By Jennifer Mann
Last week, we considered some of the ways that occultism is pervading popular culture. We also considered the strongly worded warnings from God in scripture, about engaging in anything occult. There are many people who will feel ‘safe’ in the belief that society has not affected them in any way, so let’s consider another pervasive element of popular culture that may be impacting your spiritual development, namely, Social media.
The original premise behind platforms such as Facebook, Snap Chat, Instagram, Twitter etc. was to help family, friends, colleagues, and like-minded individuals they might never have met in person, connect on a digital platform. It was and remains, a great tool to reach those who would otherwise be inaccessible in such an instant way.
Over the years however, a darker and more pernicious side has overtaken social media. For many, it has become a source of validation for self-worth. Happiness is hinged on the number of followers, likes, comments of praise and for many, becomes an all-consuming past time. Followers seek to emulate the unrealistic and picture perfect snapshots of media celebrities. Much of which is often fabricated or exaggerated to engage with their audience.
Essena O’Neill, a former internet celebrity that hails from Australia, announced that she was quitting social media because it had caused her to “constantly compare herself to others” and “measure her self-worth by the number of likes” her posts would get. Aged 15 at the time, Essena states that she had always wanted to be popular on social media and closely followed other social media celebrities. Essena would imitate these celebrities to build her own following amassing over 600,000 followers before deleting some 2,000 photographs and closing her account.
Multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk of depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. Jamie Zelazny, PhD, RN, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, noted that suicide is the second-leading cause of death among individuals aged 10 to 24 years. In addition, suicide rates have tripled among youth aged 10 to 14 years, as well as among girls, and suicide rates are significantly higher among African American children, younger than 13 years.
Social media has also provided an unregulated gateway for children and teens to view on-screen high-definition sex and violence, on tap, with the availability of smartphones and tablets. According to Growing Wireless, 56 percent of children aged 8 -12 years old, have a smartphone. As children get older, that number increases to over 90 percent! The consequences of social media addiction and the inevitable desensitisation that occurs through the systematic bombardment of warped ideals, has a deeply negative Impact on our spiritual development.
God created us as relational beings, made in his image and as such, an authentic relationship with God requires connection. In order to form a connection, we need to actively engage. In 2 Chronicles 22:19 we read:
Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God.2 Chronicles 22:19
If we are training ourselves so that our first and last action of every day is to check social media, it’s not possible that God is our priority. On average, according to Relevant Magazine, millennials check their phones 74 times a day. Each day, 52 million pictures are uploaded to Instagram by the app’s 500 million users. Much of this will be in a quest to make our lives seem as interesting and picture perfect as possible, when Jesus is calling us to find our self worth, in Him alone.
John 15:4 says ‘Remain in me, as I also remain in you.’ We can only remain in Jesus, if we are connected to Him and disconnect from a mentality that constantly seeks acceptance through the praise, attention and opinion of others.
Jesus doesn’t want the carefully constructed social media versions of who we are, in Jeremiah 29:13 we read:
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.Jeremiah 29:13
Social media is a powerful and influential construct, that if not carefully managed, desensitises us to being authentic, relational, vulnerable beings, invested in the welfare of others. Our identities need to be shaped by Christ alone, so we do not fall into the chasm of emptiness trying to find our identity in Facebook, Instagram, TikToc or any other platform.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.Romans 8:14
As you go through the week ahead, make a conscious effort to determine how much time you devote to social media and then take an honest view, on whether your relationship with God, has suffered as a result.
Father, help me to understand that my true worth comes from an authentic relationship with you. Please help me to put aside anything which hinders my spiritual development. Amen