“What are you doing, Mom?”
My son caught me in the act. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed. This wouldn’t have been a bad thing…if I hadn’t just promised him that we were going to spend some time together, undistracted.
I’ll be the first to admit it. I love social media. It’s fun. It helps me connect with people. Sometimes it helps me escape for a moment from the stresses of life and laugh a little bit.
But then it starts to get in the way. It pulls my attention away from my kids and my husband. I don’t listen to them and spend as much quality time with them when I’m distracted by my phone.
In other words, when I don’t have a handle on my social media use, it can hurt my relationships with the people I love most.
In the same way, social media can hurt my relationship with God. When I’m having a quiet time and all I can think about is how this shot with my Bible will look on Instagram, I think I might have a problem.
It’s well documented that excessive social media use is linked to mental health problems including depression and anxiety. What’s less documented—but very relevant if you’re a Chrisitan—is how social media may be affecting your spiritual health.
Have you ever considered how your social media use might be affecting your walk with God? If not, these warning signs could be a wakeup call.
3 Signs Social Media is Hurting Your Faith
1. You Always Check Your Social Media When You First Wake Up
It’s so easy to take a quick glance at your phone first thing in the morning.
I used to excuse this behavior because scrolling through my phone would help me “wake up.” And it’s true: the bright light and the easy stimuli activate the reward centers of the brain—not unlike sugar. Unfortunately, this can also affect your ability to focus on other things.
How might this affect your faith?
I don’t know about you, but once I get started with social media, it’s like Pandora’s box. You want to go back to it; you keep thinking about it. This makes focusing on God in prayer and Bible study more difficult in the morning.
What’s more, the time can easily slip away and you might not even make time for God at all.
There’s not a rule written anywhere that states you have to spend your time with God in the morning. But if you’re making time for social media first, and God gets a slot later in the day (or never)…What is that saying about your priorities?
Something to think about.
After struggling with this personally, I made some boundaries that have helped a lot. For a time, I didn’t keep my phone by my bedside so that it wouldn’t be a temptation.
I also have a rule: I am not allowed to check my email or social media until I spend time with God every morning.
2. You Have Better Friendships Online Than in Real Life
One of the things I love about social media is how you can connect with others in ways that aren’t possible in person. I love some of the Facebook groups I’m in for bloggers, adoptive families and Christian moms. I also love how I can keep in touch with friends and family around the world.
As wonderful as online communities are, I have to wonder if they give us an excuse to not make the effort to connect with people in real life.
Real relationships with the in-the-flesh body of Christ are key to a thriving spiritual life. (See Hebrews 10:24–25, among many other passages about the body of Christ.)
There are a lot of reasons why you might be lonely or your real-life friendships are lacking depth, and they’re not all related to social media. I felt very lonely as a stay-at-home mom for several years after moving to a new community, in part because real relationships take time to cultivate.
And that’s all the more reason to spend your limited time and energy on real people.
3. Your Self-Worth is in Likes and Comments
It feels good when people respond to your posts, doesn’t it? Social media likes and comments can make you feel like who you are and what you do matters. (In fact, your brain gets an addictive shot of dopamine when you get positive feedback on social media.)
Do you see the problem with this?
Placing your identity and your worth in anything but Christ’s love is rubbish. (See Philippians 3:7–10.)
Personally, I think this is one of the sneakiest and most effective ways that Satan is pulling this generation away from God. Who needs a Savior or wants to follow a Lord when there’s such an easy, addictive alternative?
How to Approach Social Media As a Christian
Social media in itself isn’t a bad thing, and can be used in many good ways to strengthen your faith, rather than weaken it. Consider some ways to find more balance:
- Take a break. Take a day, a week, a month or more and retrain your brain to go to something else besides your smartphone.
- Set boundaries. When are okay times to check your phone, and when are not? How long will you allow yourself to be on your phone each day? There are apps that can help you monitor your time.
- Turn off the social media notifications on your smartphone. You’ll be amazed at how much less distracted you’ll be.
- Prayerfully consider the purpose of your social media use. Are you using it for good—building positive relationships with others, meaningful conversations and sharing your faith? Or is it a sinkhole for your insecurities and a place for you to rant? Don’t be afraid to ask yourself some hard questions.
- Talk about it. Ask others (even online!) about how you can work together to have a healthier approach to social media as Christians.
Social media can be a wonderful resource, but once it starts pulling you away from God, it’s time to reconsider its role in your life.
Is social media hurting your faith? How could you change your approach to it?