Motherhood & Family

Social Media: Who Is in Control & To What End?


This post is part 3 of a 3 part mini-series on being intentional about social media. Part one is here: Reclaiming My Brain & The Pull of Social Media and part two is here: Reclaiming My Brain & The Cost of Social Media

I went on a walk with one of my girls the other day and we took her little brother along in a mini-car. It was his first time riding in it and he sat happily in his fuzzy bear sweater looking back every few minutes to see who was behind him. The car had a steering wheel, horn, and a long handle on the back for helpful big sisters to push. The design of these pushable cars is pretty ingenious– kids love them because they’re “driving,” parents love them because it’s a stroller their children don’t mind staying in.

In my last two posts, we’ve thought through the pull and cost of social media. Now, we turn to the third and last question of control. The question we’re considering is this: Who is in control of our social media use and to what end? Or, you could say, who’s in the driver’s seat, where are we going, and “wait— am I sitting in a Little Tikes push car?”

Why So Serious?

In this series, we’ve thought together about social media’s powerful pull and how using it costs us in terms of time, attention, and energy. But since the majority of us just use social media to connect with friends and unwind, it may feel off-putting to couch social media in such ultimate terms. Why so serious? Why do we need to talk about ends here?

It’s important to note it isn’t only Christians who are seeing our society’s social media use as problematic. But as Christians, we have an additional motivation to be serious in how we talk about social media because we believe all parts of our lives are meaningful because they are lived before God. He is our loving Creator who created our bodies and mind, and grants us our gifts and time. He is our Redeemer and King who we delight to thank and honor with all of us. As Abraham Kuyper has famously written, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’”

As we live our lives Coram Deo (“before the face of God”), we are also called to love our neighbors. The people in our social network are not mere numbers in our friend count, they are eternal souls. CS Lewis reminds us in The Weight of Glory, 

You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.*

We need to consider big questions about social media because there are no mere mortals in our social networks. Our time, attention, and energy are given by God for us to steward toward loving eternal souls whether they are physically or virtually sitting across from us.

3 Choices

Regarding social media, there are three main choices I can think of for how we answer: Who is in control and to what end? 

Choice #1: Social Media companies for the sake of monetizing my attention.

In a Ted Talk called “How a handful of tech companies control billions of minds every day,” former Google employee Ted Harris spoke about what drives social media companies. He said,

What we don’t talk about is how the handful of people working at a handful of technology companies through their choices will steer what a billion people are thinking today. Because when you pull out your phone and they design how this works or what’s on the feed, it’s scheduling little blocks of time in our minds. If you see a notification, it schedules you to have thoughts that maybe you didn’t intend to have. If you swipe over that notification, it schedules you into spending a little bit of time getting sucked into something that maybe you didn’t intend to get sucked into…There’s a hidden goal driving the direction of all of the technology we make, and that goal is the race for our attention.

Social media is designed by brilliant people to keep me, an ordinary person, on it as much as possible. Casinos don’t have clocks, provide free rooms to their biggest spenders, make wins as public as possible, and use chips instead of cash. They do this and more for the (evil and exploitative) purpose of keeping people gambling. Likewise, red notification alerts, autoplay functions on video sites, metrics displayed, heart/thumbs up/like buttons, and the e-mails Facebook sends when I haven’t logged in for a while, are all engineered with addiction in mind.  

This isn’t to say social media companies are doing evil, though Harris and others are calling for new systems of accountability. But just as it’s helpful to know when the person recommending a product to you is receiving commission, it’s important to know what social media companies are getting from us and how they “convince” us to give it. Our attention is monetized through advertising, and we need to be mindful that though we are responsible for our own choices, we are also easily persuadable.

Again, Harris says,

Once you start understanding that your mind can be scheduled into having little thoughts or little blocks of time that you didn’t choose, wouldn’t we want to use that understanding and protect against the way that that happens?…[We need] a kind of self-aware Enlightenment, that we can be persuaded, and there might be something we want to protect.

