By Sarah Garrett, Crosswalk.com
Social media is an inescapable part of our society. Many of the news headlines involve what someone wrote on Twitter. There are children as young as eight with Instagrams; and my 73-year-old aunt constantly shares cat photos and quotes about the “good ol’ days” on Facebook.
When something is as ubiquitous as social media is now, we may not even wonder how it affects us. After all, “everybody uses it,” so it can’t be that bad, right?
Over the past few years, research has been released that concludes there actually are negative side effects associated with social media. Many of the findings discuss how it impacts mental health; it is a joy thief that makes us sadder and more anxious.
Whether you believe in research or not, today, I want you to consider the following 10 questions to determine if social media is stealing your joy:
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Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and he was right. Let’s consider the following two questions.
1. Do you compare yourself pridefully to others?
When you scroll through your feeds, do you ever think, “I am such a better _____ than they are?” The blank could be filled with many things, including, mother, father, sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend, teacher, professional, cook, etc.
Even though people may post the good, bad, and dramatic aspects of their lives, it should not lead us to assume we are better than them. As Romans 12:3 states, “ For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
Sometimes, we get a false sense of joy when we are prideful. Our joy is coming at someone else’s expense, and that is not genuine.
2. Do you compare yourself negatively to others?
What about the opposite? Do you scroll through social media and think, “They are so much __________ than me.” The blank here is just as endless: someone could be prettier, smarter, more successful, better at sports, more talented, etc.
God uniquely fashioned each one of us. Negatively comparing yourself to another person truly is a thief of joy. If you find yourself doing this and being less joyful, then trade the time scrolling for using the gifts God has given you. Stop wishing you were more like someone else.
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3. Do you envy those with a significant other and wish it was you?
Seeing all those happy couples on your feed can incite an array of different emotions. It can also make you lose sight of the present and focus only on the future.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be in a romantic relationship or be married; however, we can also let it consume us. We can start to think there is something wrong with us. We can start to obsess over faults and lose focus of what God has called us to in the present.
4. Do you see people doing “awesome” ministry work and wish that could be you?
Guilty. Sometimes I look at the Christian speakers that are flying all over the country for conferences, have a significant social media following, or have written a best-selling book and think, “Why can’t that be me?” I become so envious at times and forget to focus on what the Lord had called me to do.
The Lord calls us all to different types of ministries with different numbers of people. I have to be reminded from time to time that we cannot all be Billy Graham.
But if we even bring one soul to salvation, isn’t that worth it? Remembering that point can help us maintain perspective and sustain our joy.
5. Do you see sponsored posts and wish you had enough followers to do it?
If you are unsure what a sponsored post is, it is where a person with a large following is paid to promote something on their social media account or blog.
Many bloggers or social media influencers feel like they have “arrived” when they can get a sponsored post. I have even heard stories of people faking sponsored posts to seem more important.
If this is something you struggle with, it will rob you of your joy because your focus becomes how many followers you have. Followers come and go; if your joy is staked on their response, you will be disappointed.
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God is very aware that humanity is an anxious bunch; that’s why there are many verses that discuss it and the importance of rest.
Also, it seems that Americans today are more anxious than at any point in our history. A recent Healthday article says that prescriptions for benzodiazepines such as Xanax, prescribed to treat anxiety and a variety of conditions, increased in recent years from 8.1 million to 13.5 million!
If we’re not careful, social media will add to our anxiety and steal even more of our joy.
6. Do you get anxious after posting something on social media?
Sometimes people feel anxious wondering how many likes they will get on a post. You may spend a fair amount of time crafting the perfect post or a witty response thinking it will garner many likes and comments, but it doesn’t.
Many people view likes and comments as validation or affirmation, and when it falls short, they feel as if they have somehow failed.
Again, you are basing your joy on other people in a cyber world—and that joy is fleeting.
7. Do you worry about things you can’t control?
Guilty again. I cannot scroll through my feeds without daily seeing the face of a missing teenager, yet another political outrage, or a young child struggling with some type of horrible illness.
The only thing I can do in most situations on social media is to pray. And I do. But even after, I still feel burdened by what other people are facing.
It is not bad to feel burdened, but social media can show us more than we are meant to process. During these times, it’s important to remember that without social media, we would only know about a fraction of the cases and could handle that much better.
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Ephesians 4:29 states, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
This is a good verse to keep in mind if you happen to enjoy trolling people on the internet. Which brings me to the next question:
8. Do you enjoy getting a rise out of people by trolling them online?
It’s important to remember that if your “joy” comes at someone else’s expense, then there is something amiss.
If you’re not aware of what “trolling” is (defined loosely as someone who upsets others on the internet), Lifewire explains it in this article.
We are to treat others the way we want to be treated. You’re not doing that when you troll someone.
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9. Do you spend more time on your phone than interacting with others face-to-face?
Recently, I was in a restaurant and witnessed an all too familiar sight: a family eating together, and all of them were on their phones. They were with each other, but not actually connecting.
Human connection is a powerful thing, and God meant us to live in community with one another.
If we’re not careful, social media, text messaging, and video-chatting will make us think we have truly connected. But nothing fulfills our need for connection more than face-to-face interaction.
Being able to have real, personal connections with people brings joy into our lives. It’s something that a screen can’t quite replicate.
10. How much time do you spend on social media a day?
The most recent survey I read said that social media starts to affect mental health after just one hour a day. Compare how much time you spend with this finding. Are you on par? A little over? Way over?
If we are honest with ourselves, we will likely see that this is true in our own lives.
If you really want to find out if social media may be a joy thief in your life, take a break for a week. Turn off the push notifications and take the apps off your phone. Connect with people face-to-face and spend some time outside enjoying God’s creation. Who knows, it may just rekindle or grow your joy and be the best week you have had in a while.
Sarah Garrett is a passionate educator and the founder of Transformed4More.com. She has a calling on her life to share God’s truth with teenagers to help them lived transformed lives for Jesus Christ. She is the author of So, You Think You’re Ready to Date? a 40-day devotional for teenage girls to learn how to set a Biblical foundation for romantic relationships.
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