Before I get started, I should be clear: I am just as prone to social media addiction as is the next person. And yeah, let’s call a spade a spade. It’s an addiction. I wanted to use a softer word – attachment? inclination? temporary periods of chronic usage? – to distance myself from that association, but that would not be fully honest. It’s an addiction. And I’m prone to it. I know this because I go to it mindlessly, whether I’m busy or bored; I choose it over the work I should be doing; I feel the need to keep checking, to stay in the know. Over the years, I’ve deleted my Facebook account more times than I’d like to admit, and sometimes it feels like I delete my apps on a weekly basis. I feel the forceful effects of its pull and the burdensome weight of my response.
So, that’s my disclaimer. I’m not immune to the twisted, self-consumed motives behind using technology. But there is an endless supply of published words – and spoken words, and shouted words – about why social media is the devil and we’re all addicted and our whole world is the worst for it. I’ve abstained from social media, and I’ve come back, every time, and recently I’ve realized a few things about why I love it so much.
I wanted to share these things to perhaps challenge our thinking: if good can come out of it, should we not recognize and be thankful for this good? Should we not use this good for good? Should we not strive to kill the sin that makes us use it so poorly and be so harmfully affected by it?
So, in an effort to recognize and reinforce thankfulness for this good, here are the reasons that I love:
Twitter. I’ll start with one of my favorites. I love Twitter because it feeds my mind – it’s like a waiter that appears every two minutes with a new golden platter filled with words: words of wisdom, words that challenge me, words that impress upon and shape me. Because of the incredible ability Twitter has afforded us to follow writers, bloggers, thinkers, pastors, and publications, I am daily being served with thought-provoking and heart-transforming articles. Not only that, but you’d be surprised how much 140 characters can really leave a dent in you. I’ve countless times been challenged and encouraged by tweets themselves.
Instagram. Pictures speak! There are certain things pictures communicate that no written word can. There are stories to be shared and little snippets of our joys to be captured in those pixelated stills of real life. More than that, photos are fun to follow. Creativity is enticing. Instagram is also filled with so many niche communities that it’s nearly impossible to not find inspiring accounts in your spheres of interest (sports, working out, health and nutrition, humor, books, fashion, make up, travel, nature, art, business, companies, events, etc etc etc).
Facebook. This is one of the best relational tools. I think for a lot of us, Facebook has become less of a “let me show you all of my life including all of the pictures I took last weekend on my digital camera” (as it used to be used… by me) and more of a way to stay connected to our friends and family. It’s a great way to keep up and in touch with those living afar. Messaging has become a common “email” source between many, and the messenger app has made it possible for us to essentially text message with Facebook friends whose numbers we would otherwise likely never have in our contact list.
Snapchat. I liken this one to the digital equivalent of taking a stroll alongside your friend’s day. Snapchat is an inside look at the ordinariness of people’s lives. I love it because I get to find things out about my friends and family, the seemingly insignificant stuff that we might never see in a group chat or posted on Facebook. Some of it is trivial, but some of it is meaningful. I think if it weren’t for Snapchat, I wouldn’t know half as much about my friends and family as I do. That’s a scary thought, but it makes me thankful for the connection it’s afforded us.
Using social media for its good purposes begs us to be wary of its perils. It can be used in a hugely positive, intentional, and missional way, but it’s also dangerous. There are a lot of senseless things posted online that waste our time; there are harmful and damaging things that attack our hearts and minds. I’ve known people taste its dangers and immediately sever their ties with it. This is necessary at times. This is something I’ve done many times.
But here’s my conviction: it is insufficient for me to kill a tool when the misuse of that tool is due to my own sin. Just because social media can lead to terrible and horrible things does not mean the solution lies entirely in the obliteration or deletion of it. The solution lies in the killing of my sin. (Killing sin can be aided by killing/deleting a tool. Absolutely. But it’s deeper than that, too. There is a root-cause to our dependency, and the issue doesn’t just disappear when the tool does.)
If social media truly can be good, then there must be a way to reap the rewards of its inherent goodness. And if sin is the problem, then there must be a way to kill it and develop a healthy relationship between us and social media. But how?
The solution for me is nothing other than dependency on my savior. I know my struggles, but I also know that the surpassing strength of the Spirit of God is so much realer and greater. I am nothing without his self-control. The good news is that he’s really real and really does change things in me. He not only grows me in discipline, but resets and redirects my desires. Instead of merely giving me the strength to slap my hand as I reach for my phone, he strips me of the desire to reach for it in the first place. He re-orients my desires to center on greater things. (Him.) He has satisfied me with these greater things (himself) more than the feeling of connecting to people ever will.
I’m still weak. This is of course a daily fight. But it’s one that he is worthy of us waging. And even better, it’s a fight that he has already won – a victory out of which we now can live!