If we are not aware of our use of social media, we become passive riders on our feeds, driven by social media companies toward greater and longer use. We begin to believe we have no choice but to be angered by what other people post, scroll through endless trivial content, and waste time. Being aware of all the minds working to keep us on our apps can help us to guard our time and attention so we are not mastered by social media. Knowing a bit of their strategy helps us walk into Twitter knowing what we’re looking for so we don’t end up buying all these other things we didn’t go in for in the first place (Costco, anyone?).

Choice #2: Self for the sake of self.

Using the internet for leisure or to stay connected with others is not wrong. But when I see myself as the ultimate benefactor and allow self-seeking desires to drive my social media use, I harm myself and others. Social media doesn’t create sinful desires out of thin air, but often and easily is used to feed our idols of self— whether self-exaltation (I’m so great), self-justification (I’m so right), or self-righteousness (I’m so good).

A constant temptation for me on social media is the impulse to feed my ego. It is the perfect place to look for Insta-affirmation and quick approval. To boast and to post out of a desire to receive from other people rather than choose to bless them. And, ultimately, to choose to value approval from people rather than from God.

Another temptation on social media is to write and comment in ways we wouldn’t speak in person, publishing angry status updates or sharing posts in the heat of the moment. The focus on our own desire for self-expression and authenticity, or “getting things off our chest,”  and fail to remember the precious souls behind the profile photos or the influence we are having on them through our words. Tony Reinke writes,  “Sticks and stones may break bones, but my texts and tweets are pushing eternal souls in one of two directions.”  Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21) and relatives, friends, church members, acquaintances— all precious image bearers with eternal souls— are reading your comments and posts.

Social media can also be the bench where we sit and look at others in judgment. Whether for not being as informed as us,  having our political convictions or matching our moral uprightness, it is easy to scroll through with hearts of criticism and pride. Our accounts become the platforms where we publish our good deeds for the world to praise and, upon seeing our notifications light up with thumbs and hearts, we receive our reward in full (Matt. 6:1-2).

Choice #3: Self for the sake of others.**

The “self” here is different than the “self”  in Choice # 2. Here, we are talking about the exercise of self-control, the fruit of the Spirit stemming from a renewed heart. This self-control is not an expression of prideful judgment of others’ smartphone addictions or anxious preoccupation with maximizing personal productivity. It is self-control, mastery in submission to God, for the sake of loving others.

Self-control for the sake of loving others means I am not ruled by social media and I am not neglecting the good I ought to be doing for those around me to use it. It means putting down my phone when my family is around so I can engage them in conversation. It means signing off a bit earlier so I can get better sleep and be less grouchy in the morning toward my husband and children. It may mean setting stricter limits on how much I use social media or deleting an account altogether when I realize the costs are far outweighing the benefits. It means being aware of how my heart is being influenced by what I read– am I becoming bitter, critical, prideful, or cynical? — or am I growing in compassion, kindness, Christlikeness, and holiness?

Self-control for the sake of loving others means I consider how I’m influencing others through my sharing, posting, reacting, and commenting. It means I’m thinking about my tone when I write and motives when I share. It means I desire to bless, not receive, and honor others rather than be honored. It means I pause before responding to someone I disagree with and choose to think about others with charity,  giving the benefit of the doubt when I can.

Personally, self-control for love means I strive to write with integrity— not projecting a false image of myself, but also with consideration— not sharing information about my husband and children they may not want the whole world to know. And it means I am on the lookout to share things I find helpful in hopes of helping others.

What It Looks Like For Me

Recognizing how hard social media companies are working to keep me swiping reminds me I can’t be lackadaisical about my social media use. And considering the end I want to use social media toward determines how I use it while the cost and benefits help me decide how much.

I hesitate to use myself as an example because self-control and love for people will not look exactly the same for you as it does for me. But I’ve taken my cues here from others and maybe these tips will be helpful for you. Some practical steps I’ve taken to rein in my social media use are,

1. Rearranging my smartphone apps so I won’t be easily distracted. My homepage contains just a few apps (7) that I use often or want to use more.

