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These days it’s very rare for me to go more than one hour without touching some sort of media. If I am not checking my e-mail, I am posting something on Facebook. If I am not posting something on Facebook, then I decided to roll out a few new tweets. If I didn’t tweet, chances are I chose to Skype with a friend. If I didn’t Skype I likely chose to Snapchat a random “selfie”. The cycle is practically endless on how much our phones, computers, and technological advances have been both an asset and a nuisance to our lives. There comes a point in time where we really have to consider whether we’re addicted to technology or social media. A point when we have to take a stand for the sake of not making it an idol in our lives. Lately one of the few times I find myself far away from my phone is when I am at the beach. Even when I drive my car my phone is typically not very far. This doesn’t mean that I make it a habit to text and drive, but admittingly I have shot off a few replies at red lights and stop signs before. The reality is when the value of what social media does for us as a tool is outweighed by becoming a slave to status updates, we’ve got a problem in our hands. When you go to a restaurant with your family or friends, and each person is caught up in their phones instead of talking face to face, that’s no good. When how we believe that we are being perceived on social media in terms of happiness and success surpasses the importance of whether we truly feel satisfied, happy, or successful in reality – we’ve got a real issue to fix.
There is no doubt in my mind that social media can be used for good. It’s a valuable tool to spread important messages out to the world with many advantages. The key message near and dear to my heart is to spread the Word of God. I do see online evangelism through Twitter, Facebook, and other media such as blogs having the potential to be very powerful. People that wouldn’t have otherwise ever met you, seen you, or even heard of you are suddenly given the capacity to read your work or watch your videos. This is a beautiful thing as we can fulfill the Great Commission from our very own homes. It also facilitates an opportunity for discussions about Christian life issues that may have been too taboo or inconvenient to have taken place in other settings. We shouldn’t assume that this means we can shut down every opportunity God gives us in person because we pursue online evangelism. What it means is that we’ve got an alternative place to share the Gospel. Most of us use social media for the sharing of our important life events, vacations, and day to day activities with family or friends that we feel should know. Sometimes it can become such a treadmill that we haven’t even realized how conditioned we’ve become to over-sharing our lives or inundating our friends with relatively mundane updates. Updates that could have easily been kept to ourselves. It’s almost as if though an event enjoyed by ourselves, or with a couple of other people, wasn’t enough to sustain a satisfactory memory. We need pictures to validate that it occurred and then we appreciate the “likes” or the “re-tweets” we get to somehow verify the authenticity of how cool we are. It’s almost as if the little narcissist inside each and every one of us has shown his/her face and we’ve become addicted on some level to the reactions that we each get. I cannot say I am immune to checking for these things either. Did I get a new follower? Sweet! Wow, new record 40 re-tweets on that one. Cool! Oh, that girl that I am fond of commented something on my picture? Excellent! The examples are numerous, but the point is the same. We should stop spending such significant chunks of our time analyzing and replaying what already happened. We gauge the reactions of family, friends or acquaintances when we should continue to look ahead. We ought to move forward and recall that there’s more value in building a continuous flow of memories that don’t require the validation of others to be important. Why do we get so caught up in making sure our stories portray us the way we want them to? Why do we care so much?
I would venture to guess that some of my most important memories and milestones in life may not have been recorded, commemorated, or photographed for the internet. That takes away nothing from what they mean, because they’re still the most important as a byproduct of intrinsic value. I had a moment with God in stillness and He was delighted by the desires of my heart at that time for instance. You cannot really take a picture that would do it justice. There aren’t any words that could frame that in a way that would accentuate the truth of how valuable that interaction is. It isn’t an interaction that I would typically post on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or any other online media. Yet it’s still the kind of moment that as a Christian we seek to encounter as often as feasibly plausible. To the extent that God would allow, as we follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, we hope that this is one of many to come. Another example could be when God shows up to help you when nobody else could. When if it wasn’t for God’s grace you’d be done for, but He steps in and says “No, Victor isn’t done yet.” So you get up, dust yourself off, and you walk out of what should have been your demise. You may have flirted with death or disobeyed God, but He extended out His hand and mercifully rescued you from the pits of despair. God said the door is still open for you to turn back to Him and overcome the prodigal ways that you’ve given a foothold in life. These moments of splendor, majesty, grace, and delight are likely the most important turning points of any single person’s life. Occasionally they become part of a testimony. Such a testimony is then shared online or offline, and they are used to inspire, challenge, or intrigue others about the Christian walk. This doesn’t add or take away from how wonderful they were, are, and are to be. It adds the potential for someone else to share in the obstacle that nearly conquered you, but that God empowered you to conquer instead. It brings glory to God because He put it in your heart to share these intimate details of your life so that they might help others. You think to yourself, “If it helped one other person, it was all worth it. The shame, fear, and embarrassment is so far away that none of that could get in the way of the beauty and benefit that sharing this moment may lead someone else to derive.
