Social media is a fascinating phenomenon. Mostly, I look at it as a productivity tool. I occasionally glance at it to see if anything interesting/important is there, but I've got enough friends that it would be impossible to see every post.
So it lets me send messages and post the occasional funny thought I have.
But over the past couple years, I've actually made a conscious effort to reduce my time on social media platforms. Part of this is because I've found that if I spend a lot of time on Social Media, it takes away time I should be spending on healthier, more productive practices - reading actual books, praying, spending time with family, etc.
Some people may be able to create limits and stick with them, but I'm more of an all-or-nothing kind of person. So I'm sticking on the very, very shallow end of the pool these days.
The bottom line is that I'm not here to rail against social media and advocate that we all start writing letters again. My handwriting is WAY too awful for that.
I think we simply need to make sure we regularly evaluate whether we're utilizing it, or being transformed by it.
Beyond just simple time wasting, I'm concerned that too much engagement of social media has some negative effects on us. Recently, I got into a discussion on Twitter with some people who were straight blasting a person who had been in the news. Now, I happened to know someone close to this situation, and I found out quite a bit about the situation. Most people wouldn't have that advantage. Yet, on Twitter, people were playing judge, jury and executioner.
I (quite reasonably, I believe) suggested that without all the facts, perhaps we should not rush to judgment. I was met with a wave of scorn and distain. I was accused of supporting behaviors which I of course find reprehensible.
It caused me to ask: does Social Media cause us to over-value our own opinion? And in the end, does this encourage narcissistic tendencies?
When I'm reading a book written by another person,I go through the process of looking at the world through the eyes of another person. Reading encourages me to value his or her thoughts and opinions (even if I don't actually agree with them.) But when I'm surfing around on social media, now I have to decide whether to award the post of another person with a like, or a 'haha' emoticon.
The focus, rather than being on another, is on myself.
While social media networks propose to connect us to others, I'm worried they simply amplifies ourselves in our own eyes.
Another dynamic I see is that when a person posts an incendiary or inflammatory post, and our immediate reaction is not usually to respond with a balanced response, but rather to respond with equal fervor in the opposite direction in an effort to offset the initial statement.
We as a society will never find balance through offsetting extremes. We will only find balance by becoming more emotionally healthy human beings.
As a follower of Jesus, I believe we need God's empowerment for this to be possible.
The scriptures teach us it's not about us: Son of man came to serve, not be served.
Paul told us to think of others as better than ourselves.
He also told us that we're called to live in a community of mutual respect - one body.
But social media can teach the opposite lesson - everything revolves around me. In the end, social media is morally neutral - neither evil nor good. It's like money - it reveals what's within us - only with social media what's "inside" everyone is constantly coming at us. Besieging us.
Jesus, who lived far before social media, would intentionally spend time away from the crowds - and even his closest friends - that were constantly seeking his attention.
Let us once again look to Jesus as our model and give consideration to ways we can put healthy boundaries around our engagement with a bottomless pit craving our attention. For it is often only when things are quiet that we can hear what truth and life God is quietly speaking to us.