2. Turning off notifications and badges for social media apps. 

3. Limiting my social media use to once a day per app (Facebook and Instagram), and  rarely using social media that is more draining than helpful (for me, Twitter). Doing this helps to take away the mental burden of “should I or should I not right now?” and also prevents me from telling myself I’m checking for information about an event when I really want an excuse to see my notifications.

4. Taking at least 1 day/week and 1-2 weeks/year (family vacation) to be off social media. This helps me exercise mastery over social media (rather than be mastered by it) and ends up loosening its appeal to me when I’m using it again. It also gives me time of sustained focus on other important things (or people!)

5. Actively filling my time with good things.  Limiting social media use isn’t the ultimate goal here. There are plenty of other ways we can fill our times and distract ourselves if we aren’t actively seeking out ways to rest, create, learn, worship God, and love others.

Gratitude For “Sometimes” Media

My sister recently taught my girls the term “sometimes food” and from what I hear, they’ve moved on to talk about “sometimes music” and I’m not sure what else. The idea is that some things are okay to enjoy, but in appropriate portions and times. I aim to keep social media a “sometimes” thing and continue to use it not as a concession, but as a tool and gift.

As I’ve grown in being intentional in how I use social media, I have actually found my ability to be thankful for the good it can be used for has heightened. So I would be remiss not to express gratitude for the gift it has been to me in keeping me connected with dear friends overseas, giving me access to helpful resources, and, not the least of which, connecting with you on this blog!  I hope that you, dear reader, as you consider who is in control of your social media use and to what end,  be spurred on to exercise self-control for the good of others to the glory of God.



* Tony Reinke also highlights this quote in 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You.

** Note: I recognize it’s not as simple as I’m making it out to be here. For example, Choice 1 and 2 aren’t mutually exclusive and sometimes my motives are a mix of 2 and 3. But still, it is appropriate for us to strive toward Choice # 3, for greater self-control of the sake of others to the glory of God.

Motherhood & Family

Reclaiming My Brain & The Cost of Social Media



This post is part 2 of a 3 part mini-series on being intentional about social media. Part one is here: Reclaiming My Brain & The Pull of Social Media

I have a friend who makes amazing homemade boba milk tea. It’s delicious and addicting, which is slightly problematic for me because I am highly sensitive to caffeine. Not too long ago, she graciously brought over a pitcher and I drank more than I should have too late in the day. By the last cup, my head pounded with each sip I took. I had trouble staying asleep that night, and laid awake for hours as my mind raced through scenes from the latest Avengers movie. It was completely preventable and totally my fault, but like I said, her recipe is delicious and addicting.

Minus that milk tea event, I’m usually pretty good at controlling my caffeine intake. I know I can’t have any after 3 pm and how much I can take before feelings of dread hit. I think I’ve titrated and found the optimal amount of caffeine I can use to maximize its benefits (better mood, not falling asleep) given its side effects (anxiety, acid reflux, headaches, problems sleeping).

The way I treat caffeine has been a useful reference point for me when thinking about social media. Both have a set of cost and benefits I ought to consider before choosing when, how much, and whether or not to use them, and if I’m not intentional about my usage, there are negative consequences.

The first post I wrote in this mini-series, I asked you to think about what draws you into social media. Having considered its pull, we turn now to face the costs.

It’s Costing You Something

One oft-repeating and popular bit of fake news claims Facebook plans on charging users. It’s not hard to see why people would be alarmed at the thought. It seems almost unethical to get us so heavily invested in the ecosystem of Facebook and suddenly impose a fee. Well, Facebook doesn’t need our money (it gets something else from us— more on that in the next post), but it has always cost us to use it.

I don’t have anything groundbreaking to add to the increasing amounts of research on the problematic effects of our technology. But since I often find others’ self-reflections helpful, I offer a few observations on what I’ve come to place on my social media “cost” column. As with caffeine, social media may affect you differently than it does me, but I hope I can spur you on to consider what your social media use is costing you personally.

