By Joe Scola
The cell phone, iPad, Twitter, Facebook and all the rest of the sometimes motley crew of social media are devouring the free time of 21st-century Christians. Hearken back to the seemingly Paleolithic era before the advent of modern social networking innovations and new techno gadgets that cast an ever-increasing spider web of social high-tech connectivity. It seems that the often beguiled human race used to have more time on our hands (especially without a cell phone ensconced in hand) to ruminate, to turn things over in our minds, to quietly review the happenings of the day and reflect on the daily battle to fight the good fight.
The Bible commends us to be always redeeming the time (Ephesians 5:16, KJV). How many minutes slip away as Christians gossip on cell phones and other electronic devices in spare moments? When you consider the apostles and the times they lived in you cannot picture one of them texting a cousin in Jericho or “tweeting” from the crowded streets of Samaria. Christ Jesus himself often went aside to lonely places in order to pray. The apostles spent many hours aboard a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee without an iPhone. They possessed the time and opportunity to quiet their souls. The cacophony of modern life — this always advancing, pushing, pulsing, ultra-modern life — drives out the inner voice of the Holy Spirit and impedes believers from a deep communion with God.
Christians must carefully fence off part of their lives and create a peaceful space to exercise silence and reflection in the pursuit of holiness. Life these days is a flood of information. Sound bites fall like hail. Incoming messages are like an incessant pitter-patter of rain throughout each day. The senses are relentlessly bombarded. The mind becomes a receptacle for too much useless junk and becomes cluttered and clogged with buckets of useless data. The hodge-podge of sensory impressions accrued through each day needs to be washed away. The rooms of the mind are to be swept and put in order so that the Christian can achieve greater clarity in her line of communication with God. The spiritual road can be cleared of pointless obstructions; the Christian can avoid distracting detours and dodge getting bogged down in non-spiritual quagmires.
The overuse of social media has loaded an entirely extra and superannuated schedule onto the lives of individuals. As if the average person didn’t have enough to do each day, responding to social media has become in some cases a second job (or a third job for those who are struggling to keep their heads above water). If someone e-mails them, they feel bound to e-mail back. The computer is a time-eater. Before one knows it, an hour has vanished into thin air as the computer user fritters away time tapping on the keyboard and clicking on the mouse. To a great extent, the e-mails are not urgent or vital. They tend to be gossip and fluff flying to and fro, back and forth through cyberspace.
The work efficiency of employees has been seriously undermined by the magnetic attraction to social media. Employers are in a battle royal trying to stop non-business related cell phone and Internet use during business hours. Some employers have gone to the length of banning cell phones in the office. The subject came up on a call-in radio show when a business owner who employed a crew of laborers complained of having to constantly curb the cell phone use of his workers. Every time his back was turned, his men were chatting away on their cell phones with their girlfriends despite the fact that he gave them five breaks during the course of the workday. Following his remarks on the radio show, a wave of messages came in from unemployed men and women basically saying, “Fire those guys and hire me and you will not have to worry about me talking on my cell phone. I need a job!” With the level of unemployment facing America these days, it is quite foolish to risk losing employment because a worker cannot turn off his phone.
There are indeed positive aspects to the increased connectivity. Cell phones can facilitate a quicker response in time of emergency. The Internet can be used to spread the Gospel. Individuals from every corner of the globe interact despite being separated by a great gulf of space. But a balance needs to be maintained. The culture is already pointing in the wrong direction. The Christian must fight like the dickens to avoid setting up social media as idols. Social media has become a drug or a crutch that the Christian leans on, even more than on our Lord Jesus Christ, to get him or her through the day. Christians who have fallen too deeply into a morass of social networking must break the chains and bust the shackles that bind them. St. Peter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote that when we submit to anything it becomes our master. A Christian should live in union with the Holy Spirit and not in union with Twitter. There should be proportionality in our lives as Christians.
Stand up and resist the ongoing march and tyranny of the metal gods. We are required to be clean vessels, sharpened instruments and purified gold to be used by the Heavenly Master to spread his glory, love and redemption throughout the world. If we never lose sight of that, social media will be nothing more than a useful tool in our hands and not an electronic god corroding away our soul and separating us from our mission.
Joe Scola graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in art and now works as a professional artist, photographer and freelance writer in Michigan.