How is social media influencing you?

How is social media influencing you?

Have you heard the phrase “you are what you eat”? There is a lot of truth to it. Your food intake has a massive influence on your health and wellbeing. If you only eat junk food, it will impact you in many ways. Likewise, if you eat good and nourishing food regularly, you will be healthier as a result.

This principle doesn’t only apply to your physical food; what you allow into your mind will also influence you, for better or worse. This is not some new idea either; the apostle Paul said this to the first century church in Philippi:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phil. 4:8 ESV)

What you think about matters. In context, Paul has been writing about the Lord being at hand, encouraging his readers to pray instead of being anxious. That is certainly worthy of considering often! Yet the principle can be applied more widely than this as well. It is worthwhile to meditate on God’s law, as Psalm 1 encourages, or on the world God made, as Psalm 8 encourages. It builds us up to reflect on the things God has done for us and the many good gifts we have from His hand.

The flipside of this is that there are things that are not worth thinking about and mulling over in our minds. All of us know this to be true. While this can be applied in many different ways, I want to spend a few moments considering the influence social media has over us. At various times in my life, I have been tempted to spend far too long on social media, mindlessly scrolling through videos to pass the time or having updates from distant acquaintances I don’t care all that much about. I am sure I am not alone in this! When in that kind of mindless scrolling mode, I am allowing all kinds of things to influence me without thinking about it very much.

For example, I might be influenced by the opinions of social media “influencers”, being presented with more and more of their videos if I happened to watch one of them. I might be encouraged to have a short attention span, losing the capacity to concentrate on worthwhile things (like good books) because I get bored if a video isn’t interesting in the first 5 seconds. I might rate everything on its entertainment value instead of on its merits.

Social media is so often like junk food for our brains. It gives us a hit but does damage at the same time. It means we are not thinking of things that are honourable and worthy of praise. Yes, there are good uses of social media, to be sure; but each person should be thoughtful about its use and not just give it pride of place in our mental space.

Don’t be too quick to grab the phone and mindlessly scroll. Consider who is influencing you. It would be a tragedy if we only value immediate entertainment over anything of greater substance.