It seems every relevant conversation today somehow comes back to social media.
We know we must be vigilant in its use. We know the beginnings of its effects on our generation. Do we know the Lord’s heart on the matter?
While professional secular research is of great importance when it comes to understanding the effects of social media, the value of Scripture as it guides believers to the Lord’s heart on this matter cannot be overstated. The Bible is clear that worshiping the Lord is the believer’s truest and highest calling.
In Romans 12:1-2, Paul pleads with the early Christians of the Roman church to reject worldly worship and pursue the will of God. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters,” he says, “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Of course, social media was not a topic discussed amongst Christian circles of that time. Yet, the idea that something of this world may draw God’s people away from him has been around since Adam and Eve tasted the fruit. Believers have been inventing idols since the start of time.
In reflecting on Romans 12, sophomore Christian ministry major Olivia Greene emphasized how important it is that believers in the digital age operate from a transformed mind.
“We’re called to a higher lifestyle than nonbelievers,” she says.
How, then, should the believer engage with social media? One answer may be found in reflecting upon the intersection of worship and presence.
Lucy Kidwell, in her article for America magazine, quotes Christian philosopher Simone Weil saying, “Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer.” Kidwell comments, “Indeed, we can only love something insofar as we direct our pure, generous attention toward it — be that to God, to a neighbor or to ourselves. And in a world that so hungrily demands it, we should examine where we spend this finite resource. One such place rests in our very pockets.”
Matthew 22:36-39 calls the believer to love God with everything they have — heart, mind, and soul. Therefore, worshiping the Lord looks like trusting him — not with a multitasking, half-hearted, divided attention, but with the presence of our entire being in devoted, wholehearted worship.
As Taylor students, we’ve experienced the gift of true presence — at a table surrounded by our closest friends, everyone laughing; during worship at chapel; a sunset walk around the loop; maybe even circled around a spike ball net.
Yet, our phones have often thwarted our practice of presence. Rather than giving someone our full attention when they are talking, we utter distracted “uh huh’s” and keep our eyes glued to the screen. Instead of taking in our surroundings, we subscribe to the endless, mindless scroll.
Just like we value being present with those we love, the Lord delights when we draw near to him.
Does it take throwing our phones away to be fully present?
Matthew 5:29 is blunt: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.” It may be essential to purge ourselves of the habits — or devices, in this case — that pull us away from him.
“We can worship the Lord in both the way we use social media as a tool of encouragement…and also in the ways we steward social media by not allowing it to replace more important investments of time and energy,” says Edward Meadors, professor of biblical studies. “Taking inventory of our usage and pruning off unproductive and harmful usages is also a form of worship.”
One important investment we can pursue is learning how to offer our full selves to the Lord. God is not asking for our phones. He’s asking for us.
Psalm 1 invites Christ followers to pursue deeper intimacy with their creator. How can we be present with him? Meditation, the Psalmist argues. Verses 1-3 say, “Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers.”
Carie King, associate professor of English, shares how she gauges when it’s time to tune back into the Word. “If I am spending more time on social media than in scripture and prayer, my source of Truth is off balance,” she says.
We’ve forgotten how to be still, silent and alone — all of which are biblical practices involved with meditation. Psalm 4:4-6 says, “Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.”
If we meditate on the Word, dwell in prayer and practice being present, we can rewire our souls to find fulfillment in the Lord rather than whatever is on our phones and in our feeds, which somehow beckon us to come back again and again while leaving us empty each time.
Meditation is a whispering to our souls: he is better.