By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
This past Lent, I noticed a phenomenon among Christians in their teens and 20s. Instead of giving up sugar or snack foods, they decided to avoid social media for the forty days of Lent.
The phenomenon also took place amongst those older than 30, but most of those whom I had connected with or saw post on social media aged somewhere between 16-29. Several friends reported on feeling a sense of relief and continued the fast long after Lent, hopping on once a week at most afterwards.
Although a good number of those who participated are in committed marital relationships, I noticed several singles participated. I believe this didn’t happen by mistake.
Social media has the potential for greater good. We have a larger platform to speak about the good news of Christ, as often I encounter Instagram accounts that mention Bible verses or quotes from well-known Christians.
But, minds can become addicted to social media as easily as drugs.
Not to mention, sources have found correlations between social media use and mental health issues. Although beneficial in some aspects, social media carries a lot of dangers as well—especially for single Christians.
How does it affect singles?
I love spring and summer for the warm weather, blooming flowers, and an exposed sun that had hidden itself behind a coat of clouds all winter. But I hate this time of year for two reasons:
- Engagement announcements
- Wedding pictures
I want to celebrate with my friends that they have found the one who their soul loves (Song of Solomon 3:4), but after scrolling through dozens of filtered pictures of wedding dress shopping trips, mason jar centerpieces, and sunlight-kissed engagement photos, a pit forms in my stomach.
Returning to my own pictures, I scroll through them, comparing likes and wondering why I have not yet found the man who God called for me.
And I know I do not struggle with this alone.
I have heard that comparison steals all joy. After all, God warned against coveting others in the tenth commandment (Exodus 20:17). Social media opens that opportunity for jealousy and coveting to spoil a wonderful day that God has made.
What does the Bible say about social media?
This shouldn’t surprise any of us, but nothing explicit because, well, Jesus didn’t deliver the Sermon on the Mount while refreshing his Twitter feed.
Although those living during the Old and New Testaments didn’t have social media at their fingertips, they did have a few insights on byproducts that can come from social media.
Avoid idolatry: If we click our Facebook app before we click the Bible app for our daily Bible reading, we have determined which takes precedence over the other in our lives (1 Corinthians 10:14).
Use our platforms to reflect the hope we have: Those who have a large platform in the Christian community have a larger set of expectations (Luke 12:48). The larger the platform, the more eyes will watch to see what we say and do. If we have followings on social media, we need to ensure that the activities on those reflects the inner condition of our hearts.
- Abstain from envy at all costs: Proverbs 14:30 says, “envy rots the bones.” If we find that envy starts to decompose our inmost being when we scroll through photos on Facebook, we should consider cutting back on social media.
So, should we delete our social media altogether?
I think that depends.Understandably, some of us have valid reasons we cannot delete our accounts. But we may benefit from scaling back.
I have several friends who have to use social media to build a platform for a business, whether their own or the one that employs them. If your job requires it, that leaves very little wiggle room when it comes to quitting social media.
Even when it comes to personal social media accounts, we can sometimes only find out about the health or life events of friends via Facebook or Instagram.
But as for personal social media accounts – especially as a single person – if you find envy and covetous attitudes infiltrating your mind and heart every time you scroll, consider scaling back.
Social media (itself) might not be the problem.
The tool of social media has this magical tendency to bring out the worst in us. If you take a look at the comment section of any Facebook post, this can often reveal the core of our condition.
Some ways social media can expose us:
Our desire for approval: As single Christians (even Christians not looking for a relationship at the moment) we all crave approval in one way or another. Sometimes we use social media as a way to fill the void that truly only God can fill. After all, God’s opinion matters, no one else’s.
Our desire to be heard: I beam more at an article of mine that received 100 likes as opposed to 10 because I feel as though more of an audience heard what I had to say. Although a larger platform can allow for more people to hear the Gospel, often my intentions for more likes or more pageviews comes from selfishness.
- Our desire for human connection: Although social media has an antisocial nature, we yearn for inclusion through platforms such as Facebook. We often forget that, as Christians, we belong to the family of God. Although I love my Instagram Pod team and writers’ groups on Facebook, none of them can replicate the camaraderie that comes from our inheritance as children of God.
Consider these solutions for scaling back:
If you want to take a break from social media, or at least, spend less time on social media, consider doing one of the following:
Choose a Sabbath day to refrain from social media use. It would be best to do it on the same day you take a Sabbath from work activities (Exodus 20:8). That way you can dedicate that whole day to resting and enjoying God.
Time yourself. Designate a set amount of time you want to scroll and set an alarm. If you can help it, don’t cheat.
When you start to feel jealousy creeping in, exit out of the social media app immediately. Do not allow Satan to get a foothold. (Ephesians 4:27)
Before scrolling in the morning, click the Bible app first. How we start our mornings often determines our attitude for the rest of the day. We might want to toggle through Instagram before moseying over to our daily devotional. But we need to put God first, even as the first event of our day. (Matthew 6:33)
- Scale back entirely. This cold-turkey solution might scare some of us, but if we find that an app consumes our lives, or causes us to sin or stumble, we should cut it off (Matthew 5:29).
If social media has become an idol, to the point where you daily – or hourly – check your following and worry if one picture gets more likes than others, then you should probably consider setting aside the Instagram or Twitter for a season.
Hope Bolingeris a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 300 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 2,700+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog, which receives 63,000+ monthly hits. Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) comes out June 3, and is up for preorder now. Find out more about her here.
Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock/Viktor Gladkov