Social media has transformed modern society and the way in which we communicate. It has even influenced our way of thinking and our opinions. It is a tool that, in the right hands, has far-reaching opportunities and capabilities. But in the wrong hands it can have a negative impact on our lives. We must therefore balance the opportunities of this new form of engagement and the challenges it brings. During Lent, fasting was an integral part of bringing us closer to God and putting our own desires and needs aside for the development of our spiritual strength and obtaining spiritual guidance. For the most part, our fasting was focused on the denial of meals and using that time to get into communion and prayer with our heavenly father.
What if in addition to fasting meals and drinks, we also fasted the constant distraction of social media? Social media has a way of disrupting our quiet spaces and creating busyness in our minds which takes away from our quiet time with God.
For young people, social media can be a real threat to their mental and emotional wellness. In recent years, the rate of depression has increased drastically particularly in young people. This can be anecdotally attributed to the increase and prevalence of social media. Social media can form a basis of comparison with others who seem to have better material possessions and leading much better lifestyles than ourselves. This can hinder a young person’s view of themselves in relation to the outside world. Young impressionable minds compare the number of followers they have in relation to their peers and this can be a source of bullying and rejection in the “new age” popularity contests that are now growing in our schools.
The accessibility of social medial also means that young people can be influenced easily and be exposed to a range of images and soundbites. Recently, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO at Facebook, announced the development of a “Metaverse” which will be a cyber world where people will be encouraged to live and enjoy their best lives. This may come with some benefits but will likely come with some psychological issues in society that will need to be managed. We therefore need to protect ourselves and our emotional health from the more sinister aspects of social media.
“Influencers” also play a big role in how we think about the world around us and how we consume products.
In the movie “The Joneses”, a seemingly perfect family move into an upmarket suburb in the guise of being a typical family when in fact, they are professional stealth marketers leading an extravagant lifestyle and owning products that they plan to advertise to their fellow neighbours. This leads to untold envy and misery for the unsuspecting neighbours. Sometimes, reality is not that much stranger than fiction with the introduction of “influencer marketing” in social media where influencers are provided with free fashion and luxury products in order to “sell” them in their social media posts to their followers. Some of the lives on social media are too good to be true, but this is not always obvious to young impressionable minds.
It is hard to hear the still and quiet voice of the Holy Spirit in the hullaballoo and noise of social media. In the Bible, we can discern that it was in the quietness of the shepherding that David drew closer to God, and it was in the stillness of the wilderness that Moses learned more about God. We all need to have some peace and quiet in our lives in order to draw closer to God, to hear his voice and to be guided by him into our purpose. They also say boredom is an elixir of creativity. As we fast, let us also consider a social media fast to quiet the noise and listen to our creator.