I suppose what I am ultimately trying to say is we should watch what we share and ask ourselves more often what the purpose is. Does the shared image, quote, or comment build others up? Does it build God’s kingdom or bless someone with a wholesome piece of laughter? Did we share a story or anecdote of our own personal lives that could give someone the ammo they needed to turn their own life around through the inspiration you chimed in with? Alternatively, is it merely self-serving? Are we simply trying to look good and glorify ourselves rather than our God? Do we want the approval of man instead of the approval of God? Would we prefer to escape the difficult questions, conversations, and comments so that we would avoid the difficulty of fighting for those that may actually establish something important? If we’ve got a piece of advice for a great friend, do we tell them without sugarcoating it so that they know the truth? Do we prefer to conceal it so that they instead remain blissfully ignorant? Are we bold enough to risk ostracizing them as a friend for their own benefit? These are all important ideas for us to consider when we use social media and interact on the various platforms offered in the modern era.
I often catch myself posting things that in my heart I know may just serve to present myself in a way that I like. “Oh, look how good my hair and smile came out in this picture. *post*.” “Wow, if my friends read this comment they’re going to find me quite clever aren’t they? *post*.” “What an excellent dish, how can I eat this without showing someone how delicious this looks? *takes picture, posts picture*.” The truth is many of these instances can likely be completely rid of. They’re robbing me of time that could be better spent enjoying the moment at hand face to face with the company I have. They’re also causing a subtle but potent force inside of me to care more for what ultimately amounts to vanity rather than the glorification of God. I want to sincerely make myself secondary and God primary. If I am going to do that successfully I need to question these instances more and more. I need to catch myself in the momentum of the act and wonder whether there is any redeeming value of what I am about to share. God calls us to redeem the time we spend on earth. Part of that calling will be to eliminate any activities that melt our time away, and don’t have a great purpose. Don’t let your online image become an idol. I think I myself have flirted dangerously close with this over the years, and I need to draw nearer to what Jesus Christ would have me do instead. (V*1).
The other primary point I wanted to share about the over-saturation of social media is how counter-productive it can be when it’s abused. I wouldn’t be surprised if studies found that anxiety, stress, worry, and many other negative emotions were greatly reduced when one took time off from these addictive applications and websites. They lead many of us to unintentionally play the comparison game with our family, friends, and acquaintances as well. I am happy to say I don’t commonly get jealous or envious of anybody. In fact I cannot remember the last time in my life I did this. I am blessed beyond measure, focused on my life track, and thankful to God that He has blessed me with a purpose for living. I know people who may appear to have much more in many areas. The area could be intelligence, looks, money, fame, or any other number of valuable but often worldly pursuits. Instead of envying them, I am happy that they’ve succeeded. I root for my friends and hope that they are being good stewards of all the assets God has given them. I pray that God has mercy on the ones that I don’t think have taken heed of His word. I hope that they might turn around and consider how they could bring glory to God through following Jesus Christ and changing their lifestyles. Despite these thoughts, I don’t try to hound them with God’s word and hit them on the face with my Bible. There is a time and a place where I will take a stand and remind them of how important a decision it is to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I will tell them straight up how vital their salvation is, and I aim to make a compelling viewpoint of why Christianity makes sense. This doesn’t mean they will agree with me, and it doesn’t mean that if they disagree with me I will view them as any less of a friend. We can agree to disagree and still have mutual respect, understanding, and even love for each other. The difference is now they know where I stand very specifically, and if they ever consider a change of heart they know they can speak to me without fear of judgment. They know I would be more than happy to address any concerns they may have if they dug deeper into Christianity as well.
Essentially envy and jealously are extremely dangerous positions to take. Instead of enhancing your capacity to bring God glory and to succeed in light of what you believe is your calling, you choose to spend energy wallowing in emotions that cause bitterness, anger, and resentment. You wonder why God gave someone one talent and think that the grass is greener on their side of the fence. All the while, as I read in a recent quote, you could just have easily have been watering your side of the fence to make it just as green. We’ve been given different positions in life and the struggles that we face aren’t the same. The similarity is that we all have personal obstacles to overcome, and we choose the perspective that we take in solving those obstacles. We can focus on solutions and tell those obstacles how big our God is, or we can struggle with doubts, anxieties, and fears. The latter simply doubts that God has everything figured out and questions His sovereignty. When we have faith that God put us where we are, with what we have, and who we have around us for a reason – it’s only a matter of time before the issue is solved. (V*2).
