There’s a lot of talk about Social Media out there. Some people love it. Some people hate it. Some people can’t live without it. Some people think it’s the downfall of human civilization as we know it. Whether you’re pro- or no, like anything else in this world, it has consequences. There is always a cause and effect.
I for one think it’s a good tool. It’s great for communicating. It’s great for keeping in touch with others. It’s great for organizing events and supporting others. The list goes on. Amidst the good that can come, have you ever taken the time to take a step back and thought about the side affects? Think about it…hours and hours are spent scrolling, looking, and watching these little/big screens. There is an endless tidal wave of information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no break or holidays. If something major happens half way around the world, we are notified within minutes, if not seconds! These devices are pocket-sized and therefore go EVERYWHERE. You’d be hard pressed to go some where and not see someone looking at a screen.
Because of all this information, all this knowledge of what’s going on everywhere else…I know I can easily get overwhelmed, anxious, and straight up exhausted. Stephen Altrogge wrote a great article on social media and feeling tired and drained from it all. For me, I can easily feel overwhelmed because I’m striving for this perfect “Instagram-worthy” life/image or weighed down by tragedies happening all over the world. Before long I lose site of the here and now and inadvertently put a higher priority on looking ahead or keeping up with so and so or trying to meet a need elsewhere rather than meeting a need right where I am. This is not a campaign to be anti-social media. Again, it can be a great tool! It’s a call to take a step back and look at how much time you’re on social media. Are you anxious and tired for seemingly no reason? Should you take a break or at least set limits for how much time you spend on it per day? Take a second and read this article and prayerfully consider how social media is affecting you and being present where you are, where He has placed you.
Social media makes me really tired.
Yes, it makes me physically tired when I stay up too late watching stupid videos of elderly people riding scooters and then taking wicked spills (I clearly have a terrible sense of humor). There’s plenty of that nonsense and hilarity filling the corners of social media. I like my share of memes.
But it also makes me emotionally tired. Drained. Wrung out. Like butter scraped over too much bread. Like I’ve read the obituary section for people who haven’t yet died.
I scroll through my feed and read about people’s lives. Their broken-down, tear-stained, fractured lives. Cancer diagnoses and flooded houses and political angst and racism. News of police brutality and retaliatory strikes. Fundraising campaigns for people in dire situations, and plenty of others who just want to vent.
It’s like eating a big bowl of depression soup. By the time I log off, I feel like I’ve watched the world’s worst movie—a tragedy interspersed with random, non-sequitur moments of comedy.
But why specifically does social media leave me so dried up? Because of callings, burdens, and borders.
1. Stretched Beyond My Calling
Let me make an incredibly obvious statement that tends to get lost on social media: your calling is not my calling.
I’m called to be with a particular people in a particular place at a particular time. I’m called to my family. My church. My immediate circle of relationships. I’m not called to go everywhere, be everything, and fix everything. I’m not God. I can only be present in one place.
Now let me bare my soul a little bit: Sometimes I get jealous of your calling, and sometimes I confuse your calling with my calling.
As I scroll through my newsfeed, I see you doing big, exciting things for God. Perhaps it’s missions. Perhaps it’s writing a book. Maybe you’re leading an amazing Bible study. Maybe your church has some crazy-cool new program.
Meanwhile, I’m at home doing small, seemingly unimportant things. Taking kids to school and going to work and going to church. Nothing big. Nothing that’s going to get lots of likes and retweets.
It’s kind of depressing.
I get jealous. I want your calling. I want to do those fun, amazing, big, fast things. I want to do cool stuff for God. Quiet is boring. Mundane seems lame. I feel pathetic and purposeless.
Social media stretches me beyond my calling. It makes we want people and places and things that God has called you to, not me. I find these words of John Calvin to be helpful:
Each individual has his own living assigned to him by the Lord as a sort of sentry post so that he may not heedlessly wander about throughout life.
Your calling isn’t my calling, and if I try to take what’s yours, I’ll wander heedlessly through life. I’ll leave the places of good, fruitful, productive work God has staked out for me, and wander into wastelands instead.
If I’m not careful, social media will stretch me far beyond the borders of my calling. And when I go beyond the borders, I forsake the pleasant pastures God has led me into.
2. Burdened Beyond My Strength
Social media also has a way of crushing me with burdens I was never meant to carry.
Scripture clearly calls me to bear the burdens of other believers (Gal. 6:2). Implicit in this command is the assumption that I’m bearing burdens of those in my local church. The command is location-specific.
I’m not God. I can barely carry my own burdens, let alone those of my fellow church members. To add any more than that simply staggers me. Why? Because I’m not God! I’m not supposed to carry most people’s burdens. Attempting to do so will crush me.
And yet when I scroll through social media, I’m confronted with burden after crushing burden. An earthquake kills thousands; supplies are desperately needed. Someone I vaguely know is in dire financial straits; she’s appealing for financial help. A missionary I’m randomly Facebook friends with is summoning support; he’s set up a GoFundMe campaign.
I’m not dismissing these problems and concerns in the least. They’re real. They’re serious. And they need to be met.
But I’m not called to be the universal burden-bearer. That’s God’s job. Only he has the strength to do that.
But God has connected me to a particular people in a particular place. He’s called to be present for those who are literally close to me. Yes, there will be exceptions to this rule; but for the most part, he wants me to direct my energies toward a single location and leave the rest to him.
Social media has a way of piling burdens on me that God never wanted me to bear in the first place. This, in turn, drains me of energy that could be used to serve those around me. In the end, I’m exhausted and ineffective.
3. Pulled Beyond My Borders
There are some things I love about social media. I’m not suggesting it’s evil or that it shouldn’t be used. But it has this weird way of granting me the illusion of God-like omniscience without the reality of God-like omnipotence.
In other words, it makes me aware of so much more than I’m able to do.
Again, the result can be a crippling weariness. The only solution, it seems to me, is to look down less and around more. To spend less time on my phone and more time observing what’s happening in my immediate vicinity.
If you know me, you know how silly this sounds. I’m on my phone a lot. But I’m realizing that it makes me depressed and tired.
It turns out I’m carrying the weight of the world in my pocket.
This article first appeared at The Blazing Center.