Red circle with a number inside it. Just visualize it in your mind. You feel better already, don’t you? You feel good. At least I do. And that reality is making me sick inside.
Social media is affecting us. There’s no way around it. And you know it’s true. Why else does your hand randomly grab your phone, raising it to eye level while your thumb magically opens your favorite app to see what’s going on? What is social media doing to us? Time will tell. But my hunch is that, in the end, it’s affecting us more than we want to admit…
What is Social Media Doing to Us?
Social media is affecting our affections. Lauren Sherman, a researcher at UCLA analyzed the effects social media is having on young people. What they found is that when “likes” and “comments” occurred on a picture on Instagram or another social media channel, a person’s nucleus accumbens showed greater activity. Now, what in the world is a nucleus accumbens? It’s an area of the brain that deals with reward circuitry.
David Greene, an NPR host defined it quite simply, “that’s the part of the brain that’s making you feel good about yourself.” And this is quite interesting because we would expect to see, then, social media having a positive effect on our lives. But quite the opposite seems to be true. A 2013 study researching subjective well-being and social media use, said, “The more participants used Facebook, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time.”
It appears that something terribly fleeting is shaping our affections. Those little red circles with numbers inside them are teaching our brains that in order to feel good about ourselves, we need to get more of those little numbers inside more of those little red circles.
We’re only beginning to understand the impact that social media is having on us. Social media addiction is a real thing and as time goes on and it becomes more of the norm for more people, it seems the impact will only rise.
The reality is, we are raising an entire generation who will not know life without social media. And they are the first real experiment. For them, social media will be the norm. They won’t be tempted to question it. Unless we begin to.
And the interesting thing is, many are already doing this. In fact, studies have been occurring for some time, analyzing whether or not social media is creating a new field of behavioral addictions. But I don’t think we really need a study to tell us that social media is addicting. All we have to do is pause for a moment and open the active apps on our phone – likely one of them is a social media app. All we have to do is look in the mirror and see the glare of our screen’s light shining up at us.
For many of us, we have become pawns on the chess board of life, going wherever our notifications tell us to. And the troubling thing is, we already know it. We just don’t know what to do about it.
Our Affections and Worship
For me, this is what it all boils down to. Am I playing with fire by continuing to be active on social media? Am I able to moderate this dragon that seeks my full attention, always? Are the neuro pathways it has laid in my brain unfixable? More than that, are the numbers inside the red circles becoming an idol – my idol?
This isn’t just a laugh-it-off concern. And it isn’t even an alarmist ploy to destroy social media.
What it is, though, is me calling the elephant in the room to the stand of my own heart. It is me doing this out in the open so as to encourage you, my friend, to do the same.
I cannot worship my Lord and King if I am worshipping my own satisfaction.
I cannot run to Jesus if I am running to the latest number-infused red circle.
Social media is affecting my affections. And this is worrisome because I don’t want to serve your “like” of my photo or your “comment” and “share” of this article. I don’t want to. I want to serve and worship the God who loves me while knowing all of me.
My true worship is to offer my body as a living sacrifice to God. To give up my very self to Him, for His glory. And in doing so, my call is not to be conformed to the patterns of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:1-2).
The question I’m asking myself is this: is my social media use getting in the way of that?
Because if it is, if it really is the dragon that I cannot tame (maybe you can), I must slay it.
This article began as an exploration of the question its title bears. It’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot, but sitting down, researching, and writing has helped me better understand what’s at stake.
Am I going to quit social media? I don’t know. I might need to.
Sola Deo Gloria.
What About You?
Have you been wrestling with your social media use? After seeing what it’s doing, are you going to make a change? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Join the conversation in the comments below.
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