The top three costs on my list are: attention, energy, and time.

Attention & Constant Noise

Attention is our ability to focus on a task. This can be a concrete action like doing the dishes or an abstract one like figuring out how to deal with a relational problem. Because we aren’t physically moving from one place to another when we’re on social media, we often think we’re doing two things at once.  But the perception that we are multitasking is an illusion.

Anyone who has said “Uh-huh, that’s great, sure” to their child only to think, “Wait, what did I just say yes to?” has experienced the limit of the human brain’s capacity to pay attention to more than one thing at once. Not only are our brains incapable of focusing on more than one thing at a time, every time we switch from one task to another and back, there is a mental toll on our productivity. Whether at work, in conversations with our children, or in contemplation, there is a cost to constant interruptions.

Uncontrolled and haphazard use of social media shatters our attention to thousands of tiny pieces and effects our ability to meditate deeply on things that matter. Tony Reinke writes in 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You,

“Perhaps the greatest threat we face is that of living with short attention-spans, caught now by one little explosion of surprise, now by another. Knowledge is never actually given to us in that form. It has to be searched for and pursued, as the marvelous poems on Wisdom at the beginning of Proverbs tell us.” Without wisdom, we foolishly get lost in the aimless now, in the explosion of novelty. Without wisdom, we foolishly get unhitched from our past and from our future.

Someone else has written, “Addiction to social media will make you aware of everything and wise about nothing.”

Growing in wisdom, learning and thinking deeply on how to apply truth to our lives, and pursuing a relationship with God require sustained attention. This is what makes planned times of silence and solitude powerful— the removal of distractions. Considering the truth of God and how it comes to bear in our everyday lives takes focused attention.

Listening— to others, and to God— also requires sustained attention. That’s one reason why worship on Sundays, when we meet with God’s people and sit under the preaching of the Word, is so important (and why we ought to resist the pull of our phones during it!) We quiet ourselves and discipline our restless bodies and hearts to receive rich, meaty life-giving truths. Truths we easily lose sight of in the busyness of the day-to-day and can’t get in short Tweets or blogposts.

Creativity and deep reflection are tasks requiring sustained attention and I’ve found they flourish most when I’m not distracted by random tidbits of news, opinions, and entertainment every hour. It is easier to see the hand of God through my day and weeks when I’m not adding to the noise of my life via self-wrought social media interruptions.

As a mom, I may not be able to get regular alone time, but I can give space and time for truths to stew in my mind as I’m working in the kitchen or taking care of my children. When I’m not habitually distracted, I can meditate on the truth of God and reflect on whether my children are flourishing throughout the day. This way, truth can sink into my heart and flow out through the rest of my life. And I wonder whether much of what I blame on mommy brain may be a product not so much of 3 little people pulling on my legs as much as 300 people clamoring for attention on my newsfeed.

Energy & The Emotionally Draining Rollercoaster of The Feed

(Relational weight + Call for a response + Unpredictability) x Endless content = A lot of energy

Sometimes when I’m tired, I just want to plop down on a couch, pull out my phone, and be entertained. In those times, a 20 minute scroll down a social media feed is tempting, but the distractions there often leave me more tired than rested.

I find social media draining not just because there are sad, frightening, heavy things going on in the world. The distinction between social media and a newspaper is behind each article, statement, or share is someone we know. So we’re not just seeing information, we’re hearing a friend say, “You should read this,” or “This is important.”

The relational thrust behind every byte of information increases the weight of impact on us as readers. Not only so, but information is presented to me in a way that constantly calls for a response— whether anger, sadness, social action, or amusement— via Likes, LOL’s, double-taps, and shares. Add to this the randomness of content and the sheer number of posts, and I’m setting myself up for a emotional rollercoaster each time I log on.

