I don’t think social media is evil. It has evil things on it, sure, and yes, it is a great distraction for our attention-less age. But it is not evil. Much good can and has taken place on it. I get almost all my news from Twitter. I haven’t watched the nightly news or even seriously browsed a news website in months. Facebook might be evil, but only because of cat videos and the latest gorilla story sweeping the nation. Some good things are on Facebook – enough to get you hooked. It’s the Turkish Delight of the platforms. The White Witch uses it to seduce you, promising more goodness if we just invite a few friends to a “Facebook Party.” And then there’s Instagram, which I like, Snapchat, which I’ve never used and don't plan to, Periscope, that allows you to watch other people do things live and unedited, with terrible quality. I’m sure there are others, but I ran out of time on Facebook to investigate those.
All that to say, social media isn’t evil, but it is a time waster – or can be. I Tweet, but not often. I post pictures on Instagram because my kids are adorable and hilarious and the world needs to know. I share life on there, which is nice, but not necessary. So I like social media, but I hate how it affects me. I despise the time I waste and the diversion it creates. I notice myself picking up my phone and opening one of the apps without even thinking about what I’m doing. I’m not sure how it happened, but at some point checking Instagram became as commonplace as breathing. Twitter became synonymous with relaxing.
I’m not setting up the argument to delete the apps from your phone, trading in your iPhone for a flip phone, or setting strict rules of phones in the basket by the door when you get home. That’s just a band aid on the real problem, anyway (though I would recommend considering Tony Reinke's recent article on a Digital Detox). I have a desire to know, to be informed, to be liked, to be updated. But none of that is either necessary or important. The problem I have is the dam social media is to the rivers of flowing water that I could have – the real knowledge, real information, real love, real updates. In short, my social media addiction severs my connection to ultimate reality even as it connects me to earthly reality.
I wonder what people did before Twitter? I’m not sure I’ve ever refreshed Twitter without new Tweets to read. It is constant. Wonderful in many ways, but entirely distracting. As much as my flesh cries out, “One more Trump bash!” I don’t need another. What I need is silence: to pause and to reflect.
Once upon a time I had thoughts, not thoughts that came to me from outside, but from inside. Thoughts that popped up out of nowhere and occupied my mind, changing me in slight ways as they revealed to me the inner parts of my heart. Those brief moments that spoke to me the direction of my life have been silenced by updates from the world. I see no need for prayer when I have enough people telling me what to think about any given situation.
My problem boiled down in one sentence is this: I can’t stop getting updates long enough to understand how God plays into all of life. My problem is a problem of prayer. I need a solution.
So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to move my apps. I know, I know, that’s just too radical! Like I said, I like social media. I just want my unconscious thoughts to go to prayer, not to Twitter. So I moved my apps and put in their spot a prayer app. Over the past few days I’ve noticed myself opening the app and seeing prompted prayers on the screen. I’ve prayed. And I’ve seen a change – a small one, indeed, but that’s how most change happens, anyway.
This might just be too radical for you, moving your apps and all. But if you’re tired of the world barging in all the time, it might be time to let another world barge in instead.