Let’s be honest, okay?
We all are secretly hooked on social media. Maybe when you read that last sentence you think, “How dare you!”
I know, me too!
We all minimize and moralize our way around the fact that most of us spend hours on social media every day. Obviously not all at the same time, but throughout the day we spend 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there; and truthfully, we aren’t doing it for negative reasons. We are really doing it because we need a mental break, or we’re staying in touch with distant friends, or we’re enjoying a funny video of people crashing and burning at life. Social media is definitely an entertaining way to get that mental break for the ups and downs of our daily lives.
How healthy is that, though, really?
Before we move on, let me make this super clear: I, in no way, have figured this out or claim to be an authority on this. I plan to just share some of my thoughts and musings about the topic and hobby of social media, and present some ways I’ve found success and health in this arena.
The longer I’ve been on social media the more I see the traps and potential downfall it presents. Do I believe social media is bad in-and-of-itself? Nope, not at all. But, do I see it as a potential minefield that we mindlessly stomp into? You betcha!
Here are three different traps I’ve identified with social media:
I recently saw a video interview with Aza Raskin, the guy who created the feature called Infinite Scroll for smartphones. He talked about the consistent stimulation that the human brain gets when the scrolling never stops. It’s extremely difficult for the human brain to disengage from consistent stimulation when the stimulation doesn’t end.
Just like when you have a soup bowl and you slowly feed in more soup, people eat way more food and that contributes to obesity. This (infinite scroll) is going to contribute hundreds of millions of hours of time to the obesity of minds.Aza Raskin, Interface Designer
Have you ever got into bed, grabbed your phone expecting to just check your notifications and catch up on the latest images posted by your friends, then realizing you’ve been on your phone for over an hour? You set out to spend 5-10 minutes on your phone but it turned into over an hour. How did this happen?
Your brain has a hard time shutting off the information and stimulation. You just keep scrolling and scrolling and scrolling (Dory’s song playing in your head).
We don’t intend to burn time with our social media use, but we find ourselves wasting hours of our days on social media. Is this healthy? I’m suggesting not.
I’m a movie guy. If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you already know this. But I haven’t shared what it is about movies that I really love. I love the ESCAPE! I love that for an hour and a half or two (unless you’re watching Lord of the Rings or Ben-Hur), I get to escape reality and get lost in the life and story of someone else. This is usually fun and easy to get swept up in another reality. This isn’t a bad thing. Everybody needs a break from their life every now and again.
We do the same thing with social media. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or even YouTube––we spend time getting lost in the lives or stories of other people.
So, is that the same as going to a movie? I don’t think so.
When we go to a movie, we know we’re going to the movie. We know it’s not real. We know that there are graphics, editing, and LOTS of makeup. It’s a picture, not real life.
But social media, it’s not fake. These are real people with real experiences. Are there fake filters, makeup, poses, and figments of a potential fantasy in social media? Yes, of course. But far too many of us see the posts of other people and fall prey to the comparison game.
We look at the picture of a friend with their spouse standing on top of a mountain drinking wine and think, “Man, why can’t that be me? What have I done wrong to not have those experiences in my life?” Have you done this? Honestly, I’ve done this a lot!
I see the cars, shoes, clothes, houses, and relationships of others and think I’ve somehow done something wrong to not have all of THOSE things. Do I regret what I have? No way! Am I blessed and happy in my life? Absolutely. BUT...I still compare myself to the images, lives, and possessions of others.
This isn’t healthy. God didn’t create us and bless us so that we could play the comparison game. We so often fall into the trap of comparison and we’re worse off for it.
The older we get, the more mature we get; and the healthier we get, the more emotionally available we should become to those around us. But the third trap that I’ve encountered with social media is becoming more and more unavailable.
Maybe this is because my son is 18 months old, but I’ve seen this up close and personal more recently than any other time in my life.
At times, I sit down on the couch and take a few minutes to veg out and just peruse Facebook or Instagram. But after a few minutes, I realize that my son is looking at me expectantly. I’ve missed something. He was trying to get my attention, to play with me or show me something, but I wasn’t available. Even to think about it makes me emotional. I’m more focused on my phone or “unplugging” from life that I end up missing key moments with my son.