The two major loop-de-loops for me here are anger and guilt. Anger is the fuel that drives the most viral and popular social media posts— whether it’s full-out social-media-shaming rage or getting-something-off-my-chest status updates. In life, there are good reasons to be angry, but the anger social media posts invokes is not always necessary. Pastor Jack Miller has wisely written, “Don’t let your emotional life be controlled by the sin you see in others.” Social media is a prime place to hear people’s anger over sin, see people sin in anger, and be controlled emotionally by sin we see in others. I’ve found it way too easy to be caught up anger which doesn’t end when I close my app, and it’s exhausting.

The other emotional cost for me of social media is guilt. Social media serves as a platform. Whether faith-based, humanitarian, environmental, or health causes, everyone has their thing. Over time, without knowing it, our consciences are shaped by the social network bubbles we breathe in, self-righteously thinking everyone should take on our causes and guilty we are not doing more. Those with tender consciences easily fall under what Kevin DeYoung describes as the “terror of total obligation”— the sense we are responsible for meeting every need we see. And with social media, every need, however local or global in scope, is proximate and looks urgent.

Using Facebook for our causes or Instagram to share our passions aren’t necessarily bad things. I use both for these reasons so I’m not advocating a self-centered refusal to care about what’s going on around us. But the emotional and mental drain of social media is a real cost rarely leading me to decisive, productive action. Keeping in mind the responsibilities I am already called to use my energy toward, it’s helpful for me to remember the distraction of social media rarely brings about the rest I need.

Time & Opportunity Costs

The first time I noticed the impact of social media on me was after a cruise with no internet access. Though pregnant and taking care of a toddler, I made significant headway in a book I’d wanted to read. It was a big realization for me as a young mom to see the blame for my lack of time wasn’t to be placed completely on my child, but the way I filled small gaps of free time I was afforded.

Every time we choose to spend time on social media, we are choosing not to do something else. We are choosing not to pay attention, invest emotionally and mentally, or spend our time on someone else. Whether it’s reading a book, spending face time with family, thinking deeply about important issues, meditating on God’s Word, exercising, or taking a nap, we give up opportunities each time we enter our virtual worlds.

Five minutes here and fifteen minutes there add up to a significant amount of time over a week. Each minute is time we don’t get to use again. Tony Reinke writes, “Compulsive social-media habits are a bad trade: your present moment in exchange for an endless series of someone else’s past moments.” When we use social media, precious time is spent looking at other people’s lives. Moreover, in our compulsion to share, we often spend our present moments trying to best capture and display our lives to others.

As Christians, we ask God to teach us to number our days and be faithful with our time (Ps. 90:10).  Our time is short and ultimately is not meant for us to spend however we fancy. This fact alone is enough to motivate us to be intentional about how we are using social media.

For Your Consideration

If our device’s pull-to-refresh function is analogous to a slot machine lever holding out the promise of affirmation, entertainment, knowledge, escape, and more, what are the quarters we’re inserting? What is the bill we’re racking up during our stay at Casino Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.?

Attention, energy, and time are the big three for me. What about you?

After having had some time to think about the pull of social media for you, consider Question 2: What is my use of social media costing me?*




Up Next: Who’s In Control & To What Ends?

*Note: Sometimes, we may not be able to tell what social media is costing us until we take active steps to scale down our use. Like an auto renewal policy, you may be so used to these costs that you don’t notice them. (This has often been the case for me.) If this is you, one challenge is to take a week or at least a few days off social media to see what changes when you unplug. This might even help you get more insight on that first question of what pulls you to social media in the first place.

Also, for those wondering, here’s the milk tea recipe my friend uses.

Motherhood & Family

Reclaiming My Brain & The Pull of Social Media


I had a Sherlock Holmes moment a few years ago that captures the foggy haze of the mind on momma hormones and sleep deprivation. I was standing in the kitchen, and as I swooped my arm downward, forgot what I was doing. Without stopping mid-motion, I looked at my hand, saw a mug, figured “Ah, I must have been getting a drink!” and proceeded to smoothly finish my task. Any onlooker would not have noticed my mental lapse and I impressed myself at my powers of deduction.

