Meanderings of a Minister


How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 7

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

So far, we have considered that our phones are encouraging us to become addicted to distraction, have encouraged us to ignore flesh and blood relationships that require effort and risk on our part, and that they have encouraged us to crave immediate approval.  We have also seen that our phones are changing us is that they are robbing us of literacy and causing us to feed on the produced images others want us to see as well as changing us to become what we spend time with online.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

Our phones are also changing us in a way that many did not see coming.  With social media, many of us are more connected than ever before.  We have hundreds or thousands of “friends” to whom we are connected constantly.  We can look at their pictures, read their status, play games with them online.  You would think that this would mean that people would never have a chance to feel disconnected or lonely, but actually it is quite the opposite.

Recent studies have shown that the average online user actually feels lonelier than those who are not as engaged online.  How can this be?  Related to earlier articles, one of the ways that people feel lonely is that we disconnect ourselves from what is going on around us for the sake of making sure we are connected to our phones and social media accounts.  We can be in a crowd of people, but mentally (and technologically), we are alone because it is just us and our phone.  Instead of feeling the presence of people around us, we are in a virtual world that is based upon our online activity.  If people have not liked the video we posted, the quote we posted, or the picture of our lasagna, we can feel alone, rejected, isolated, and frustrated.  We can feel as though no one in the world likes or loves us even though we are in a room full of people waiting for us to engage with them.

There is a flipside to this equation that is also troubling.  Not only can we feel alone in a crowd, but we can feel crowded when we are alone.  The human brain was wired to take in incredible amounts of information, but due to the fall in the Garden of Eden, our brains do not process and store that information as efficiently as they were originally designed to do.  This means that we need down time to rethink, reprocess, and restore images and information accumulated through our busy lives.  Combine that fact with the amount of information we take in each day compared to previous generations and we need time like no one else ever has in the past.  Sadly, we do not get this time because we cannot disconnect enough to do this critical process.

Many people use their phones as alarm clocks.  To do so, the average person leaves their sounds and notifications active throughout the night and their phone within reach.  What this means is that, even asleep, we are not able to process things like we should because our phones constantly beckon us from the deeper sleep cycle needed.

Once awake, many people go straight to their cell phone to turn off the alarm that woke them up.  While there, they check email, social media, etc.  The time needed to process and plan their day is short-circuited by whatever flickers across the pixels on their screen.  This is not an isolated incident and there are very few boundaries this does not cross.

Even as believers, we find ourselves truly desirous of a deep and meaningful prayer life and Bible Study routine, but we get in the middle of our prayer and our phone beeps and we put God on hold (pun intended) to find out that we could save 14% or more on car insurance.  We try to read our Bibles only to find that our phone beckons us to a friend’s latest rave about the local Chinese restaurant.

So, our phones are encouraging us to be alone in a crowd and crowded when we are alone.  It does not have to be this way.  With a little discipline, and recognizing the problem, we can combat this by turning off our ringers or phones when spending time with God, family, or crowds we need to get to know.  It sounds simple, but our prayer needs to be, “Lord, I don’t want to miss out on the life You have given me to live because I am so busy trying to create my own online.”

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Ten Commandments of Christian Social Media, Part II
April 11, 2016, 3:21 pm
Filed under: Articles, Book Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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Last week, we started looking at Craig Groeschel’s book, #struggles.  At the end of this book, Groeschel gives Ten Commandments for how Christians should use social media so that the usage matches their claim that Jesus is Lord of their lives.  The first five were as follows:

  1. Put God first in all you say and post.
  2. Love others as you want to be loved.
  3. Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.
  4. Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.
  5. Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.

Sixth, do not post out of emotion.  When you are emotional, this is not the time to address sensitive issues in real life.  What makes us think it would be any better online?  If you are mad, sad, way too glad, or some other emotion you may be feeling extremely high or low, this can be a dangerous time to post.  Much like the syrupy love letters you wrote in middle school, emotional posts can be an embarrassment later.  The difference is that they live on forever in cyberspace and you never know when they will come back to haunt you.

Seventh, always reflect Jesus, loving God whether online or off.  The hallmark of a believer in Jesus is that they ought to love God, Jesus’ Father.  They ought to love Him in the way He desires to be loved.  How is that?  1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God; that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”  So how do we love God?  By obeying God.  How has God told us to treat others?  With love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).  How has God told us to use our mouths?   Cleanly (Ephesians 5:3-5).  How has God told us reflect His character?  In truth (Colossians 3:9).  Make sure that the posts, texts, emails, pins, and anything else you do online reflect your obedience to those commands.