Is this a problem if it happens once or twice? Nope, not at all. No one is perfect and we all need times to unwind. But, this has become a habit and I’ve been c-worded. You know the word: convicted. God is showing me where I am emotionally unavailable when it comes to my family.
The longer I spend on my phone, and the more I compare myself to others on social media, the more unavailable I become.
I’ve often thought, “What if God was as available as me? How would I feel?” This has been a consistently convicting (there’s that c-word again) thought. If God were only as available as I make myself to those around me, I’d be in a lot of trouble!
We don’t mean to become unavailable to those we love, but we fall into this trap. We fall into the “I deserve this time” perspective and end up hurting the relationships around us.
This trap is dangerous and has the potential to be significantly painful.
So is there any hope in avoiding these traps?
I think so!
Here are a couple approaches I've been learning and trying to implement in my life.
One of my friends and coworkers, Ashley Jameson, explained it perfectly in her blog, Scrolling By Example:
It can feel good to give your brain a rest and look at mindless things. Putting a limit on this will keep you from having to yank yourself out of the twilight zone or battle the shame that accompanies the realization that you’ve just wasted an hour on your phone. Scroll away, for 15 minutes and then stop. You’ll enjoy your time more because you know that it’s scheduled and there is a stopping point.
Time limits never hurt anyone, that I know of. Drawing clear boundaries is always a healthy take on life and our habits. We must be honest about our tendencies and set up structures that help us live healthier.
Time limits are a way to do that!
Set up certain times of your day that you can scroll away. Set a time limit. Enjoy a little break from your reality.
When it comes to creating more health in regards to my phone, one of the greatest places I’ve found success is simply putting it away. No, I don’t have a safe with a timer that only allows me to access my phone in the morning the next day. What I’m talking about is when I get home, put down my bag and take off my shoes, I put my phone on my nightstand and go out to the living room to hang out with my family.
When my phone is nowhere near me and I can’t hear it vibrate or ding with notifications, I’m so much more available and present with my family.
I don’t waste time on social media when my phone is not with me. This also applies to my tablet or laptop. If I don’t have tech with me and keep it in the room, I tend to be much more available and engaged with those around me.
Another option in this realm, especially when it comes to remaining sober in sexual integrity, is charging your phone in another room at night. Whether it’s in the kitchen or in the bathroom, charging your phone away from you can bring a great sense of peace, diminishing the temptation to go places you don’t need to go that late at night.
What about if my phone is my alarm clock? Good question.
You can get a really nice alarm clock on Amazon for $16 and a not so nice one for only $8. Buy one. It will help.
The longer I’ve experienced recovery and freedom from sexual addiction, the longer I’ve seen the significance of doing whatever it takes to remain free.
We won’t do anything more courageous in our lives than being honest with ourselves and deciding to do what it takes to live in health. This is the best thing we can do for ourselves and for those around us. When we are healthy, everyone around us benefits.
One of the decisions I’ve had to make is taking Twitter off my laptop, phone, and tablets. This is because I always ended up going places I never intended to go when I was on it. I have dealt with shame and feeling like I’m weak because I can’t be on a social media platform that so many others use. But, I’ve come to grips with the fact that if I want to be healthy I’ve got to do whatever it takes.
This is still a struggle for me. I often feel shame and guilt that I can’t be “like everyone else.” But ultimately, I’d rather be healthy than have a consistent presence on Twitter like everyone else.
Avoiding the traps of social media doesn’t happen organically. Falling into the traps does. In order to avoid the traps, we have to be intentional, courageous, and honest about what we want in life.
If we want to be part of the crowd, accepted, and not looked at as a potential “weirdo,” then let’s keep falling into the traps of social media.
But, if we want to be healthy, helpful, and available to others, let’s do whatever it takes to remain healthy. Let’s do whatever it takes to avoid the infinite scroll of wasting precious time. Let’s do whatever it takes to find our identity in Christ alone, and not in our comparison to others. Let’s do whatever it takes to be emotionally, physically, and all-around available to those around us.
Let’s no longer tiptoe through the minefield of social media, but run in the open field of health and sobriety. This is a great place to be!
Trevor is the Marketing & Communications Director at Pure Desire Ministries. He has been in ministry leadership for 8 years in the areas of Worship and Student Ministries. Trevor has a bachelor's degree in Psychology and is passionate about people understanding that sexual and emotional health is possible.