Mommy brain is a real thing, friends. A combination of lack of sleep, increased demands, and brain-altering hormones from past pregnancies, force my mind to run on low power mode all day. In other words, I can push through, but functionality is significantly decreased.

As a mom, I am constantly making assessments about the best use of resources: money, space, time, energy (physical, emotional, mental), and attention. So with a brain that often feels like mush, I’ve been learning that just as I get choosy about what apps I use when my battery is at 2%, I need to be strategic about how I use the limited resource that is my mind. I’ve discovered, for example, that I only have about a 2 hour window each day where I can think clearly enough to write, that at a certain point trying to read is futile, and that I think more rationally when I’ve had a good breakfast. And I’ve realized that I need to get serious about my use of social media.

Many people talk about social media use in terms of time, but as my family has grown, I have become increasingly convinced of my need to reassess how I use social media not primarily because of how I’m wasting my time (though that matters too), but how I use my mind and heart.

A Mini-Series

I know I’m not the only one who has a love-hate relationship with social media– sometimes really wanting to delete my accounts and go off the (social media) grid, other times sucked again into the vortex that is Facebook. So I’m starting a three-post series for those who’ve also found themselves wondering about how to manage their relationships with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like.

I’ll walk through three questions I’ve been finding it helpful to think through regarding social media. I’ve chosen to write them in separate posts to keep them short and to make it easier for self-reflection. And whether you can relate to mommy brain or not, you’re invited to join me in considering your use social media. Maybe you’ve got it figured out and this would be an encouragement for you. If you’re like me and still working through this, I hope these posts would serve to challenge and help you in the right direction.

Coming along? Here goes! Question one for us today: What’s the pull?

The Why Behind The What

As people, there are always reasons behind our actions– a “why” behind the “what” we  do. We never do things “just because.” We make decisions out of our hearts and wills, and they always say something about our desires, hopes, wants, needs, beliefs, and anxieties.  Social media is no exception.

It is part of human nature to want to share things about our lives with others. God made us for communion with him and other people, so it makes sense we’d want to let people know about the things we’re happy, sad, excited, or angry about. Social media taps into that, giving us all a way to instantly broadcast our thoughts to our friends and networks. We get a chance to receive feedback on what we share in the forms of hearts, thumbs ups, comments and retweets. And we connect with others by reading and responding to what they share. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.

There are plenty of ways social media can be used to enrich our lives, so I’ll say from the get-go I’m not yearning for pre-internet days. I myself have been helped by content shared via and the interactions I’ve had on social media. I’ve laughed at my share of fun videos and cried and prayed through heartbreaking status updates. I love that I can gush over my friends’ children and have them do the same over mine. I know one older woman who prays for people who show up on her Facebook feed.

But if we were only drawn to social media for the good it does for us and others, why is it so many of us spend more time on it than we’d want to admit? There has to be something else in the mix here.

Before getting a handle on our use of social media via self-imposed boundaries or time-limiting apps (apps to control our use of other apps!), we need to understand not only what is good about social media, but what in particular is drawing us to use it as often as we do.

The reasons are vast and vary for each person, so it’s important to know what it is in particular that is drawing me. For me, there can be good reasons I’m signing into social media, like wanting to share a resource I know will be helpful to others or staying connected to friends who are far from me. But more often than not, when I’m signing into Facebook, I’m being pulled by something else and I’m not even aware of it.

My Personal Slot Machine

One analogy that has shed light on the appeal of social media for me is social media as a slot machine. One former Google employee spoke about the pull of our apps as powerful psychological conditioning by variable rewards, and it makes so much sense. (Especially to me since I studied psychology and learned all about B.F. Skinner, variable ratio, and operant conditioning!)

Here’s an excerpt of the article:

The most seductive design, Harris explains, exploits the same psychological susceptibility that makes gambling so compulsive: variable rewards. When we tap those apps with red icons, we don’t know whether we’ll discover an interesting email, an avalanche of “likes”, or nothing at all. It is the possibility of disappointment that makes it so compulsive.

