Smart Phones and Social Media: A Double Ended Knife

This last weekend, I got the chance to completely ditch my smartphone for about two days while on a retreat. It was interesting, to say the least. While it was in an area with little reception anyway, it was surprising to see how others reacted to the “No electronic devices” policy. During my disconnect from the world wide web, there’s a few things I learned, even with such a short time unplugged. Before I start, let’s get out of the way that modern technology is not necessarily evil. It can be used as a tool for good, but can be abused to do something very wrong, such as bullying and harassment that can lead to serious harm and has in the past. The same smartphone in your pocket comes in handy for research, communication, and photography, while also proving to be a distraction when it is used for endless scrolling on Facebook or watching inappropriate youtube videos. Don’t get me twisted, It is pretty awesome how far mankind has come since the days of reading the Bible on handwritten scrolls mostly in a sacred place compared to now, where that same book is now available in many formats all across the globe, including on audiobook and an app on your phone. However, it is unfortunate that while this type of technology has only existed for only a few decades, it has caused a serious rift in how humans interact today, especially with the rising popularity of social media, which is the main concern of modern technology as of writing this. Here are just a few reasons why this is so.

  1. Social Platforms Are Nothing Short of Gambling Machines.

It may surprise you to think that social media pages, such as Facebook, are designed to make you scroll for hours and hours on end. Ryan Holiday talked about the consequences of constantly checking of news daily in a recent piece of his. Facebook is one the biggest sources of news articles to get trending, with that little bar in the right corner showing you all of the most popular topics that are being discussed in the present. As Holiday also noted, social media sites do not have clocks on the actual page, just like casinos. This is to feed your addiction in a way that you lose a sense of time when you are “just checking your feed for five minutes” before bed, so that five minutes turns into twenty, than an hour.

Interestingly enough, whenever I take a hiatus from Instagram, even just for a few days, the company will send me an email telling me to check out new posts from my friends, that are mostly nothing short of basic stuff. Facebook does this as well, with a user having to disable so many email notifications for the most unimportant stuff that Facebook feels the need to tell you about, such as game requests and whenever someone comments on your post. In my humble opinion, these networking sites make it so hard for someone to quit, with most sites allowing up to two weeks or thirty days before the account is actually terminated, so that user can relapse log back in anytime they want without losing anything, just like how at a casino you can get up and leave whenever, but it’s hard to throw in the towel when the people around you keep telling you play just one more round of roulette and we’re done.

In another sense, one might see gambling as a potential addiction if left unchecked. Same thing with an online presence, too much time on these social sites can lead to quite an addiction, a dangerous one, in fact. Going back to my recent retreat, everyone except the emergency contacts were supposed to ditch their phones. Besides me, another older person, and the people not old quite old enough for a smartphone, almost everyone else brought their phones “just in case” or because “my notes are on my phone” or maybe “I want to take photos on this trip”. This is not to shun those people, but to prove a point that it’s a struggle to leave your phone on airplane mode even for a few days in a drawer an easy to come up with excuses to bring it anyway, with solutions to these excuses readily at hand, such as bringing a camera instead of a smartphone for photography or a pen and notebook for to take notes in.

Even for myself, one of a few people dedicated to go technology free, it felt so weird to have to check my watch instead of the home screen clock on my phone when I wanted to check the time. It was so weird to see others use their phones on free time and feel like I was somehow “missing out”. Even with nobody shaming me for leaving it at home, it still felt somewhat wrong. Which is crazy, considering again, it was such a short time without it. Don’t think I’m right about phone addiction? Count the amount of times you check your phone daily. Let’s hope it does not match 85, the number of times on average a person checks their phone on a twenty four hour clock.

3. Getting Many Likes and Comments Is Your Source of Validation.

Guilty as charged, I have deleted many photos or posts just because I did not receive the attention I wanted. In other words, my brain was not happy with the people who did like or comment, it needed more thumbs up to feel validated by my post. I am not alone in this, for even my old friends in high school did this, despite the fact there was nothing wrong with whatever they shared. In a sense, this validation from others just serves to feed our egos, which is the exact opposite of what we should feel. The Bible preaches the virtues of humility, being brought low, not lifting ourselves on a pedestal that obviously we cannot stay on for long. God’s teachings goes against pride and promotes being humble. We are supposed to lock our eyes on the things of heaven, not earth. This means this constant cycle of seeking validation from likes and comments is wrong, dare I call it a sin. This photo by John Holcroft, a satirical artist, pretty much sums up the process:

John Holcroft

However, this cycle does not give us any satisfaction after all. Your picture walking the new poodle may have gotten over fifty likes, but the article you shared last week about Donald Trump and his improved self tan got more.

3. Social Media Only Makes You More Depressed and AntiSocial.

Let’s be honest here, texting or direct messaging somebody “i luv you <3” is nowhere near as personal as saying “I love you” face to face. Surely, only the extreme critics of social media that were born in the 50s who have no clue where the back button is on a keyboard say these things. Well, turns out that’s not so. Some researchers have come out to even say that social media is ruining a generation. They even have science on their side. In this generation of safe spaces, blocking people you don’t share all opinions with, and a sense of narcissism, it’s no wonder that we are more depressed and antisocial than ever before. The link between your smartphone and mental health is only growing closer. Even studies have shown that the number of close friends people have has dropped, along with kids getting smart phones and on social media at younger and younger ages now.

In the recent smash hit Netflix tv show 13 reasons Why that took people everywhere by storm last year, the presence of smartphones and social media aiding the teen girls and boys to inflict harm unto others can not be ignored. It’s even used a tool of revenge by main character ( who is portrayed as the so called “good guy”), who took an embarrassing photo of a guy who “was one of the reasons” Hannah ended her life, and then spreading it across the campus. Online Bullying seen as a joke and just “words on a screen” is a thing of the past, with real life people taking their own lives over constant in person and online harassment, such as the story of Amanda Todd, a teenager bullied into isolation from friends and even family, who is no longer with us today. It’s a real tragic that it’s a fact that people are feeling suicidal and depressed in this day and age, even to more prominent public figures.

4. What now?

While some professionals are suggesting we remodel our experience to be a positive one instead of negative, to revamp our platforms to be more enjoyable instead of toxic in other words, others are urging us to quit the social media world altogether for there is no real need for it. It’s hard to say that approach is right or wrong, for both are offering solutions to a problem that don’t evolve around just letting it go away all on it’s own. However, let’s take a look at a more Christian perspective on this issue.

Face it, the world may say we need to unplug and enjoy the sunshine, their reasons will not be God-centered, but self-centered regardless. It’s important to note these potential dangers to teens getting their first smartphone and guide them to manage their time on social platforms wisely. It may even be best to not let them have a smart phone until they are of adult age, something maybe to pray about and decide what will benefit their lives with more of a God-centered approach. Teens may be better off with dumb phones after all, if their mental health is at stake now. Regarding social media, it’s hard to say what age is right to join, depends on the maturity of the person. That, and social media has a tendency to be more of a distraction than a tool to communicate with others, regardless of age. However, I don’t have any children as of writing this, so this is just my opinion on the matter.

Even for adults, switching to a dumb phone can prove to be better in the long run. You can get more time to read the word, have fellowship with friends and family, and enjoy and experience life outside of a screen. One thing is for sure, spending way less time on social media and your smartphone is a good habit to get and to keep. There are apps,such as moment, that keep track of how much time you spend on your phone and has features that will kick you off if you go over your daily limit. We all need accountability for our actions, not just teenagers and young adults.

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