted on reading or watching things that add nothing to the kingdom. Or worse yet, going to websites that tempt you to discontent, envy or lust.
So, here are some good questions to ask yourself:
1. Do I feel closer to God and more spiritually alive than I was a year or two ago?
2. How long has it been since I last checked my phone or computer?
3. Why did I check it? (Was it for information I really needed, or was it curiosity or vanity?)
4. Do I check my phone in church? What must God think of that?
If you don’t think you have a problem, fast from all non-essential social media for 24 hours and find out for yourself.
Ask God if your phone or computer have become an idol for you. “You shall have no other gods before me.” Dt 5:6
If you’re being convicted that you may have a problem, I’d suggest reading the ideas on this blog. My Name is Kris, and I Am Addicted
And, if you’re concerned about your kids, I’d suggest reading a short, but wonderful book, IParent by Don Pearson and/or going to his website www.iparented.com.
Following Jesus in Real Life