It’s this that explains how the pull-to-refresh mechanism, whereby users swipe down, pause and wait to see what content appears, rapidly became one of the most addictive and ubiquitous design features in modern technology. “Each time you’re swiping down, it’s like a slot machine,” Harris says. “You don’t know what’s coming next. Sometimes it’s a beautiful photo. Sometimes it’s just an ad.”

(Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia)

With social media, it’s the possibility (or promise) of reading something interesting, receiving comments and “likes” (described in the article as “’bright dings of pseudo-pleasure’ that can be as hollow as they are seductive”), or catching up on important relational news that draws us back again and again. Often (and probably more often than not), we don’t find anything– but it’s the varied, scattered times we do that keep us pulling on our personal slot machines. There’s a bit of hope mingled in here, and I think the varied results coupled with the furious pace of ever changing content causes many of us to carry an unverbalized fear that we’re missing out on something (a possible reward) if we’re not up-to-date with what’s happening on our social media networks.

So for me, I’d say, a bit of interest in what other people are posting plus the possibility of positive interactions (whether feedback about my shared posts, hearts on my photos, or responses to my comments) keeps me checking in.

For Your Consideration

For you, it could be something else. You may be on social media wanting to be kept in the loop (plus FOMO) or looking to connect with friends. Or the nature of your job might require you to be on social media. It may be your entertainment or your platform. Your social media use can be born out of love (staying connected), boredom (entertainment), anger (airing grievances), escapism (zoning out), or more.

If you’re like me, your social media use is driven by a host of desires with a few major ones leading the pack. These reasons are not necessarily all good or all bad, but identifying the pull and promise social media holds out for you is important.

Why do you find yourself on social media? What are you looking for when you tap that app? Are you lured in by the possibility of being liked, favorited, commented on? For the feeling of being in the know? Curiosity? Care? Pride? Fear? Homesickness? Discontent? Joy? Boredom? Habit?

We need to know why we’re doing what we’re doing before evaluating whether we need to tweak what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. We need to know the promised and actual rewards of social media before we go on to examine the costs.  So whatever your reasons, here’s the first question I offer for your reflection today on our road toward a wise, intentional use of social media: Why do I use social media as much as I do?

(Next up: What’s the cost?)


Social Media Hiatus & New Blog!

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything to post online, but here I am again with a new blog and ready to start writing again! There are some posts that have been swimming around in my head, but before sitting down and getting those onto paper (screen?), I thought I’d share a bit about why I took a quasi-break from social media and why I decided to blog again. I don’t imagine that I have to explain myself so much because people have been wondering about my internet whereabouts as much as because I think it may be helpful for those who are thinking about the role of social media in their lives and because it’ll help me to have written down why I want to start blogging again.

My break from social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blogging) started out involuntarily and, I believe, by the mercy of God. I was on vacation in the middle of the ocean and without internet for a few weeks! Here is what I realized during my time there and in the months that have followed as I’ve been mostly away  social media. I don’t want to say social media made me do these things, so I’ll start off each by saying my use of social media…

