Where to draw the line

Social Media with its innovations and recent advancements has radically altered life styles. In many ways, Social Media has led to positive changes in the way people communicate and share information. In fact this article would not have taken this shape without the use of Social Media!

However, it has a dark side as well. Social Media can sometimes result in negative outcomes, some with long-term consequences. This article tries to explore and evaluate the effects of Social Media while presenting a biblical perspective too.

The chief knowledge that a person gets from browsing is the knowledge that very few of them are worth browsing. True indeed! Some of you might’ve heard the name “Ashley Madison” which was associated with a web portal with the catchy phrase: “Life is short – have an affair”. For a small fee one could have an affair and this was a great hit among married people. It was available in 25 languages including Hindi with 37 million users as on July 2015. Total secrecy was promised by the owners of the website. When everything seemed to go on well, hackers managed get hold of users’ name, credit card info & Passwords and dump it in the deep web allowing public access. Now millions are embarrassed and ashamed of their nocturnal activities. Many have received extortion messages.

This leads to a very important question. Why do people go for it? The answers are listed in the form of 3E’s

1. Escape from reality because reality is filled with boredom or is harsh
2. Elevated experience – excite, amaze, astonish, flabbergast
3. Effort to fill the emptiness or void – longing for significance, acceptance, love etc.

Is this phenomenon new and a bane of the 21st century only? No. Satan gave 3D realty show in the Garden of Eden and asked Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You are not to eat from any tree of the garden’”? Gen 3:1-6 As eve kept gazing at the attractive forbidden fruit she…
Saw that the tree produced good food was
Attractive in appearance, and was
Desirable for making one wise
Eventually their actions made them really SAD!
Let’s have glimpse of the Negative Effects of Social Media

1. A False Sense of Connection
According to Cornell University’s Steven Strogatz, “Social Media sites can make it more difficult for us to distinguish between the meaningful relationships we foster in the real world, and the numerous casual relationships formed through Social Media”. By focusing so much of our time and psychic energy on these less meaningful relationships, our most important connections, he fears, will weaken.

2. Multitasking Dangers
Once students become addicted to these sites they attempt to multi-task while studying. This reduces their academic performance and their ability to concentrate on a task because of distractions brought by Social Media.

3. Time Wastage
According to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation those ages 8 – 18 spend more than 7 hours a day with such devices and consequently they tend to be unprepared for class. Instead of taking time and trying to deeper analysis of the task they rush through it.

4. Reduction in real life contact
Student’s ability to communicate face to face has also been affected and they forget how to communicate with each other in person. They are not able to collaborate in discussions and this reduces their communication skills.

5. Adverse Health Effects
Doctor Larry Rosen, Professor Emeritus of California State University who is an international expert on the “Psychology of Technology” has studied and researched the mental health effects of Social Media on individuals. He claims, “Studies reported more negative findings, such as, young adults with a strong Facebook presence tended towards narcissism, antisocial tendencies, and aggression. Overuse was identified as causing anxiety and depression.”

Suicide: Children and juveniles who exhibit signs of being bullied are at greater risk of being suicidal when Social Media is involved. Additionally, methods of suicide are available through the same sources of Social Media.

Addiction Disorder: Facebook Addiction Disorder — when people are afraid to disconnect from Social Media services, it’s because they think they’re missing something important. A team of researchers from Chicago University’s Booth Business School, led by Wilhelm Hofmann, has found that Facebook and Social Media websites may be as addictive as alcohol or cigarettes
Withdrawals: In a study from the University of Maryland, students were asked to go without Social Media for 24 hours. The study showed students had withdrawal symptoms, such as “anxiety, misery, and being jittery.” These symptoms are also common in people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

Physical Health Problems: Increase in risk of obesity is attributed to a sedentary lifestyle of excessive time spent Social Networking. Eating Disorders- Whilst the portrayal of “ideal” body types in western media has long been recognized as a factor in propagating eating disorders, research has shown that eating disorders can be transmitted “like a virus” through Social Networks.
Sleep Disorders: Medical experts attest that school aged children are afflicted with sleep disorders because of elevated Social Media usage. In turn, these sleep disorders severely affect the children’s ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle and impede their ability to perform well at school.

Bible & Social Media
On a Sunday morning after the Church Service a youngster challenged his Pastor to prove that the Bible speaks about the Internet. The Pastor promised the youngster that he would provide him a reply the next Sunday. When Sunday came, the Pastor met the eager young man and asked him to read Psalms 25:15. It says, “My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net”! The youngster protested that this verse did not talk about the Internet but talks about a different ‘net’. The Pastor asked him to read that verse again; He then said, “Today we spend more time on the Internet than focusing our attention towards the Lord and the Internet holds us tightly as if we are caught in a net”.

Acid tests from the Bible.

1. Do I believe a lie?

Your father is the devil. You belong to him. You want to do what he wants. He was a murderer from the beginning. He was always against the truth. There is no truth in him. He is like the lies he tells. Yes, the devil is a liar. He is the father of lies. (John 8:44 ERV)

2. Am I a slave to it?

Surely you know that you become the slaves of whatever you give yourselves to. Anything or anyone you follow will be your master. You can follow sin, or you can obey God. Following sin brings spiritual death, but obeying God makes you right with him. (Romans 6:16 ERV)

3. Will it bring glory to God?

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1Co 10:31 ESV)
Here are some useful guidelines from the Bible with reference to browsing the net.
. Refrain from using curse words like “OMG”. One of the Ten Commandments says “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exo 20:7 ESV).
. We are advised to use beneficial words. “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you”. (Eph. 4:29 GNB)
. Gossip is passing on the truth about someone else. Slander is spreading false rumors about someone else. Both gossip and slander which are very widespread on Social Media are prohibited. (2 Cor. 12:20)
. Nudity and pictures with immodest clothing have become so common and acceptable. God replaced the immodest clothing that Adam and Eve had made for themselves with adequate clothing. “The LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Gen 3:21 ESV)

7 Self analysis questions
1. Do I use Social Media to boost my ego, feel good about myself and promote my vanity and pride? For people will be lovers of self … (2 Tim. 3:2 ESV)
2. Do I use Social Media as a platform to complain or tear down? Do all things without grumbling or disputing … (Phil. 2:14 ESV)
3. Do I use Social Media for unprofitable arguments? He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words… (I Tim. 6:4 ESV)
4. Does Social Media draw me closer to God? Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (Jas. 4:8 ESV)
5. Do I value Social Media interactions more than real-life relationships? You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mt. 22:39 ESV)
6. Do I have any relationships through Social Media that I need to cut off? Bad company ruins good morals. (I Cor. 15:33 ESV)
7. Does Social Media make me discontent? But godliness with contentment is great gain? (I Tim. 6:6 ESV)

Concluding note
A few years back a catchy phrase ‘What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD)’ became very popular. Now perhaps we should modify that statement and ask ‘What Would Jesus Post? (WWJP)’. Considering the lasting effects of what we post we need to pray before we post. Happy Surfing

Stephen V_web
Stephen Victor
Healthcare Management Consultant
Rohtak – Haryana

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