Social media hasn't got any better for 2020

Social media is now ever-present or omnipresent feature of modern life. Not all that long ago it was touted as a means to bring the world closer together and now it’s seen as a tool that is used to drive us ever further apart. In this short article, I’ll share some links to good articles that highlight the danger, present the options and give some wisdom as to how to handle the two-headed beast that is social media.

These were the 5 key trends from social media going into 2019 and I predict they’ll be much the same in the year ahead. These three stood out to me.

  1. YouTube is the biggest social media platform in the world
  2. Facebook is the most popular social media platform among senior adults
  3. Twitter’s influence on our overall culture is overstated

I’m a fan of twitter and I blog so I’m not totally opposed to social media although I do think the world would be a better place without Facebook. So what would happen if Facebook were turned off?

Well, you’d feel better for a start. In an experiment, people were forced to quit the site and this happened:

Those booted off enjoyed an additional hour of free time on average. They tended not to redistribute their liberated minutes to other websites and social networks, but chose instead to watch more television and spend time with friends and family. They consumed much less news, and were thus less aware of events but also less polarised in their views about them than those still on the network. Leaving Facebook boosted self-reported happiness and reduced feelings of depression and anxiety.

Facebook, as it turns out, is bad for your emotional and mental health and increasingly there is science to back that judgment up (or does it? Yes, mostly).

Why is too much Facebook bad for your emotional health? Previous research has shown that the social network creates a sort of false peer pressure. Since most people are cautious about posting negative or upsetting experiences on Facebook, the social network creates a misleading environment where everyone seems to be doing better and having more fun than you are. As the researchers put it, “Exposure to the carefully curated images from others’ lives leads to negative self-comparison.”

Not only that but a significant proportion of young people are addicted to a device that is essentially damaging to their wellbeing.

The study found 23% had behaviour that was consistent with an addiction – such as anxiety over not being able to use their phone, not being able to moderate the time spent and using mobiles so much that it was detrimental to other activities.

One professor asked his students to do without their phones and that freaked them out but his conclusions were:

But it is clear that these gadgets made them feel less alive, less connected to other people and to the world, and less productive. They also made many tasks more difficult and encouraged students to act in ways they considered unworthy of themselves. In other words, phones didn’t help them. They harmed them.

So you might be tempted to either do a digital detox or quit altogether or delete your twitter account.

But many may conclude that trying to go without is just too hard so what can we as Christians do to engage online in a healthy way and help our kids do likewise?

Firstly, parents try to avoid these four mistakes.

  1. Allowing kids to take phones into their rooms
  2. Not keeping up with technology
  3. Parents don’t model the way (ie. The reason many kids are addicted to technology is because their parents are)
  4. Forgetting that you are the Parent

And instead, try these five principles out:

  1. Remember, nothing is hidden from God.
  2. Do something positive with what you now see.
  3. Make efforts to change what you see.
  4. Remember, there are no secrets on the internet.
  5. Develop real community.

And adults let’s remember that love is not just a fuzzy feeling.

Social media is meant to be just that—social. It’s a place where we can relate to others in community and share “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable” (Phil. 4:8). And this isn’t so we can grow our platforms and gain more likes; our place on social media is ground to be given in service to the King.

Loving others on social media means we refrain from thinking of followers as “fans” and instead picture individual persons who need the grace of Christ. Even if we use social media to sell products or spread the word about a business, we can do it in a way that considers the person on the other side of the screen.

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