Written By Michelle Lai, Singapore
If God were on social media, would He like your post?
I used to take to Instagram daily. I would post a picture with a caption telling my followers what I felt at the moment. I would post sad reflections, happy anecdotes, and even angry rants. It was my way of expressing myself and dealing with boredom and loneliness. I could “talk” to my followers without actually engaging in a conversation or meeting up with anyone.
However, I learned the hard way that even though we have the right to express ourselves freely, we should also be responsible for the thoughts that we express and upload on a public platform.
I’ve since learned how to navigate social media in a healthy way, and here are three questions I often ask myself:
1. Will my post benefit my friends?
I like to listen to sad ballads, and would often post sad lyrics that may or may not mean anything personal. Because of the emotional nature of my posts, my friends often asked me if I was okay. But I didn’t want to explain things; I just wanted the responses. Ideally, friends asked if I was okay, but often I received uninvited comments on my life and activities instead. Also, close friends were sometimes the last to find out when something happened in my life, since distant acquaintances saw it first on Instagram.
All this led to me feeling very vulnerable and exposed to the world. It is a funny dilemma, feeling relieved yet empty if people do not respond to my posts, but feeling overwhelmed if they do.
I was not glorifying God with the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart (Psalm 19:14). Not only did my social media habits cause problems between me and my friends, they also caused me to become consumed by things such as seeking approval, explaining myself, and chasing after the instant gratification of expressing my highs and lows without much thought.
Whereas I once treated social media like a scrapbook or diary, I now treat it as a tool to connect with my closest friends. For example, I would post Christian poems to encourage my friends, or share recent milestones to celebrate with friends and offer encouragement. I also try to minimize posting about my daily life, and only post pictures with my loved ones. I remind myself not to linger on social media after I post, so that I would not feed on “likes” by my friends. When I see something interesting my friends shared on social media, such as photos from their recent travels, I try to meet up with them in person and ask them more about what they posted.
2. Have I taken time to process what I want to post?
Nowadays, I do not write a post whenever I feel like it. Instead, I give myself some time to think over whether the post is necessary, whether it is kind, and whether it draws attention to myself in a self-indulgent way.
I am learning that talking to someone about my feelings—instead of ranting on social media—gives me the privacy to keep the issue personal and professional in certain situations. When I share my struggles with friends or mentors, I can often gain other perspectives. This allows me time to process my thoughts. I realize that, often, when I give myself time to sit on a feeling or nagging thought, it passes and no longer becomes a nagging issue. Like “emotional eating,” many times I need to be careful of “emotional posting.”
3. Am I glorifying God or causing others to stumble?
I once worked with a group of classmates on a school project together. When I had a disagreement with one of them, I posted a picture of a steam engine with an angry caption in our group chat. It affected the morale of the entire group.
While social media is for sharing more than just happy things, as a follower of Christ I should not post anything that might cause others to stumble. I should definitely not take to social media and rant without considering how my words will affect others.
The psalmists in the Bible were not afraid to write sad and angry psalms, but ultimately, they always brought the focus back to God. While I do not think we should refrain from posting about issues like depression, or even sharing that we are tired or sad on a particular day, I am learning from the psalmists that my posts should always point others back to God. For example, when I write poems about depression, I bring God into the picture. I also include a link to an emotional support hotline for anyone who might want to seek professional help. I make sure I end my poems in hope.
While it hasn’t been easy to readjust my social media habits, I’m learning that we are called to love people around us, and guarding what comes out of our mouths (or fingers) is a good place to start.
“Am saying bye bye to Facebook! It’s taking too much of my time. I’m on Insta (which I check sporadically) or Messenger, text or WhatsApp! Adios!” That was my last Facebook post, written two months ago.
As soon as the post went live, I deleted my Facebook app and shuffled my Instagram app to sit on the lowest row of my phone.
I was suffering from social media fatigue and needed to escape before it ruined me. I was tired of seeing my news feed dominated by the constant food pictures and posts on wedding engagements, baby announcements, and work promotions.
Don’t get me wrong—weddings, new additions to the family, and doing well in one’s career are all very commendable. But it was starting to get a little overwhelming.
Of course, there were accounts worth following, such as my favorite news channels, journalists and photojournalists that I admire—and who can say no to cute puppy videos? But I was miles away from getting married, with a career that has yet to take flight. I felt like my life was less than perfect.
On top of it all, I realized I was wasting a lot time mindlessly scrolling my phone. The realization hit me one Saturday morning, when I woke up at 8:00 a.m., but ended up spending a good 40 minutes thumbing my phone. By the end of it, a dull headache had formed at the base of my skull and I was quite groggy.
