*Originally written on June 7th, 2016
Imagine a family seated around a meal table looking at nothing but their tablets. Imagine a group of silent young children slouched down, completely still except for their fingers, which are swiping frantically across a small colorful screen.
The children of a decade ago used to actively build forts out of pillows, cars out of cardboard boxes, and superman capes out of towels.
We live in a world of screens. Everywhere we look, we see screens, screens, and more screens. Without a doubt, technology has undergone revolutions in the past few years. Are these radical developments in technology and the emergence of social media beneficial or harmful to us?
Looking on the bright side, social media gives us instant connection, allowing us to stay up to date with the news and our friends. The internet also blesses us with online learning and educational programs, of which I am a product of. Media allows the quick broadcasting of information and ideas to a wide audience. When diseases like SARS or Ebola broke out, people were able to immediately take precautions, and the use of media saved lives! This whole ministry, Changing Lives Ministry-TPS Chapel, is able to touch the lives of people around the world through the internet.
On the other hand, social media and technology may become distractions and lead to idleness and unproductivity. Have you ever been scrolling innocently through Facebook out of boredom, and suddenly notice that an hour has passed by?
Consciously or unconsciously, we become addicted to the superficial sense of importance and value our likes and followers give us. We put forth a façade, a false ideal picture of ourselves so people will like us. Fangirling (or fanboying? J) is a rapidly growing phenomenon. We stalk celebrities and imagine the rush of pleasure fame would give us. We become addicted to the pleasure we get by winning a video game. We enjoy attaining instant gratification.
With a lack of accountability, people of all ages say things online they wouldn’t say in person. Without guidance, some young people open themselves up to cyber-bullying, pornography, unhealthy sites, or strangers who lure them to elope.
Let me clarify: social media is NOT evil! Social media is simply a medium, which is an agency or means of doing something. So is social media and technology good or bad? The answer is neither! It depends on how you use it. A few years ago, a simple, creative anti-smoking video was made in Thailand. While cameras secretly filmed in the background, children pretended to smoke and approached smoking adults along the streets for a light. Strangely, those same adults who smoked scolded the kids, telling them the serious harms of smoking….and realized their hypocrisy. Every one of those adults threw away his or her cigarette after the encounter with those children. And that very video has reached millions of people. Many lives have been impacted through a simple online post or video.
We have the power to turn the tables around and use technology as it should be used—as a tool to be used for good.
Ecclesiastes 5:16 says that we must redeem the time for the days are evil. What does that mean? Time is the currency of life, and one way we can serve God with all our hearts is to use it wisely. Ultimately, this is really a heart issue. Someone can spend only 10 minutes on social media a week and have his priorities misplaced. Has technology and social media become an idol for you? You don’t have to spend tons of time online for that to happen.
So what can we do about it?
Don’t be secretive. Talking to your parents about the details of your internet or tech time may seem crazy! But understand that asking for advice helps us develop wisdom and prevent mistakes we will regret.
Communicate with a purpose. Use social media to reach out and make a difference.
Change your perspective. Strive for connection, not attention. Don’t have a “look at me!” mentality, which does not only mean posting selfies.
Take note of how much time you spend on the internet, watching TV, or playing video games. Intentionally put away screens and talk more with family and friends. It might not be easy at first, but it is worth it!
The world is much bigger than a screen! It is not hard for social media and technology to become idols. Purpose to use your time in a God-honoring way and think of other fun projects you can do. Encourage others to do that, too, if you see them wasting their time. Use your time to create memories, develop your hobbies, try out new things, or do small projects. Never underestimate the amount of impact you can have on others for Christ!
Seeing God Change Lives,
Eliza Tan (19) is a staff writer at TPS Chapel and is a sophomore at Asbury University.