Another point, and another benefit that coincides with taking breaks from social media applications and webpages, is that we find real rest. God commanded us to take a day off on the Sabbath day and to treat it as holy. (V*3). God Himself chose to take the seventh day off, in terms of the Creation account in Genesis, when in His omnipotence God doesn’t even need to rest. I believe He was making a statement to us, giving us a blueprint of how we should approach life. God did His work through the first six days, and the seventh day He chose to rest. (V*4). For what exact reason I couldn’t tell you, but we can clearly see that this should speak volumes to us who are made in His image. How much more do you and I who are human desperately need the rest? Instead many of us are over-caffeinated and take the gift of sleep for granted. We’ve allowed some of life’s distractions to get a much higher prioritization than they truly deserve. I am speaking to myself as I write this because I find myself increasingly more active on networks like Twitter and Facebook. I know that more frequent breaks from these and the other platforms that serve similar purposes are essential. They would allow my mind to rest more and prioritize the tasks that actually deserve the mental capacity that has been misappropriated. The brainpower that can be used to expand my book or spend time in the Word of God has been used reading countless news items, advertisements, or any other number of less than preferred choices. This is not to say that there isn’t a place for staying informed or taking a look at the product offerings of a certain company once in a while. What I am attempting to elaborate is that it should all be kept in its’ proper perspective. The world will not implode if you fail to keep in touch with the news one day. Twitter will be here tomorrow if you don’t re-tweet your favorite quotes. Facebook will not be going anywhere if you forget to inform everyone where you’ll be retreating for the weekend. All in all we should take more moderation into consideration and keep in mind that these are tools. Tools should never take control of us, we need to make sure we’re the ones in control. If in order to do that we need to take a step back and evaluate whether we’re addicted then it’s worthy of taking a break. I think a 24 hour break is a good start for someone like me who finds themselves constantly engaged. I could truly see myself benefiting greatly from a two or three day break as well or more when I seize the opportunities. The truth is I am as much speaking to myself in this article as you who chose to read this far. I hope we can all take the ideas of value into consideration so that we don’t allow social media networks and other addictive websites an inordinate amount of importance in our lives. Let’s not allow them to determine too much of what we find ourselves doing on our spare time, but instead exercise the fruit of the Spirit of self-control as we consider their place. Let’s read constructive books, take care of important housework, play some board or card games face to face with family and friends, or simply find alternative ways to give these gadgets a solid rest from time to time.
The last point I wanted to make here is the value of face to face communication being undermined by online communication. You don’t see someone’s eyes, hands, and body language when you’re chatting with them over a computer screen. When you talk to them on Skype you cannot touch their hand and gauge their reaction. We need to stop allowing these forms of electronic communication overcome the real connectivity we need with people in person. Nobody can go hug you from their computer screen. There’s an illusion that we’re allowed all these ways to connect with family, friends, and acquaintances through these platforms. The truth is that if we don’t spend quality time in person, people simply grow more distant and intertwined in their own race. Occasionally it serves all of us a great deal to find the time to reach out and interact with people in person. There’s no replacement for it, there likely never will be (one can only hope), and in the long run that’s where your real bonds and worthy engagements will happen. I may not remember the conversation I had 5 days ago on Facebook messenger, but you can be sure that I remember the conversation my cousin and I had while we spent time together by the shore of the beach a week ago. There’s a value there that cannot be taken away and cannot be replaced. Let’s recall that, when we have an opportunity to talk to someone that means a great deal to us, we should opt for in person discussions over a gadget, through a text, or on a Skype call.
It’s clear that everyone has their anti-social days at times. Nobody wants to be around people all the time without down time to introspect and enjoy solitude with God. (V*5). We all need a certain level of down time that will vary from person to person based on personality and individual interests. Overall though, we shouldn’t let texting replace important calls. We shouldn’t let what should be said and done face to face in a real setting become something that is more common place on the internet. Dig deep and ask yourself whether you think social media has improved your relationships with family and friends. Has it interfered with the times where you used to go out and meet up with someone in order to catch up? Alternatively do you think that the online chatting, picture sharing, and talking is a worthy replacement? To me it seems like a temporary solution for a deeper desire to communicate on a more tangible level. Don’t let the internet become your only social sphere, grab opportunities and seize them to build upon those relationships with the same people in person. It will only serve to enhance your life and provide more fulfilling and satisfying interactions that couldn’t have otherwise been experienced behind a computer, laptop, or cell-phone screen. There are several references in the Bible that regard the Lord speaking to Moses face to face. In the book of Numbers (Numbers 12:8) it is expressed as being “face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings;” in Exodus it says the Lord spoke to Moses face to face “as a man speaks to a friend”. Even before technological advances in our era were even fathomed by man, the value of face to face communication was highlighted in scripture. You can read the small excerpt from Exodus in its’ entirety among the other points of reference. (V*6).
V*1- 15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:15-17 (NKJV).
V*2- 20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief;[a] for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20 (NKJV).
V*3- 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. Exodus 20:8-11 (NKJV).
V*4- 2 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. Genesis 2:1-3 (NKJV).
V*5- 10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10 (NKJV).
V*6- 11 So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle. Exodus 33:11 (NKJV).