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  • Writer's pictureJim Hays

Dead-End Scrolls

I hope you had a chance to watch Wednesday’s devotional on our church Facebook page. If you haven’t, please watch it here. The man leading the thoughts is a wise elder in the Lord’s church.

As I sifted through my email this week, I ran into an article on Christian use of social media. It contained a challenge that I am considering because as I scroll through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, I find myself growing weary of the full-on assault by both the “right” and the “left.” Every social platform seems to be a war zone of often radical opinion. Many comments are intense, harsh, painful, and hateful.

There are some claiming that social media is the reason our world is in such a mess. I might not go that far, but it certainly contributes to the division we are witnessing in our country.

Our connectedness has also divided us. I follow a lot of preachers in our brotherhood on Twitter and I can’t believe how divisive some of the comments are. These are preachers who know what scripture says about those who create division in the body of Christ.

We spend endless hours scrolling through our phones watching other people live their lives. I do enjoy catching up with old friends. But I wonder if the time I spend on social media is beneficial or detrimental to my mental and emotional health?

Is the noise of the cyberworld making me anxious or depressed?

On social media, we are bombarded by opinion, advertising, and other people’s problems. What is the price paid for ingesting all that junk? Twitter has become almost an addiction, a drug we use to live vicariously through others or to find opinions that align with ours on everything from religion to politics. Again, at what price?

Do I use social media to compare myself to others?

This might be the most harmful part of social media. I find myself comparing my hairline and waistline with others my age, especially those I went to high school with. Wow, how come my house isn’t as nice as theirs? They have a boat! How can they afford to do all that traveling? She has ten grandkids and I only have two. How come his posts get more views and likes than mine? The list goes on.

Social media is the land of fairy tales and make-believe. Everyone gives the impression that they are, indeed, living the dream! But what we see online is rarely the complete truth. We need to remember that if we have Jesus, we have all we need. Comparing ourselves to something that probably isn’t even reality is a con game we are better off not playing.

The grass on the other side of the fence is usually not as green as we think.

Has social media become an idol?

Anything that comes between us and God is an idol. Anything that grabs our attention away from God is an idol. Many of us who claim there aren’t enough hours in the day for deep Bible study, prayer, and contemplation spend hours staring into our phones to see what other people are having for dinner.

Chores go undone, time is wasted, and what do we have to show for it? Overwhelming anxiety, anger, frustration, depression, and broken relationships. Idols rob us of truth and leave us empty and alone.

Could I walk away from social media for twenty-one days?

I think this is the test to see if social media is harming us and has, in fact, become an idol. Can I do without it for 21 days?

This what the author of the blog did. She deleted her social media apps and used her phone only for calls, texts, and necessities like Google Maps. She found that social media was poisoning her heart and mind. The words on Facebook had taken precedence over the Word of God. She reached for her phone before reaching for her Bible. She had exchanged the truth of God for a lie.

Scientific studies show that what we put into our minds matters—what we think about, the images we see—all of it affects how our brains process information. These words and images can make or break our mental health.

In 2020, COVID-19, racial injustice, and social unrest have pushed many people to their limits. Suicide rates are sky-high. Depression and loneliness are big problems. Now more than ever, we must be aware of the information we are consuming.

Christians have always known the importance of what we put into our minds. We really didn’t need scientific studies. Two thousand years ago, an astute Christian preacher and philosopher named Paul wrote these words:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Maybe we should give it a shot. Delete Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (plus many others I’m not aware of) for 21 days. Use the time you would’ve spent scrolling to read one chapter of John’s gospel. Amazingly, there are 21 chapters, so that works out well. Say a longer prayer. Contemplate the things of God.

We may find that we really don’t miss social media—that doing without it was a great choice! We can always go back, but maybe only after we’ve learned some things about ourselves.

Let’s ask ourselves the hard questions about the effects of social media—especially how it may be affecting our relationship with God.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6).

“Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man’” (Matthew 16:23).

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