I was talking with a friend the other day who just got Snapchat. She is older than me by a number of years, and we were talking about the purpose of this avenue of social media. She shared about a few snaps that she had received and how she was surprised to see the things that people shared on their snap stories. We talked about social media and how it affects our lives and the way that we live.
Prior to this conversation, I had been thinking a lot about social media. As someone that grew up with the beginnings of social media, AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) and Myspace, I've seen my fair share of social media over the past decade. Specifically, I've seen the vanity of hours spent using a medium that will fade with a few years time. I will never get back the hours spent creating and coding the perfect Myspace page, a page that doesn't exist today. Those hours spent now feel meaningless.
I've seen the vanity of writing Facebook statuses to appear witty or smart, only for them to be hidden in the depths of time, new statuses, posts, and shares.
I've seen the vanity of time spent taking a perfect photograph to share on Instagram only for the photo to be eclipsed by newer content.
I've witnessed the vanity of sharing a few photos from my day on Snapchat that fade faster than grass in the summer sun. I've had Snapchat streaks with friends only for a trip away with my family to end weeks of streaks.
I've experienced the disappointment that comes after hours of scrolling only to feel like I've wasted precious hours of my life on meaningless and trivial content.
So if I keep seeing the vanity and meaninglessness of social media, why am I still lured into posting and sharing and commenting and liking?
If I'm honest, social media makes a lot of promises to us. It tells us that when we post or share, we're seen and we're known. It rewards us for posting and sharing and liking. It tells us that it will make our lives better, that it will connect us to more people, that we'll be able to stay in touch with friends. But if we're honest, it often leaves us feeling lonely, less than, and left out. Not only does it make a lot of promises to us, but we also expect a lot from it.
Now, social media can be used for good and for God's glory. It can be used to connect us with old friends or new friends. It can be used to inspire, encourage, and allow us to love others. All of these are good uses for social media, but we should be mindful of the ways that social media leads to chasing after the wind.
I'm cut to the heart every time I read the book of Ecclesiastes as King Solomon lists the things in life that are meaningless and vain. He lays out everything: wealth, riches, wisdom, trying to create something new, and more. This is a man that has it all, and he says that it's all meaningless and vanity when it comes to the grand scheme of our lives.
Reading and being reminded about the vanity of life in Ecclesiastes made me think of the vanity of social media:
"All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after."
Ecclesiastes 1: 8-11
"The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing." How true is this every time we scroll through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or check Snapchat?
If social media is vanity, why do we still use it? I keep asking myself this question. If I know that it is not going to satisfy me, make me feel lonely or sad, or feel like I'm not living up to a specific standard for my life, or even that I'm not honoring God with my time when I use it, why do I still use it? I think it's because I believe the lie that things are going to change, that it will satisfy me and make me happy. But friends, only one thing will satisfy us and fill us with joy, and that's union with Jesus Christ.
We expect a lot from social media and it cannot live up to those expectations. It cannot give us abundant life or a meaningful life. But Jesus can. Jesus even says in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."
What would it look like if we stopped looking to social media to give us an abundant and meaningful life and instead looked to Jesus? What would it look like if we stopped ourselves when we mindlessly scroll and instead look to Jesus or spend time in the Word? What would it look like if we took time away from social media and instead focused on the relationships around us? I bet it would look like abundant life.
Only Jesus offers abundant life and makes good on his promise.
My prayer is that this truth would affect the way that we use social media. I pray that we would look to Jesus for abundant life and see the meaninglessness of hours spent on social media, and that we would instead use it as a tool to love God more and to love others as a result.
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