Article Apr 11, 2016

The scrolling syndrome: How to use social media well

In an article entitled, “Why Can’t We Read Anymore”, the author Hugh McGuire describes an addiction that many of us are familiar with—social media. McGuire says that, “New information creates a rush of dopamine to the brain, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good. The promise of new information compels your brain to seek out that dopamine rush.” Science testifies to an addictive tendency that many Western Christians struggle with, having hearts trained to be scrolling constantly through social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, looking for the next rush.

The question begs to be asked, “How can I appropriately steward my relationship with social media?” I do not advocate for a separatist approach—completely removing yourself from all social media permanently. Times of fasting and regular Sabbaths are healthy and necessary, but a complete abstention from social media removes the difficult work of thinking well about a multi-faceted topic. Chances are, many of you found this post through social media, and are going to share it on social media.

While there are multiple sins that are present into our dependence upon social media, such as people pleasing, pride and the desire to be known, the most fundamental issue to look at is idolatry. According to John Piper, “An idol is something we cannot imagine living without. It often points at deeper needs your trying to meet.”

Carefully search your heart to see if and how your relationship with social media has become an idol.

There is nothing inherently wrong with social media. In fact, it’s been used to raise global awareness for issues such as human trafficking and global hunger and can help spread the gospel. As is true with many things in life, the usage of social media isn’t black and white. Apart from abstaining from sin (blaspheming someone on social media, sharing inappropriate content, using foul language), there's much freedom in how and when to use social media.  

Below are some questions to help you think through your personal use of social media.

  • Has social media become an idol / addiction in my life? If so, what steps do I need to take to put it back in its proper place?
  • Is time on my phone / social media interrupting time spent with people?
  • What ways can I use social media to love God and love others?
  • Is social media creating discontentment, envy, jealousy or dissatisfaction in my heart?
  • Is there a better use of my time and resources?

Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to provide clarity on how to appropriately handle social media. Personally, I choose not to see the face of man (which includes checking my phone) until I've sought the face of God in the morning!

When this earth passes away, and you step into glory, will you wish you'd spend more time posting the perfect picture and crafting the perfect tweet? Or will you wish you’d spend more time studying God’s Word, praying, serving his church and being a light for the gospel. May we love God and love people well.