I was having dinner with a group of friends recently. I adore this particular group of women—we have been friends for almost twenty years now. We started out in a young married Bible Study class together and have had the sweetest friendships ever since. We have loved one another through both good times and bad times. Over the course of the past twenty years, we have watched our children grow and have hosted more baby showers and birthdays than I can remember. We have celebrated life and death together, and because of that, we have a very special bond. We talk about anything and everything from husbands to kids to hormones.
These ladies challenge me to be who I am supposed to be and remind me of why it is so important to have authentic real life in person community.
One of my friends told us how she was monitoring the amount of time her children spent on various apps online by checking their phone batteries, and the percentage of time that they devote to each app. My friend realized it was both eye-opening and convicting to see how much time can be spent mindlessly wasted online. Our conversation then turned to something I haven’t been able to get out of my mind:
The unintended consequences of social media and its effects on young people, especially young women.
Let me just start out by saying I love social media, just as much as the next person. I love posting pictures of things that interest me, looking for inspiration and being able to keep in touch with my friends and family. When I don’t know what to cook for dinner, I love scrolling through Pinterest to see what recipes are trending. My Instagram feed shows up on my website. I also pin my blog posts to Pinterest. Social media can be a source of great inspiration, but if I am not careful, I can waste time scrolling through social media posts instead of tending to my more important activities.
My concern about social media are the extreme cases. When problems can manifest that range anywhere from the comparison of self to others to unrealistic perceptions of friends or body image, leading to depression or worse, narcissism and idolatry.
Social media provides the photoshopped highlight reel of life.
Real life is messy. Real life is not always Instagram or Pinterest-worthy.
Real life can be challenging, and I want you to know that you have inherent worth as daughters of the Most-High King! You are beautiful and wonderfully made by the lover of your soul. He loves you exactly the way He created you!
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. -Psalm 139:13-16 ESV
We are free to be ourselves, uniquely created to fulfill our distinctive calling in this world. Ladies, don’t get caught up in the online comparison game of yourself with others. Know that you are loved by the King of Kings and that he has a purpose and plan for your life, and His plan is perfect. The perils of social media are that it makes us think that we are to look like what the world thinks we should look like, instead of the way that God created us to be.
So what do we do about it? Do we all become Amish and abandon technology altogether? No! God has placed us in this world to be a light and we can use social media to advance the Kingdom of Christ. However, we are to be wise to the trappings of the world and the internet, and we are to protect ourselves.
When Jesus was preparing to send his disciples out on their mission to the world, in Matthew 10:16, He says, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” In this passage, Jesus is using a figure of speech to teach his disciples. Wolves are predatory animals that prey on sheep, so, therefore, we must remain innocent in an evil world that is set on our destruction.
We should be mindful of our time online and view everything through the lens of Philippians 4:8.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8 ESV
What can we do to guard ourselves against the perils of social media?
- Have friends in real life that you do life with. Online relationships can be great, but there is no substitute for real life community. Through my blog, I have become acquainted with many God-fearing, God-loving women that I would not have otherwise known without access to the incredible technology available at my fingertips. But there is no substitute for laughing with a friend over coffee, taking a walk with a loved one, or gathering together with other moms and kiddos for a fun day at the park.
- Be intentional with your time online. Be mindful of how much time you are mindlessly scrolling online. Don’t sacrifice time with those God has put right in front of you to be online. Put your device away and spend time in fellowship with your friends and loved ones, and encourage friends and family members to do the same.
- Take your thoughts captive when you are online. Scripture tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ” Don’t allow the lofty opinions of others or altered images and skewed realities to turn you away from what is true.
- Remember your identity is in Christ. You are a child of God, and because you are HIS PRECIOUS CHILD, you have inherent worth and purpose. Jesus Christ knows you and loves you and calls you by name.