Eighth, do not use social media to fuel temptations.  Wait!  I know many people are automatically going to think of pornography when they read this statement, but temptations do often include pornography, even for believers.  Nearly one half of all website visits each year are for the purpose of pornography.  80% of Christian men responded to a survey from Focus on the Family indicating they had visited a pornographic website in the previous week.  But temptation does not only come from pornography.  For some, it is visiting amazon.com and shopping.  For others, it is zappos.com and shoes.  For some others, it is online gambling.  For still others, it is the temptation to be fake on social media to impress people and make people think you are better, richer, prettier, stronger, or more connected than real life.  Paul told Timothy, But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.”  (1 Timothy 6:11)

Ninth, form your own opinions and don’t just follow the crowd.  For many people, seeing the trends of online activity causes them to want to adopt the same thoughts, values, or opinions.  For instance, many people were doing the bucket challenge to raise awareness of ALS.  Soon, celebrities were posting their videos as well as just about everyone.  People donated a lot of money to the research for ALS until they realized some of the money was used to harvest embryos for stem cell research.  Another trend is the self-promotion that comes from selfies.  Should we always be shouting to people, “Look at me!”  Should we instead have the same attitude as John the Baptist, “He must increase.  I must decrease.”

Lastly, do not base your identity on what people think of you.  Many people can become joyful of depressed depending upon the number of people who “like” their pictures, repin their pictures, retweet their tweets, or mention them and their blog.  We need to be careful that we don’t make public acceptance the measure of our worth.  Some people spend their time worrying what people think of them until they realize how seldom others actually do.  Instead, why don’t we adopt the stand of David in Psalm 139:14, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.”

Let’s use social media, but let’s make sure it matches the rest of our lives in living for Jesus.

 



The Ten Commandments of Christian Social Media, Part I

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Craig Groeschel is the author of Lifechurch.tv.  This is a multi-campus church that reaches several thousand people each week.  Craig has written a new book, #struggles.  In this book, he asks the question if we are addicted to social media.  Are we more impacted by and committed to social media than we are to the One we call our Lord.  After eight chapters designed at helping us to see our problem, redirect our attention and refocus our lives, Groeschel listed the Ten Commandments of how a Christian should treat social media.  I found this list helpful and thought I would pass it along as a means of helping us to loosen the grip social media has on us, but also as a means of ensuring that our use of social media reflects the relationship with Christ we claim.

First, put God first in all you say and post.  It is too easy to use the distance of social media to embolden us to be ruder than we would be in person.  It can enable us to be careless or even to be deceptive in only showing others what we want them to see or to even try to fool them into thinking we are more than we really are.

Second, love others as you want to be loved.  What does this mean in social media?  Don’t be unnecessarily harsh, critical or demeaning on social media.  Just because you can respond to something does not mean you should.  There are some things we let go in real life, but feel we must say something on the web.  In addition, you should “like” people and things online as much as you wish others would like or repost your stuff online.

Third, we must use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.  It is much easier to sit behind your desk and comment on posts than to actually go have a conversation with someone.  It is much easier to send an instant message telling someone you are sorry for their loss than it is to actually go and visit them and hug them and look into their tear-reddened eyes and suffer with them.  Don’t allow virtual relationships to replace actual relationships.

Fourth, use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.  We must make sure that a good thing never becomes the ultimate thing.  If your cell phone is the last thing you check before you go to sleep, and the first thing you check in the morning when your eyes open, then you have a problem.  Social media has become an idol.  It is something that can control our moods, schedules, and even where we will travel.  This is the place of a master and Christians have said Jesus holds that place.

Fifth, turn your virtual cheek to posts that offend you.  Again, just because you can respond does not mean that you should.  When someone posts something against your favorite team, school, restaurant, or even your church or religion, you don’t have to respond.  I know this sounds like I am saying you should be ashamed of the Lord, but that is not the point at all.  When someone posts a blast like this, they are egging people on to engage in online warfare.  They are not interested in open debate and are not willing to consider anything other than their point of view, so engaging them is a lot like wrestling with a pig in the pigpen.  You both will get dirty, but they like it!  You don’t have to respond.

This is just the first half of the Ten Commandments of Christian Social media, but even just following these five would already eliminate much of the poor testimony of many Christians when using social media.  Just following these five brief instructions would take the teeth out of the criticisms of many online that Christians are hateful, uncaring, and hypocritical.  Look for the final five next week.