When I posed a question the other day about possibly leaving social media, I got a response that shocked me. People said it was risky—dangerous even. They told me I shouldn’t leave or change my social media strategy for fear of missing out.
It’s strange how fast we assimilated social media into the very DNA of our relationships. When at one time we questioned how we could live with it, we now question how we could live without it.
To some degree, this is troubling because many of us know the many disadvantages to living our lives on social media, and yet, we’re too afraid to cut the chord. We’ve grown too attached to the reality of social media.
After much discussing, I decided not to leave social media (namely, Facebook). But the whole discussion on the matter led me to truly analyze the pros and cons of social media.
I discovered that not many people even want to look at the disadvantages of social media because they know they can’t live without it. But maybe it’s time to face the dangers we’re unwilling to look at, because that’s the only way we can make our experience online a healthy one.
This list below is not my attempt to convince you away from social media. It’s my attempt to level the playing field and help you realize there are just as many dangers to relying on social media as there are to leaving it.
Here are just a few dangers involved with social media:
We’ve always wanted to be accepted. Social media has just exacerbated this desire in the form of likes and retweets. Seeking validation online is a danger because it has us relinquish our power to affirm ourselves even more. We now look for even more external measurements to our worth.
When we seek validation, we attempt to define who we are online, not have online complement who we are. Let’s cut all the validation at the roots and get back to being our true selves.
When we see other’s accomplishments, how many of us envy them? How many of us compare instead of connect? Like validation, we’ve always done this with our peers. But with social media’s ability to edit our image, we now do this even more. It’s time for us to stop comparing ourselves to others and place the power back in our own hands to judge our worth.
I often get bitter that one person liked another status and not mine, or that one person shared a moment with another friend and not me. This is ultimately a heart problem on my part. But how many of you also grow bitter from what you see on social media? Maybe the best cure is to step back from the platform that only fosters a bitter heart.
4. Caring About the Wrong Things
I used to care more about real, tangible things—like my relationships with others. Now I find that being watered down with cares about a virtual world—how my image looks on social media or how many “likes” my Instagram photo got. Give priority to what happens in the real and visible present, not what occurs in a virtual world.
Before, I used to really take the time to digest content. I would read longer paragraphs online and thoroughly enjoy it. But now, I only read lists online. The clutter and barrage of noise has led me to only consume bullet point information. This way, I could read everything given to me.
The reality is, however, you filter what’s noise from what’s essential, and you only consume the beneficial essential. This unfortunately becomes increasingly difficult with social media sharing everything.
6. Convenient Friendships
We don’t have much risk with our relationships today. It is now hard to call someone on the phone because that involves giving something of ourselves. Instead of risking, it’s easier to glance at someone’s profile to learn about his or her world. Unfortunately, this makes a relationship convenient and easy, when the best foundation for a long lasting relationship is one that’s willing to risk.
7. Wasting Time
Time is valuable, which means we shouldn’t waste it with people, interactions and advertisements that offer no return for our attention. Social media forces us to waste time with these sort of things. It’s better to invest our valuable time in something that gives the world—and us—more value.
On social media, we are in a world within a world. It’s easy to shut ourselves off from interaction because we believe our interaction online is enough. It’s easy to not see people all day, but rather see them online.
Distance yourself from this tendency to isolate. Allow social media to push you in the world even further, not away from it.
It is just as equal of a danger to stay on social media than it is to leave. What this means is we are free to choose. We are free to pick which set of problems we want. We can decide how we want to improve our online experience. And most of all, we can choose which measures will help us honor God and live more like His Son in this world. The choice is yours.
An earlier version of this article appeared in February 2015.