In countless youth group settings, I’ve reiterated the truth that this generation of young people are facing challenges unheard of just a few years ago. They’ve never known a world without social media or smart phones. Swiping, scrolling, tapping, and snapping aren’t activities mastered through muscle memory, it’s part of their DNA. My parents had no concept of a “social media fast” or the allure of vacationing with no cell phone service. To them it was just a vacation. It was just life. I don’t mean to turn this into a “back in my day” sort of rant regarding social media and the ills that follow its use and abuse. I’m only 27, after all, which in many of your minds makes me a Millennial. But I’ve also been called, on more than one occasion, an “old soul.” I’ve experienced an ache deep within me regarding my online persona, so to speak — what that even means and what that’s going to look like in the future. I’ve grown up right along with social media. As platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have gotten older, so have I — and so, too, have my affiliation with each.
I’ve admitted before to deleting the apps for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, along with several others, off my phone. In full disclosure, I’ve relapsed into having Twitter on there — but what I’ve found isn’t so much that the app’s mere presence was a corrupting one, as much as my philosophy behind using it in the first place. The distortion of Twitter isn’t Twitter itself so much as it is the folks who use it and what they use it for. (You can say this about any platform really, but Twitter seems to bear the brunt of the social media scathings.)
The world of social media is brimming with self-promoters and competitors using online platforms for silly agendas and sordid means, each vying for time and fame and fortune. We’re inundated with images and blogs that fuel our lust to measure up. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And social media is a fundamentally comparative realm. “It’s comparison on steroids,” writes singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson. It’s hard not to see vacation photos from friends and not fall into one of the wells of judging or jealousy.
“Social media asks more of me than I’m able to give,” continues Peterson. I concur and add, “That’s why I’m giving it less.” Less of my heart. Less of my time. Less of my life. And by no means does this mean that I’ve become a “social media sage” who’s now going to guide you in the ways of navigating the minefield of tweets and posts and snaps in the name of the Holy Spirit. As Peterson likewise admits, I’m “wrestling the giant.” I’m battling my heart just like you are. I’m in the trenches alongside you. I relapse into old habits just like you do. I struggle with being present and in the moment. I spar with myself to put my phone down and see the world unfiltered. But that’s what I’m striving for. And that’s why I’m so incredibly thankful for God’s grace.
The gloriously good news of Jesus for me is that even as I try and fail and try again at battling the social media giant, I’m given the assurance that he’s still for me. His promised rest is perpetually proffered to me. (Mt 11:28–30) The crimson red pardon of Golgotha’s cross is that regardless of how much I feel I don’t measure up, Christ is faultless for me. Grace and grace alone stills our souls in the silence of Jesus’s passion and death. The Sabbath rest of the gospel is physical and spiritual stillness in the guarantee of Jesus’s accomplishment consigned to us by his blood. Perfection given. Righteousness finished.
This is the news that quiets my racing mind and satisfies my hungry soul. This is the forbearance of my Heavenly Father that’s there for me when I’m finally able to stop and consider, “Great is his faithfulness for me!” His unfailing love is always there for me, even if I’m not. This is the ceaseless mercy that greets me as I wake up and slavishly check my phone. This is the grace that slays giants and embraces me even when I’ve resurrected them again. This is my God, faithful and true and there for me.
Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! I say, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in him.” (Lam 3:22–24)