Contributors: Pastor Larry Lin and Senior Content Manager April Brooks
Our modern culture loves productivity. The people who seem to be the most successful in life are those who are running from one meeting to the next and constantly checking their phones to send important emails in between those meetings. Every minute of their lives is maximized with the highest level of efficiency and productivity. The worst possible emotion to have, it seems, is boredom. Bored people are viewed as lazy and unproductive or are seen as if they do not meaningfully contribute to society. The world frowns upon rest and relaxation in our digital lives.
On one occasion, Jesus Christ enters the home of two women, Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). During that visit, Mary chose to spend her time with Jesus, but Martha “was distracted with much serving.” When Martha complained to Jesus that Mary wasn’t helping her (like siblings are apt to do), Jesus gently corrected Martha. He told her that instead of being “anxious and troubled about many things,” instead she should act more like Mary, spending time just sitting at his feet instead of being distracted by meaningless household chores.
In his book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis spoke about how the devil not only tempts us with bad things but also with neutral things, distracting us from doing good things. For example, we may fill up our time looking at our devices, and as a result, we never pray. Satan’s goal is to get us to reach the end of our lives and say, “I now see that I spent most of my life doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.”
While social media is not inherently bad, it has become one of the devil’s favorite tools to accomplish one of his favorite strategies. And please know–no one is exempt from the constant temptation to be on their devices. Sometimes we can let other things in our lives be an idol. We are all guilty of this, too. You are not alone and should not feel shame. By gaining awareness, we can learn to be smarter online users.
By distracting us with a never-ending flow of updates from our friends and updates from the news, we may find ourselves giving too much attention to everything on our screens and not enough attention to our life off the screens. We may find ourselves like Martha, anxious and troubled about many things instead of spending time with Jesus.
How Satan Uses “Muchness” and “Manyness”
In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster wrote, “In contemporary society, our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in ‘muchness’ and ‘manyness,’ he will rest satisfied.”
John Perrit, author of A Student’s Guide to Technology, writes, “Algorithms make idolatrous inroads into our hearts because we spend more time scrolling social media than we do savoring Scripture. It isn’t too outrageous to say that, in some sense, we worship social media algorithms.”
Your time is valuable. It may be your instinct to want to not be lazy and instead to give your attention to important things, and that is good. But ask yourselves–who or what is worthy of your attention? Is it these social media companies, who will do everything they can to keep our eyes on their site to make all the money they can off of us, or is it Jesus Christ, the true giver of life?
Of course, the answer to that question is that Christians who love Jesus Christ know that He should be the center of our lives. But we also know that we are easily distracted by the world and its persuasive technology.
This “attention economy” (where we are the product being sold) is not just so social media platforms know if they should show us ads about cats and dogs or sneakers and dress shoes. People who want to show us political messages through ads, or even scammers who want to sell us fake products by spreading misinformation about vaccines, for example, use these same advertising and targeting tools, which also depend on the data the company gathered about us. That’s the real danger.
The key to overcoming these distractions and dangers is to be an educated user and a wise steward of the powerful devices within our hands. You have a purpose that may be completely separate from the story you present online.
Wisdom in those digital spaces is crucial to your “fearfully and wonderfully made” story, and it also affects how you see your neighbor’s story. Don’t allow the frills and bells of social media or gaming platforms to distract you from reaching across divides to live peacefully with others.
The One America Movement’s Matthew 5:9 Fellowship has developed a curriculum for Christian Youth Groups to help young people more wisely navigate the dangers of social media. Click here to learn more and sign up for resources for your congregation.