Are You Afraid of This Question?
Ask it anyway.
My greatest concern about our collective relationship with the social internet is not some scary threat out there.
While I am concerned about how we give up vast troves of private data in the name of personal expression…and that billion dollar companies are wholly dedicated to using our lust for attention to turn a profit…and that governments use social internet tools to oppress their citizens, none of those concerns are the chief concern I have when it comes to how I think about our relationship with the social internet.
My primary concern with regard to how we relate to the social internet is how our unintentional use of it is shaping our hearts and minds without us even really realizing it.
What I mean to say is that I am more concerned about how our understanding of self is shaped by taking 12 selfies to find the perfect one for Instagram than I am about how Instagram is using our location data. I am more concerned about how our lust for conflict in neighborhood Facebook groups or local news comment sections is making us more angry, hateful people than I am about how Facebook may use those posts to sell us lawnmowers or shoes.
I am concerned about all of the above, but I am most concerned about the internal, malformative effects of social media on our hearts and minds than I am about external threats posed to us by the companies who own the social internet and the governments who may compel them to act in certain ways.
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Because I am most concerned with how we are shaped by our relationship with social media, I think it is important that we do our best to have an intentional relationship with it. By that I mean we should do all that we can to limit mindless scrolling and constantly flipping from app to app looking for the next nugget of dopamine. We should go into using social media with a purpose or at least some boundaries and limits for our use. I will devote an entire post next week to some steps we can use to use social media intentionally. But for now, I want us to consider asking ourselves this one question.
Ask This Question…Even if It Scares You
First, identify the two or three or four social media platforms you use the most. For me, I would consider Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube. Maybe for you it’s Instagram and Facebook. Whatever they are, identify the social media platforms where you spend the most time.
Then, ask this question:
“What do I hope [social media platform] does for me?”
Or, asked another way:
“What is my goal when I open [social media platform]?”
So for me, I would ask, “What do I hope Twitter does for me?” Or, “What is my goal when I open TikTok?”
This question may seem silly or scary to you. I get it. We generally aren’t very reflective or thoughtful when it comes to how we engage social media. But I think we should be.
And let’s be clear, how we answer the questions above isn’t even of major concern to me. There isn’t anything wrong with simply wanting to be entertained by TikTok or informed by Twitter.1 But when we take the intentional step of asking the question, we may reveal something deep within our hearts that helps us recognize unhealthy motives, goals, or hopes at the heart of our social media use.
More next week on how we can practically have an intentional relationship with social media.
Of course our desires to be entertained by TikTok or informed by Twitter can become a problem if we become totally enslaved to entertainment or led astray by false information. But the desires themselves aren’t inherently wrong, I don’t think.