In his book Fool’s Talk, OS Guinness says that “everyone is now in the business of relentless self-promotion – presenting themselves, explaining themselves, defending themselves, selling themselves or sharing their inner thoughts and emotions as never before in human history.” This is majorly through Social Media. People are seeking the widest possible public audience in the name of followers, friends or connections, often to the detriment of authentic lives and connections.
Among the many documentaries that caused a stir in an event field 2020 is one ‘Social Dilemma’ on Netflix. This docudrama directed by Jeff Orlowski tries to shed some light on the harmful impact of social media in the world today. They argue that platforms like Facebook are designed to be addictive and the primary goal of the people behind the platform is to use your data to make money. Consequently, they do all they can to draw and retain your attention, and they do it with lethal effectiveness to the extent that it is like a drug addiction.
People are almost running their entire lives online by being tethered to their devices all the time. As highlighted in the documentary, the creators of those platforms have designed them in such a way that they are addictive and are always demanding for your attention. They are not just technology companies with some geeks churning out code after code, but are psychological think tanks with armies of psychologists, neuroscientists and social science experts who use their knowledge of human vulnerabilities to capture your attention and get you addicted. Social Media is addictive by design.
To be sure that you are using social media in the right way, look out for the following things:
- Examine yourself
In the words of Haggai, we need to do a self-examination, or ‘give careful thoughts to your ways.’ The first question to ask is whether you are using Social Media responsibly, and if you have a healthy relationship with the same. The goal is to ensure that you are in control, and not the Social Media platforms controlling you. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Do I spend unnecessarily long periods of time on Social Media?
- Do I experience time management problems due to unhealthy use of social media?
- Have my studies, social life, ministry activities and relationships been negatively affected due to social media?
- Do I have irregular sleep patterns due to use of social media?
- Do I feel down when I am unable to access social media, or if my posts are not getting the attention I need?
- Do I have more conversations online than in person?
- Has social media led me to other vices such as pornography, greed, jealousy or masturbation?
If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, perhaps it is time to examine if you need to apply some change or readjustment to your relationship with social media.
2. Take Corrective Measures
If you realize that social media has become your god, or it is on the verge of becoming one, or you have an unhealthy relationship with it, it is time to take action. Seek as much help available. You should also have some form of accountability with people that are close to you.
Here are a few measures for your consideration;
i) Define your Social Media use
Why are you using Social Media? Is it for entertainment, business, education, or personal development? If you figure out why, you will be in a position to know when social media is useful, or when you are becoming very hooked. If you are using it for entertainment, you should be able to tell if you are having too much entertainment, or if your entertainment channels are imbalanced.
ii) Be Self-Controlled
A person without self-control is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out (Proverbs 25:28). Do not allow algorithms to control your life and lead you from one video to another, with little regard for content, values or even your time. Also, guard yourself from drifting into mindlessly into these addictive habits. Apply self-control and consciously decide to not be enslaved.
iii) Avoid the ungodly
While there are so many benefits of social media, avoid any matter that is ungodly. It may be trending or forming the base of every discussion in your circles, but if it draws you away from God, let it go.
Instead, appropriate the grace of God, which teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:11,12). Keep off the ungodly content that would corrupt you.
iv) Do not be the fool
Social media has the ability to deceive and make you think that you are in control. In your mind, you might think that you are just trying to keep up with the memes and challenges, while in real sense you are being manipulated to keep scrolling endlessly.
Learn how social media works, and the impacts it has on you. You could even use the same social media to learn about the ills of social media. It is said when the product is free, like social media, you are the product. In the words of Ephesians 5:15, ‘be careful how you use your time, not like fools, but like those who are wise.’
v) Do not Seek validation on Social Media
Have you ever found yourself taking countless photos just to find the perfect one to post on social media? Do you find yourself checking your notifications over and over just to see if someone liked, replied or retweeted your post? Many times, we seek validation on social media, which blurs the truth about ourselves. Our self-worth must be pegged on God, and not on a bunch of notifications. While you promote content online, do not be unnecessarily invested in its outcome.
In conclusion, we must draw the line and define how much intrusion is too much. As explored above, scriptures guide us on assessing our virtual spaces and redefining them in a way that fosters truth and responsibility. While there might be too much pressure to stay hooked, we must fight to overcome and live self-controlled lives to God’s glory.