In the late nineteenth century, newspaper companies pioneered a powerful marketing concept that still to this day dominates our media platforms. Instead of selling their papers (their products) for a reasonable price, they sold them for next to nothing. How did they make money? Ads.
This marketing strategy placed newspapers in the hands of everyone and captured the attention of every American family. Then, it was newspapers; now, operating under the same marketing tactic, it’s social media. These services are in the hands of everyone because they’re free of charge, and although they may not cost us money, they cost us something far more valuable – our attention, and in many ways, our joy. We don’t realize it, but we pay high premiums for social media.
Social media is a veneer.
A veneer is a beautiful overlay that covers something ugly. Life is ugly. Yet when we gaze into the lives of our peers through social media we are looking at a veneer. We’re looking at a highlight reel – a polished overlay that takes the place of our ugly, messy realities. No one wakes up in the morning, rolls over and snaps a selfie. In fact, sometimes my wife and I may sift through a dozen of the same picture before we decide which one is the best to post on social media.
We want everyone to see us at our best, so we make sure that our veneer looks as beautiful as it can. We then judge our veneer with other veneers, provoking the high-risk game of comparison that kills our joy and can even make us judge those whom we love most.
Social media is a comparison provocateur.
The comparison game is Satan’s way of making you ungrateful for the gracious and amazing blessings that God has given you. We tend to place ourselves right beneath those who are just one step “better” than us. This is a psychological phenomenon, that we want the next step up, constantly.
So when we compare our messy lives with someone else’s veneer, we downshift into a bitter spirit and become unhappy with what we have, failing to recognize the beauty in what God has given us while slipping into covetousness and jealousy. We want what others have. We want to be them.
But we must find our joy in the depth of Christ. We were made for Him. We were made for depth.
We were made for depth.
We were made to drink deeply the things of God. God has hidden eternity in our souls, and only something eternal can fill the void that is inside of us. We must stop eating candy (social media) and start feasting on the Bread of Life (Jesus).
Sugar can’t sustain us, yet this is what we digest when we wake up, roll over and start scrolling through our phones. We need solid food (God’s Word) to move us toward a healthy faith and connection with God and others.
Our deepest desires are calling out; they are dying to be fulfilled, and it’s in Christ they find fulfillment. The result is our joy and satisfaction in God. I’m not advocating against the presence of social media completely, but social media will never fill us the way Jesus does. Jesus brings us forgiveness, but also community. There is almost nothing more life-giving then a healthy community.
We were made for community.
God is by nature a community (the Trinity). Being made in his likeness, we are by nature community-driven. We waste away in isolation, and social media can play a part in this. At once we are seeing people that we know, and this makes us feel like we are connected to them somehow. But the extreme irony is that we don’t even see or speak to these people in real-life. Therefore, we’re substituting a fake community for a real one.
Yet this is the New Covenant purpose and expectation – an authentic community under the headship of Christ. Deep, personal relationships that flow in and out of each other under the same principles, values, and goals.
When we give our lives to Christ, we gain a community of Christ-followers that pour life into us, and this is satisfying to one of our deepest and greatest needs as humans.
With great power comes great responsibility.
To be sure, social media is a powerful platform that brings great advantages to our lives, and I have social media accounts. But with that power comes responsibility. I’ve seen it all too often:
a disconnected, distracted dad sitting on the bench at a park, scrolling through his phone while his child plays on the playground
groups of teenagers sitting at restaurant booths, all face-down on their phones, utterly ignoring each other in a public setting.
We are distracted at the expense of our relationships. We’re spending time with people we don’t even talk to while avoiding those who are most important in our lives.
As Christ followers we must clear the distractions and pursue the depth and riches of God’s Word. We must live as intended by God. We must be present with those around us. Above all, we must recognize the high premiums we pay for social media and adjust our budget accordingly.
God deserves it. Our families deserve it.
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