I decided the best way to reclaim the hours lost was to say goodbye to social media. And I soon discovered that this was probably one of the best decisions I have made to date. Here are three things that happened since I’ve quit social media:
1. I Rediscovered God’s Love For Me
With social media out of my life, I could refocus on the things that were truly important—one of which was to return to my neglected Bible. Re-reading the Bible was like being embraced by an old friend, comforting and secure. I was almost ashamed for having neglected my Bible in favor of spending time scrolling through social media. I started by reading portions of the Bible, using a devotional as a guide. Reading the Bible soon led me to rediscover God’s incredible love for me.
When I was on social media, I was desperate for the love and approval of others. My emotions were tied to the number of likes my post receives. If the post did better than expected, I felt like Miss Popular. If it didn’t, I was Miss No Friends.
I mulled over what to post on social media. I once posted a photo of me post-ocean swim, in a sleeveless dress with a physio tape visible across my shoulder and down my arm due to an injury. I was proud of that photo—it made me look like I was a keen sportsperson, with an injury to boast about!
Once the post went up, I checked my phone every nano-second for notifications. Who has liked my post? Any new likes apart from the usual crowd? Imagine my deflated mood when, eight hours after the post went up, I had only six likes.
However, re-learning God’s deep and unconditional love for me broke my need for approval from others. Scriptures such as John 3:16, 1 John 4:16, and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 showed me that God’s love for me isn’t based on my posts or the number of likes I received.
You see, God isn’t into our status updates, cool photos or the hipster café where we had our lunch. God’s love goes beyond the superficial details of our lives.
He sees us in all of our strengths and weaknesses, and says “I love you. I approve of you. I am proud of you.” Knowing God’s love freed me from the tyranny of constantly wanting to earn the likes and loves of fellow men. With God, I can be #authentic.
2. I Reconnected with My Friends
My weekends have never been more social since quitting social media.
In the past, I used to go on liking sprees. The fact that I had barely spoken a word to these people in the last 10 years was immaterial. Hey, I liked their posts, right? So I was still floating around in the periphery of their lives.
That all changed when I stopped checking my account. I was forced to text friends that I really wanted to catch up with.
One of the first people I caught up with was a friend from journalism school. It had been nine years since we graduated from journalism school, and a good three years since we last met up. Mindless peppering of likes or loves on Facebook cannot compare with the joy of being able to talk to someone in person over a cup of coffee.
I have since also been able to set aside time to write emails to my overseas friends. A long, carefully thought-out email is a hundred times more meaningful than merely reacting to their posts.
I thought my life would fall apart the moment I gave up social media, but I have found the reverse to be true. For me, I felt a lot more isolated seeing pictures of people having a good time (especially when I wasn’t invited).
And who would have thought that the old-fashioned way of ringing someone up (or in my instance, texting/messaging someone) to meet up was actually a lot more fun and fulfilling? My post-social media life has been filled with dinner and movie dates with friends, and I walk away feeling I have developed deeper and more meaningful relationships.
3. I Regathered My Focus
Social media played into my vulnerabilities, and it would very often leave me feeling like an underachiever.
A former workmate’s success as a news anchor had me desperately wishing I was her, and thinking, maybe if I had the right looks or skin color, I could succeed.
But it was not limited to coveting someone else’s career. It could be someone else’s sporting success—how is it possible for them to complete a triathlon or achieve an enviable swim time so far superior to mine? And I have been working at this for almost two years! This was completely unfair.
Moving away from social media has allowed me to cancel out all this noise, and to regather my focus. For too long, I had been focusing on my negatives—why am I not fast enough in the pools? Why hasn’t my career taken off like so-and-so?
With no external noise, I am now competing against myself. Sure, I will not be swimming a straight three kilometers open water session anytime soon. But I am making progress when I compare my progress to say, how well I did the last week, month, or year. And that should have been my focus, not trying to replicate other’s achievements.
As for comparing my career to that of my peers, it’s almost laughable. Most of my friends and acquaintances are in different fields, so I could not say for certain that other people were doing better than me. While this seems clear now, it wasn’t as obvious when I was a part of social media. I guess, in a way, I wanted to fit in on social media, and felt like an underachiever when I didn’t have anything to shout about.
It has now been two months since I stopped using Facebook, and I have only been on Instagram sporadically. But I have no plans of returning to either platforms on a full-time basis. I suppose I may miss out on breaking news or cool book launches, but I figure there’s always the radio and email subscription lists to keep me in the loop.
With the extra time I now have (to be honest, that’s really only the half hour before bedtime), I intend on making my way through the stack of books that is collecting dust on my To-Be-Read pile, continuing my long emails to friends overseas, or watching documentaries on Netflix.
My decision to quit social media has been a personal one. It may not be realistic or desirable for everyone. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed by what you see on social media, I would encourage you to give it a try. This doesn’t mean that you have to burn your phone or delete all your social media accounts. But capping time spent on social media to 10-15 minutes a day, or going social media-free on weekends, might work just as well. I know my decision has given me a sense of freedom and relief I have not experienced before.
