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Social Media and the Digital Age
Trends in social media continue to increasingly impact society across age groups. Issues with suicide, bullying and threats should not go ignored.
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September 2, 2017 - Audio, 17.25 MIN
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On August 31st Forbes announced “Five Current Trends In Social Media That Will Only Get Bigger” stating that, “Social media is one of the biggest industries in the modern world. Due to their constant updates, social media platforms continue to grow in popularity, showing no sign of slowing down. Social media is no longer limited to younger generations, but has now become popular across all age demographics and is an essential marketing tool.”

Other top headlines that popup under social media this week are common themes, for example:

  • Social media rises to the challenge of Hurricane Harvey
  • Two student suicides in two days, both following social media posts, leave Littleton community seeking answers
  • 3 things tweens, teens should do when they see bullying, threats on social media
  • New High-Tech Fabric Can Share Your Social Media Posts

In a changing digital world that rejects God’s existence, how conscience of God are we in our social lives and what if anything should we do about the issues and trends we see in the headlines especially relating to social media? The world has changed dramatically over the last twenty years with the explosion of the Internet and then social media.

The pace of digital change is only accelerating as we enter “the fourth industrial revolution.” IoT, the Internet of Things, is exploding, connecting everything from cars to light bulbs to the Internet. 3D bioprinting of tissues and organs is under trial.

In other ways today’s digitalization trend, advanced by humanistic ideology and the availability of information and entertainment like the world has never seen, is increasingly distracting us from the things of God and challenging our faith. Academics are suggesting that many of the world’s problems can be solved through such achievements. We do not believe this to be true.

It is God who will solve the world’s problems as outlined in His divine plan. Despite the advancements that may be made, there are some things that only God will be able to change:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Rev. 21:4.

It is true that much is changing, but our God and the guidebook He has given us will not:

“For I am the LORD, I change not…” Mal. 3:6.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Jam. 1:17.

How should we respond to these changes? First, we need to learn to turn everything off so that we can stop and meditate on the things of God as David did, and centuries after him as “the great shepherd” our Lord Jesus also did. The Bible gives us timeless principles to live by which can help us overcome the challenges we face in our digital world.

Do we fear God and remember Him in all that we think and do? As failing sin prone creatures we struggle with this under the most favourable conditions and so we must turn to the Scriptures for encouragement and guidance. By having the Christ mind and the fear of God, we can overcome the pressures of the world and sin.

Our Environment

We may find that our environment contains influences or distractions which are getting in the way of developing God consciousness. It may be necessary to change our environment in some way. Deuteronomy 7:26 indicates this can become a life and death issue:

“…you shall not bring an abominable thing into your house and become devoted to destruction like it. You shall utterly detest and abhor it, for it is devoted to destruction.” ESV

What do we bring into our lives that we would be better off without? As far as the Internet is concerned, do we think about the fact that the Lord knows what content is displayed on the screens in our homes? Things he is coming to eradicate from the earth perhaps? We do not need to overcome what we can simply get rid of!

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Rom. 13:14.

If we do not have Internet filtering installed we should do so to protect not only ourselves, but also anyone else in our homes. Filtering is available for mobile devices as well. Refer to the article on Overcoming in the Digital Age in the July 2017 issue of The Bible Magazine for the full commentary on this subject.

Social Media

He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.” Prov. 13:20.

It is hard to think of a better application of this proverb than to social media. Although technology like social media can be a wonderful tool to keep in touch with family and friends, it can also result in bullying and isolation. Issues which have been experienced by young people include: isolation, peer pressure, anxiety, depression, sense of unworthiness, and low self-esteem. Social media is also used as a tool to meet new friends or reconnect with old friends. There is a particular danger in meeting people online as we will be aware from crime news stories. We must be aware of what our children are doing online and who they are communicating with.

Teens, as well as many adults I’m sure, appear to be addicted to “being liked.” Who wouldn’t want to have their posts liked? As an aside, we also need to think carefully about what we like and who we follow! For example, we should think about what it will say about us before liking posts which are promoting off colour or sensual messages or ideas which may compromise our Biblical position as followers of Christ.

