So, what can we do if we recognize that we might be spending too much time on social media or too often measuring the value of our material possessions, life experiences, or even our self-worth against other people’s “highlight reels”? How, in practical ways, can we loosen our dependence on this way of “killing time” and more fully accept and embrace
the acceptance,joy, and peace that God offers?
1 LISTEN TO “MOM.” “Don’t compare your your insides with other people’s outsides.” Perhaps your mother never uttered the words, but many have recited them when their children express jealousy about somebody else’s (seemingly) perfect life. The adage succinctly reminds us that more is going on inside of us and in the lives of others than we know or can “see.”
When you find yourself online—envying someone else’s possessions, personality, or accomplishments—stop! You’re comparing your insides with other people’s outsides!
Also, be mindful of this advice from psychologist Dr. Warren. When we are scrolling through our newsfeeds, she says, it’s “critical to remind yourself that what you see is not an accurate picture of reality. Don’t compare yourself to the images of friends, colleagues, or celebrities. Remind yourself that it is just a snapshot of their life-and one they want you to see.”
This is sound biblical advice too: practice trust in God, remembering that God provides for us and withholds no good thing from those who love him (psalm 84:11). So if you don’t have something—whether it’s a relationship, an accomplishment, or a possession—you can work to trust in God’s love and providence, knowing that whatever this desire is, it might not align with God’s timing or plan for you.
2 TAKE A BREAK—DIGITAL DETOX. In Romans, Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (romans 12:2 esv). This seems pertinent advice for all of us as we consider what we look at and how we behave on social media. Leaving room for silence and listening for God’s leading is more likely to renew our minds than fretting over our-or other people’s—social media presence.
Bestselling author and entrepreneur Scott Belsky is just one of the myriad professionals who advocate taking regular “digital detoxes” or sabbaticals. By taking an afternoon or whole weekend off of social media, Belsky and others argue, we think deeper thoughts, break our addiction to being distracted, and experience more life satisfaction. Remember, many researchers recommend spending no more than a half hour a day on social media.
Digital detoxes truly give us the chance to stop conforming ourselves to the world, and instead to renew our minds.
3 HOLD MATERIAL THINGS LOOSELY. Walk through a coffee shop or train station or, well, any public place and you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the top of other people’s heads. Our eyes cast down, we swipe, click, and tap on stories and posts and Tweets … many of which are designed to sell us something. Increasingly, we don’t even know that we’re in the middle of a sales pitch.
Now on Instagram it’s illegal not to disclose that a post is actually “sponsored content.” A celebrity may post a picture of himself enjoying a certain energy drink or dressing his baby in a branded onesie, but he’s now required, somewhere, to use a hashtag such as #sponsored or #ad. That little tag might be hard to catch, given the ten hashtags that precede or follow it. But it’s there.
Advertisements are created to arouse our cravings. Be aware that when we’re just distractedly scrolling online, someone is usually trying to sell us something. It’s another reason to be intentional with how we spend our time online and what we choose to look at, remembering that where our treasure is, there too is our heart (matthew 6:21).
God Is Our Loving Parent
We are beloved children of God, and-like a loving parent-God wants good things for us. The “FOMO,” depression, disappointment, and anxiety that disordered social media use can bring don’t bring us the joy and peace God promises. But we can make a choice to listen for God’s calm and loving voice, guiding us toward the true worth of our own gifts, beauty, and purpose.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (philippians 4:8 esv).
CHAPTER 3: QUESTIONS
Psalm 139:14 tells us we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” What are three wonderful things about you? (Your sense of humor? Your efficiency? Your special talents? Your generous heart?) Write them down and thank God for making you uniquely you.
What is one way that God brings you joy? Thank him for it now.
If you find yourself on line simply out of habit or because you’re distracted or filling up the time, try doing something else that truly brings you joy. Below, make a list of things you enjoy that you could do more of if you spent a bit less time online. (Could you go for a walk? Read a psalm? Call or write a note to a friend?)
When you go on social networking sites, be intentional about what you’re looking for. Are you hoping to catch up with friends and family? Get ideas about a new project? Learn about a topic or read the news? Connect with people struggling with the same issues you face? Make or maintain professional relationships?
In the space below, jot down a few of the positive ways social media affects you.