Image by Georgy Roy
Social media can be a great tool for building and sustaining relationships. It’s pretty incredible that we’re able to connect with friends and family who live all over the world right from our phones!
However, when on social media, we all know that it is impossible to escape being bombarded by other people’s beliefs. Recently, I have been saddened by some of the worldviews I have seen championed, liked, and shared, especially when done so by professing Christians—phrases such as, “I am the best me”; “Live your truth”; “Don’t change for anyone”; “All paths lead to God” and “It’s just the way I am. . .”. These problematic statements fill me with both sadness and anger, for they are contrary to the life Scripture calls believers to live.
If we do not actively watch out for what we absorb, it is easy for non-biblical worldviews to permeate our mindset without us realizing it. Catchphrases like “I am the best me” or “Live your truth” sound empowering and loving, but we have to realize that if we claim to belong to Christ, we must look at everything in our lives—including how we allow culture to influence us—and weigh it according to Scripture.
Here are three specific phrases I’ve heard over and over again which I’d like to challenge us to rethink.
1. “Follow your heart”
When Scripture talks about our “hearts,” it usually refers to the seat of our emotional life—everything we do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23). We are told that our human nature is sinful from conception (Psalm 51:5). That is why our hearts lead us into wicked and ungodly places—by our very nature we are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3) who desperately need saving.
We naturally want to satisfy our flesh’s cravings, but none of our cravings lead to lasting joy or peace. They lead to emptiness. They lead to yearning for more, and this is not how we were created to live. True contentment is only found in surrendering to Jesus Christ, and following His heart and His ways.
The phrase “follow your heart” sounds good on the surface, but Scripture reminds us to be aware of our hearts and actively guard them (Proverbs 4:23). Ultimately, Jesus Christ and the rich truths of Scripture are our only hope, our only lasting peace, our only true comfort, and our very firm foundation.
2. “Be true to yourself” / “Don’t ever change”
Popular authors, motivational speakers, and Hollywood tell us not to let anyone else define us. I continually come across this mentality, especially in conversations about love and marriage. Our culture tells us that we need to be true to ourselves in marriage, that we should never change or allow our spouse to change us. But are our marriages really about us? In fact, as followers of Christ, are our lives really about us?
The Bible says that when we were saved, we crucified our old selves and live for Christ alone (Galatians 2:20). In other words, we do not live to be true to ourselves, but to be true to Christ and faithful to His Word. For this to happen, we must be changing daily. We must be dying to our ungodly desires (Colossians 3:5) and striving after Christ with all that we are; no longer as slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18).
For example, if I continually chose to stick to my guns in my marriage—instead of listening to feedback from my husband about my selfish, ungodly, or prideful tendencies—my marriage would be absolutely miserable. Imagine two selfish people looking out for themselves, refusing to grow or mature! But when, as a couple, we commit to helping each other grow in Christlikeness, our marriage becomes characterized by mutual service and accountability.
It is very important for us to change and grow daily, not just for our spouse, but ultimately for our Savior—our love for our Savior shows itself in the way we sacrificially grow, change and give of ourselves for the glory of His name.
3. “Live your truth”
If we live according to this philosophy, any time we don’t like something we can reject it or change it. We become closed off to correction and only listen to the views of those whose beliefs affirm ours.
But if we claim Christ, we know truth—the one and only truth. Saying so is claiming the words of Scripture as truth (John 17:17, Psalm 119:160, John 14:6). This means we can’t pick and choose which parts we like. Scripture must either be everything to us or it must be nothing to us.
Living according to God’s truth instead of “our truth” also means we can use Scripture as an anchor to guide our lives and the decisions we make—instead of being tossed and blown by every wind of teaching or cultural trend.
Thankfully, followers of Jesus Christ don’t bow to the ever-changing cultural views of right and wrong. We bow before our Unchanging, Good, Ever Faithful Lord in Heaven.
Only through living out the Gospel can we become transformed into a new creation—having hearts that yearn for Christ and what truly is good—not buying so whimsically into societal norms.
If we find ourselves thinking the way our world tell us to, instead of the way the Bible teaches us to, then brother and sister, we must come before God and ask Him to clear the fog from our minds. We must go to Scripture to deepen our beliefs concerning foundational realities such as our identity, suffering, and above all, who God is.
The riches we experience when we live according to the Bible are so much greater than anything else the world has to offer, whether money, status, friendships, fame, or approval. So I encourage you to run towards God’s Word of Life. Run in such a way as to win a prize—throwing aside anything that hinders and weighing everything according to that which we have staked our entire life upon.
YMI (which stands for Why Am I?), is a platform for Christian young people all over the world to ask questions about life and discover their true purpose. We are a community with different talents but the same desire to make sense of God’s life-changing word in our everyday lives.
YMI is a part of Our Daily Bread Ministries.
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