Teens also experience “emotional fallout of feeling less-than in comparison” to pretty or popular peers. There is also a danger from echo chambers, a “sub-group of social media sites where you can be validated and negatively encouraged with eating disorders, self-harm behaviors and suicidal ideation.” Social media is also known to be used as bait for porn (for example, Twitter) and may be a component of online gaming.

In an article titled “Why Social Media is Not Smart for Middle School Kids,” and I would say kids in general, seven helpful suggestions are given for parents under a sub-heading How Can Kids Slow Down? (abbreviated):[i]

    We need to ensure our kids are safe and cannot simply hope for the best.

    1. Delay access – develop personal authentic relationships first.
    2. Follow their accounts. Social media privacy is a lie: Nothing is private in the digital world, and so it should not be private to parents.
    3. Create family accounts instead of individual teen accounts.
    4. Allow social media only on large screens – the more secret the access, the more potential for bad choices.
    5. Keep a sharp eye on the clock; they will not.
    6. Plan face-to-face time with their friends – help them learn how to plan real, in-person, social get-togethers.
    7. Spend more real non-tech time together – your child needs to feel like they can come home and leave the drama of their social world behind for a few hours.

    What may surprise some, is that even Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, did not allow his kids access to smartphones until they turned 14. “Apple co-founder Steve Jobs… had a similar approach. Asked if his children liked the original iPad shortly after its launch, Mr Jobs said, ‘They haven't used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.’”[ii] If this is the world’s wisdom on the matter, what about those of us who should be applying Biblical wisdom?

    Scripture also gives us guidance relevant to social media:

    Exo. 23:1-2,7 – we must not circulate a false report or follow a crowd to do evil; keep yourself far from a false matter.
    Matt. 6:1 (RSV) – “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
    Jam. 3:5-6,8 – “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”
    2Cor. 6:14 – “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”

    How can we protect ourselves and our families?

    Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5.

    The following practical pointers are recommended for consideration:

    • As parents we cannot afford to hope for the best, trusting the “old man”, even ourselves. We must be proactive and take action.
    • If a problem already exists, especially with signs of addiction, we must curtail access as appropriate (“if your eye offends you…”).
    • Install a WiFi device with blocking / parental controls (ex: Netgear Nighthawk). Not to do so, is very unwise regardless of family ages.
    • Put blockers on iPads, iPods… use Apple’s “family” settings or similar to block adult content on devices and web browsers where possible.
    • Permit use by children under full supervision.
    • Shut off Internet access / WiFi at bedtime until morning.
    • Do not allow electronic devices in bedrooms or other unsupervised places.
    • Put passwords on all computers, phones, etc.
    • Set the expectation you will be checking the Internet history at any time and make sure you do (WiFi logs can also be checked).

    A new mode of thinking is required to enable us to overcome these challenges. Our actions are the result of a process: first mental (from reading God’s word), then moral, and finally physical. This means we must overcome our natural mode of thinking, characterized by the old man:

    “…that ye put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, which waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.” Eph 4:22-24.

    Instead we must develop the new man, a new mode of thinking, the mind of Christ:

    “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 2:1-5.

    If we overcome the old man and develop the new man, our love of God will grow and we will then have the strength to serve our God and to overcome the challenges we face:

     If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2Tim. 2:21-22.

    In Proverbs 8 we read that:

    “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.” Verse 13.

    “The fear of the LORD is to…” The fear of God should therefore move us to action, to change to be more God like and to remove evil from our home environment. If we know we need to change, but do not seem to have the will to do so, the solution may be simple. The secret source is the word of God! We must give our ear to the quiet hearing of God’s word as often as possible. The question is whether we are prepared to make this a priority, or whether we will be like the rich man who knew what he needed to do, but was unwilling to make the sacrifice for his eternal good:

    “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” Matt. 19:22.

    We pray the Father will show us mercy and strengthen us to overcome in these last days, for “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” (Rev. 3:5).

    So keep watching for the Bible in the News, so that together we can overcome the challenges that we face. This has been Daniel Billington joining you this week.

    [i] Victoria L. Dunckley M.D., “Why Social Media is Not Smart for Middle School Kids,” Psychology Today, March 26, 2017.

    [ii] Aatif Sulleyman, “Bill Gates Limits His Children’s Use of Technology,”Independent, April 21, 2017.

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