Five Pitfalls of Social Media

Social media is a vital part of the way our culture functions and communicates ideas. In September of 2016, research recorded 1.79 billion active monthly users on Facebook alone. With it, we have incredible opportunities to share ideas quickly across the world. Various forms of social media have been used to rally for causes, plan events, and connect old friends. It’s shown the depths technology can go to build a platform for people to virtually connect.

As a millennial, I’ve grown up with social media as the norm. But over the last few years, I’ve struggled with how social media has changed the way we interact with each other. I’ve frequently contemplated its proper place in my life, and maybe you have too. Here are a few of my qualms about our relationship with social media:

  1. Comparison. It happens when I see a friend’s recent trip to Europe, and she looks incredible in heels (why are my feet so fat?). She looks happy in all her pictures, and her life seems way more put together than mine. Does she not wear sweatpants for leisure like I do? Suddenly, I’m depressed and my life sucks. Ever happen to you? I know it’s not someone else’s fault for making me feel envious nor is it social media’s doing. The struggle with comparison is an issue of the heart. But most times, I leave Facebook feeling worse about myself not better.

  2. Approval. Social media breeds an environment of constantly seeking approval through the content we post. Just look at young girls posting selfies of themselves and hoping for comments like: “You’re so pretty!” “I love your lipstick!” “You look so skinny!” We constantly check our phones after we post a pictures to see how many ‘likes’ we get. It’s natural to want people to like the stuff we put out there, but could we be looking for approval in the wrong place?

  3. Waste of Time. What is the first thing we do in the morning or right before bed? How about waiting at the doctor’s office or in line at the grocery store? How about on the toilet (I can't be the only one)? If there is a quiet moment, we fill it with something. Sadly, many of us are mindlessly browsing our news feeds. We creepily peer into people’s lives, many of whom are acquaintances and drive us nuts, rather than filling our time with things that are actually meaningful.

  4. Pseudo Connecting. Social media claims to do a lot more “connecting” than I’d give it credit for. Sure, it links us to people that have moved away, helps us plan our high school reunions, and allows us share our opinions on politics. But if anything, I feel more disconnected from the people around me because of it. I’ve walked into restaurants and seen families sitting around the table with both kids and parents staring at their phones. I’ve felt isolated while my friends eagerly post a picture of our gathering on Instagram before we’ve even left their house. I’ve had to pause my sentence because the person I’m having coffee with is taking a picture of her coffee cup and posting it so that everyone knows what we’re doing. Perhaps, sharing our every whereabout or reading about what other people are doing is keeping us from truly connecting with those in the same room as us-- those who we really value and care about.

  5. Sacred Moments. There are sacred moments in life that deserve privacy; memories that are for you and the person you share them with. Like waking up the day after your wedding with your new spouse and not feeling rushed to change your Facebook status. Or quiet moments of reading the Bible or at the spa where you’re “resting.” Can we not let those moments be unseen by the rest of the world? More importantly, do our minds ever stop from thinking about how we’re going to craft the next moment for the camera?

In her recent article, Gracy Olmstead says it perfectly: “There’s something beautiful, and increasingly rare, about inhabiting a moment without a thought for its online potency. About loving a place, a person, a dish, a moment for their intrinsic goodness, and not seeing them as a means to a technological or social end.”

Social media isn’t bad, and it’s not the source of our problems. But like most things, when humans get ahold of something great, it becomes more nuanced. We add social context, emotions, and our sinful nature to it. Social media simply provides an amplified platform for us to struggle with the same things we struggle with in real life. If we want the approval from others, we can manipulate social media to give it to us. If we struggle with comparison, social media can feed that. So, quitting social media isn’t necessarily the solution (although some people feel convicted to do that, and I salute you).

My exhortation is to simply be mindful of the role social media has in our lives. Let’s be curious about how we interact online and the content we consume there. Asking ourselves the question, “Why?” before we post or mindlessly scroll through Instagram will keep us honest with ourselves. It will also keep us intentional with our lives. Maybe we'll see the ways in which we run to social media to fill the void. Perhaps we'll notice the way it feeds those areas where we struggle. And let our awareness move us to develop a healthier relationship with social media, one that allows us to live more freely--the way we're intended. 

Life deserves our presence, so do the people we love. When we’re less consumed by our screens, we're free to be more engaged in the {actual} world around us. We can be present in both the high and low moments in life, not just the perfectly crafted ones. When we're truly present, we don't have to constantly prove our life's existence by be conjuring up posts about it, but rather treasure it for what it is: real life.