1. I'll generally use the term Facebook rather than social media as that's what I mostly have in mind although these principals will generally be applicable to most social media sites.
2. I'm not anti-Facebook, I have an account and use it.
3. Most, if not all, of my thoughts have been borrowed or stolen. Where I can I'll give links to articles and recommend the books that have influenced me.
4. I'll probably overstate problems rather than understate them, partly to try to redress the balance of our lack of thought on this issue and because I'm a lazy writer and find nuance difficult.
Shiny Happy(?) Facebook People
Does Facebook make you happier? Odd question I know but think about it for a second and answer that question honestly.
The truth for many people is that, far from making us happier, Facebook actually makes us less happy. Instead of leaving the site feeling better about ourselves and other human beings, it has been found that it provokes feelings of jealousy and inferiority in users. A German study
, after studying 584 users, concluded that following Facebook "exacerbates envy feelings, which decrease life satisfaction". This phenomenon is known as 'Facebook Envy
It works like this; we have a moment in our lives when we aren't doing much, we're idle, maybe even bored. So we fill our time by checking out Facebook and scrolling through our news feed. We see people with great news, doing exciting things, being hilarious and receiving lots of attention. The result of this is that we feel worse because we aren't doing any of these things or receiving the attention. Our lives seem small and boring in comparison.
Make Connections Not Comparisons
Of course this tendency says more about us as humans than about any website. As human beings we have been put on earth to connect with God and with one another in a way that loves and serves. In this way Facebook has great potential, it can help us connect with each other and help us build each other up.
However, since the Fall we have been trying to promote self and make ourselves into gods who are served (remember the serpent told Eve that they could 'be like God'). So we misuse Facebook, instead of seeing it as a tool to help us serve one another we want to use it to build ourselves up. We want to be as popular and as well thought of as possible. When we see others doing this better than us, which is inevitable, we feel bad about ourselves and resent others.
Is Facebook making you miserable? Hopefully not, but maybe, beneath the surface it is having an incremental effect on your heart that you haven't noticed. There are certain people on there who always make you feel crummy about yourself because they always appear so annoyingly perfect. We'll think later about how to respond to this but for now remind yourself of the purpose of Facebook, social media and indeed all of our relationships, digital or face to face. It is there to help us connect with one another; to love and build them up, not to be your own self-publicist. Life is about loving Jesus and others not about lifting up you.
(If you want to read something on this check out the very short -48 small pages- and very readable book by Tim Chester Will You Be My Facebook Friend)