Saturday, October 26, 2013

Social Media Idolatry

We all know people who have gone on “Facebook fasts” or announced to the world that they are staying away from the computer for a week. I admit I find them somewhat comical, especially when people announce via social media what they are doing. Of course, that’s better than those who simply disappear and then lambast the world for not caring. Much like most things, spread something too wide and it loses its depth: speak too often and your words lose influence; divide your time between 30 people a day and your relationships plateau; confess to the world wide web and receive no accountability. At the same time, there is something to be respected in those who recognize they have a social media addiction and take action against—however short lived that is.

Social Media Idols

Idolatry is the making of a good thing into an ultimate thing. I believe that was Tim Keller. But making your site of choice “ultimate” seems far-fetched, right? You don’t worship Facebook. But perhaps social media has become a conduit of idolatry—providing avenues for idolatry of other areas. C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain makes the claim that the greater potential something has for good, the greater potential it has for bad. Leslie Newbigin in Signs Amid the Rubble espouses something similar with a view to history: the longer this world continues the more opportunity there is for both good and bad. How good are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blogger, Tumblr, Reddit, Goodreads, and MySpace? Not at all—they’re neutral (except MySpace—it is clearly maniacal). They can be used for great good or great evil.

  • Marriages have been rocked and shattered by happenings on the social networks.
  • Envy and strife has been provoked in places where we put our best foot forward (even if it’s one that isn’t actually in our DNA).
  • Anger has been tolerated in encouraged with the label ‘venting’… to everyone.
  • Procrastination has become a joke and perpetuated.
  • The gospel has found people with smart phones but no churches nearby.
  • Believers are encouraged by brothers and sisters at moments of need.
  • The beauty of God’s world is put on display for people to rejoice in.
  • Books have been shared to develop the minds of students in the faith.
  • Families are reconnected.

The good things don’t “outweigh” the bad, but the good things are good… and each individual is responsible for utilizing social media in a way that is quite simply good. So how can you and I be sure that social media hasn’t become an idol or a conduit of idolatry?

Check yourself:
When you need to be told how to view the world, do you turn to Scripture or blogs?
When you need to reach out to someone greater, and lay your requests at his able feet, do you turn to prayer or Twitter?
When you need to see beauty in all its fullness, do you turn Instagram, Vimeo, and YouTube, or to eyes of faith in perceiving the world around you?
When you need companionship and eternal interrelationship, do you turn to Facebook, or to family and friends created in God’s image for your eternal joy?
When you need to ‘kill time,’ do you unlock your phone or do you take a moment to rest in the quiet and rest which God has deemed fit to give you in that moment?

Maybe I have made fun of fasts in the past. But maybe it’s about time we confess our sin, as shameful as it may seem to have exchanged eternal glory for temporal diversion. Maybe it’s about time we worship God. Maybe it’s about time we use these avenues for good.


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