20 November 2013

When Social Media Disconnects You

With close friends in several different countries, I've made this a cliche: "I miss you! But at least we have Facebook!"

I can't imagine what life abroad would be like without the quick and clear connections back to loved ones. I think of missionaries way-back-when who said goodbye to their homelands and family members, never expecting to see them again. Now, if I want to see my parents, I only need to check the time difference to make sure they are awake. It's a blessing! The connection keeps us informed of those close to our hearts but far from our hands. Virtual hugs are far better than no hugs at all.

Mika's grandparents watch her build her first gingerbread house.

The Internet can also surround us with familiarity. When a new culture presses in on every side, igniting shock in all five senses (especially smell!), a convenient click can send us back to the land we left--photos, blogs, and YouTube videos transport us from the odd to the comfortable and can make our wild, running-around hearts sit down and rest.

Then there is the support. People know us. We can be ourselves. They speak our language (both literally and figuratively). In these ways, we can use social media as a blessing as we live far removed from our definition of normal.

But as with everything earthbound, the danger seeps through first with excess then with addiction. Newsfeeds and emails can build up our hearts into perseverance or they can tug them low into hopelessness. How?

This world through computers can suck us in, distract us from our duties as wives and mothers, and isolate us from the culture around us.

Instead of connecting with people face-to-face, we can hibernate in a bedroom and unplug from unfamiliarity.

Instead of exploring the beauty and excitement of a foreign country, we can mourn the loss of old traditions and pout about missing Grandma's pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving (making sure everyone sampling that sweetness knows we are jealous of them).

Instead of creating a haven for our families, we can scroll through photos of larger houses and Walmart shelves stocked with food we know--then sulk in homesickness, giving the message to our children that life's quality is based on where instead of Who.

Instead of connecting, we can actually disconnect.

May we always remember, wherever we are, that Jesus said, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:4-5).

Our situation is irrelevant to this promise. To bear the fruit of Christ-likeness, we must abide in Him. To know joy and peace and contentment, we must turn to our Lord, not to the comforts of social media.

Self-control. Perspective. Do we have both of these when donning our online profiles? Who is leading the dance when the computer's hmmmm starts singing our souls to a different, faraway place? Do you feel lost or found when scrolling through the life highlights of friends? And most importantly, is your security set in Christ--who has not only traveled with you but also preceded you as the omnipresent Son of Man--or is your heart's happiness set in what should, could, but will not be?

Please share! What are some ways you can discipline yourself to use social media wisely?

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