  • Broke up my time and attention in unhelpful ways. It’s not as if I was sitting down for hours or even 30 minutes at a time at the computer. But having the option in the palm of my hand to fill up a minute or two here and there by scrolling through tweets and status updates filled my mind with mostly unhelpful information when I could have been thinking about something else, reading a few pages of a book, enjoying my daughter with undivided attention, or even just being silent. For me then, it was (and is) not so much a matter of whether or not I was doing something wrong with my time, but whether or not there was something better that I could be up to. 
  • …Was out of proportion considering the things and tasks that are important to me (i.e. my priorities). Although in the past I’ve contemplated completely cutting myself off from any kind of social media for the sake of not wasting time, I never did because I really believed that it could be a tool to bless others. Why? Because I’ve been helped by articles and blogs I’ve read online and I love being able to help others have access to good resources. I figured that hey, if people are already spending their time on Twitter, Facebook, etc. and reading all this stuff, why not get something in there that really  matters? It also is a way to keep in touch with people that I don’t see every day or may be far away. These uses were mostly about potential ways and people I could serve or connect with. But for me right now at this stage of life my priorities are toward 1. God 2.  my husband 3. my children 4. my family 5. my church &  close friends, and some place after that those I could  hypothetically/potentially serve through social media. Not that the people listed above couldn’t be blessed through my social media use, but that’s not one of the main ways I could be serving them. Therefore, given the position that social media connections was, or rather, how it wasn’t on my priority list, my time and attention weren’t being properly used.
  • …Gave me a false sense of connectedness and community that replaced my desire to actively seek out someone to talk to. One reason I stay on Facebook is because it can be useful to connect to (real life) friends or reconnect with people that I really do have a relationship with. But I feel like the option of having  my thoughts broadcasted out there any time  gave me a sense of being connected to a listener that was in reality not there or at least unknown to myself. As people, we all have a desire to communicate and share our lives with others, from important lessons learned to little joys in life. (Think about the seemingly unimportant status updates that people often complain about others posting). When God teaches me something new, I want to share it. When my daughter does something super cute, I want to tell someone too! Something kind of scary that I noticed after I stopped going on social media was how often  potential tweets and blogs passed through my mind when things like these happened.  Even having the option of sharing things through social media acted in a way to satiate that desire to share with another what was going on in my mind. I found that after I disconnected, I took more time to direct these thoughts upward in prayers of thanks for what I was experiencing and outward to others (texting a friend, telling my family members, etc.)  
  • …Showed that instead of being a tool to be used, social media mastered me. I  could give all these  helpful uses of social media that I really think are legitimate, but honestly, I think that social media had a hold on me that I could not really see. Yes, I could stay off of it for a few days and I had at times set up specific time limits for my own use of Facebook, but why was there such an impulse to go on it right away when those limits were up? I’m not even sure what the appeal was, but I think it had become such a habit  even though often I was scrolling and looking through things I cared little about.
  • Made it easy to produce (post) or pass on (“like”/”retweet”) rather than to first live it out. It is so easy to read something good or potentially impacting and instead of thinking first about how I can be changed or have my life put in accordance to God’s truth, to retweet or share it and leave it there. Or for me to be at the starting point of learning something new from God and the Scriptures and then right away think about how I can blog about it instead of first letting it sink in and change me first. I don’t think social media makes people fake and I don’t think I have to be all there before sharing honestly, but I think the ease and quickness with which I can put out something publicly makes it  dangerous for me since I already have little time in my own life set aside for serious contemplation, prayer, and meditation. I want truths to sink deep and to have things I share come out from within me, not merely passed on and giving others the impression of having made a difference in my life.

So, with all that I’ve written above, why am I blogging again?

1. Because I have been helped by things I’ve read and I hope to bless others in the same way.  There are blogs that I follow because of the way they encourage me point me towards the truth of God and I hope to edify others in the same way. I am thankful to have been approached by different people here and there saying they were helped by things that I have written . As I have been thinking about whether or not to blog again, my husband encouraged me to focus my thoughts on serving and not to not write because of fear.  Also, I’m thankful that many (most) of you reading this are people that I love and know, and though it’s hard to update you all individually about how God is working in my life, I can write it and have you all read it at once! 

2. Because I am passionate about right theology in the everyday and in all of life. God has wired my mind and heart to be passionate about helping others see the impact of Biblical truths in real life. I get fired up about right theology because I have seen (and see) in my own life the impact of wrong teaching and wrong thoughts about God, his word, and how he has designed life to be. Because of this, I love being able to share others about how God is renewing my mind and teaching me his truth, and in this way, changing my life and my worship. I hope to write more about this specifically another time, but for now I will say that my second reason for blogging is because I enjoy it!

So, hello again internet reader and friends! And I pray that God will use this blog in whatever way he chooses for your edification and for his glory.