As a parent, I am coming to believe more and more that technology doesn’t just represent a challenge when it comes to raising children; it is the challenge when it comes to raising kids. That’s because technology represents an avenue for so many other things – it’s the conduit by which materialism, sexual immorality, gossip and a host of other things enter and take hold in the hearts and lives of our kids.
At the same time, we are not Amish, and we don’t aspire to be Amish. That is to say, it’s a bit unrealistic to expect our children to completely abstain from technology and, for the purposes of this post, social media. Social media in particular is so prolific that it’s a pie in the sky dream that our kids would not be affected by it. But it’s more than just pragmatic; social media can also be a positive force for good. As parents, we must realize that these are real connections to our kids, and while we might lament that so many relationships of the next generation are virtual rather than physical, it doesn’t change the fact that they are. And that they are real.
Hence the battle. It’s a battle to know how much, at what age, and what platform. It’s a battle of monitoring, checking, and giving freedom. And it’s hard. But here’s one aspect that makes it even harder – that as we try and govern our children’s exposure to social media, it also forces us as adults to a level of introspection lest we be completely hypocritical. We are fools if we believe that we, as adults, are immune to the very things we are hoping to guard our children from. So inasmuch as we are fighting the battle with technology and social media with and for our children, we also ought to be doing the same thing for ourselves.
We should, I believe, take a very proactive stance ourselves in self-imposing limitations to our own exposure to social media, and there are some very good, and spiritual, reasons why. Here are three of them:
Theologians have debated for centuries all that it means to be created in the image of God, and surely it’s a multi-faceted answer. It means we have a unique capacity for relationships. It means we are meant to mirror God’s glory into creation. And it also means we have the unique ability to be creative. When we write music, paint pictures, create and tell stories – these are more than just exercises and hobbies for the Christian. These acts of creativity honor God in the fact that we are flexing our creative muscles that have been put there by Him. So what does that have to do with social media?
Simply this – that everything on social media is about quick hits. You get an image, a few words, a slight update, and then you’re swiping or scrolling to the next thing. There is no need or time for thinking, pondering and considering. And that has a dramatic effect on our overall ability to concentrate. Creativity takes concentration. It takes prolonged periods of silence and thoughtfulness. And if we put no limits on our social media intake, we are slowly but surely dulling our ability to engage in that kind of creativity.
It’s often been said that comparison is the thief of joy. That’s true. We can be completely content and joyful about our kids, our homes, our furniture, our vacation or our whatever – until we start looking through social media. Spend enough time there and you’ll inevitably find someone that has a better whatever than you do. Ironically, we all know that the vast majority of the seemingly perfect pictures are doctored or posed, but it doesn’t matter. We have what we have, but we don’t have what they have. And we want what they have.
Comparison runs counter to all kinds of gospel-laiden commands in the Bible. Commands to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, commands to be content whatever the circumstances, commands to live quietly and at peace with others. When we compare, all these things and more are shoved to the side. Another reason we should limit our social media intake is because social media is a primary avenue through which this spirit of comparison can enter in.
Typically when we think of stewardship we think about money. We should. We all have been entrusted with some amount financially, and that money is not really our own – it’s God’s, given to us in order to make much of the kingdom. But true stewardship extends well beyond finances. It’s a lifestyle that recognizes that same truth about everything in life, including our time. Just as our money is not really our own, neither is our time. And this is perhaps the simplest reason of all to limit our intake of social media.
It’s because it’s a rabbit hole with no end. Surely all of us can attest to the fact that time can get away from you as you are scrolling through. Furthermore, social media is an instant avenue for entertainment when we are forced to wait at the store, at a restaurant, in the car, or anywhere else. Any time there’s a spare moment there’s a spare moment for Instagram. We would do well to ask ourselves if falling down that rabbit hole time and time again is truly the best and most profitable use of the limited amount of time we have.
Social media, like so many other things, is not bad in and of itself. But unlike many other things, it can open the door more quickly to destructive habits and patterns of thinking that we should be on guard against. We, as Christians, can be satisfied in the gospel. We can be content in Jesus. We can put down the phones and guard our hearts for creativity, stewardship, and against comparison.