Social media has revolutionised our world in incredible ways since the first social media website sixdegrees.com in 1997. It enables us to connect with people instantly in amazing ways. However, social media has also brought various challenges to many people, especially for 18 to 30-year-olds. According to the study done by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, people between the ages of 18 and 30 years in Kenya struggle deeply with mental health. Science has proven that the increasing and uncontrolled time spent on social media can be either a contributor or cause of depression and despair. In addition, the pressure from social media stressing this age group seems to go upwards constantly because of the perceived financial stability, relationship status, and general fun their peers have.
In contrast, they seem to be stagnating in life. As a result, they feel like failures, not accomplishing anything with their life even though they may have degrees. In short social media seems to be correlated with mental health issues such as depression and despair. So how does social media lead to adverse mental health, and how can we overcome social media pressure?
1. Social media reduces face to face interaction
Today, it is a common sight to go to people’s homes, yet it is silent. People are there, but everyone in the house is glued to their phones. Most likely, they are on social media, neglecting to talk and bond with each other, which is an antidote to depression. God created and ordained families to be our safe places in all aspects of our lives, including mental health (Luke 11:12, Joshua 2:13). So, when you are at home, give your family time and enjoy the company of one another as you do things together like playing board games. If we do not provide for our family members’ needs (and we might also consider emotional needs in this), we are worse than non-believers (1 Timothy 5:8).
2. Social media causes someone to feel isolated
Social isolation is when an individual lacks a sense of social belonging, authentic engagement with others, and fulfilling relationships. God created us to be social beings. Socialisation is the brainchild of social media, yet we have seen social media isolating us more than bringing us together over time. God made us to belong and be part of a community (Romans 12:5). In these communities, we serve and get served (Hebrews 6:10). We encourage each other and hold the hand of the weak amongst us (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Galatians 6:2). Unfortunately, social media doesn’t provide such opportunities for us because of the lack of physical connections.
Today, people have many “friends” whom they’ve never physically met. They have lost of interactions virtually, yet they are lonely and sad. This is because the young want to substitute God’s order for a community to a virtual community. We are stronger together. That’s why God made Adam and Eve for his companionship and gave them the ability to multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 2:18; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
3. Social Media and Self-esteem
People tend to display the most positive aspects of their lives on social media. Individuals frequently compare their lives to the carefully constructed optimistic lives of friends displayed on social media. Frankly, there is always someone out there better than you. However, a lot of times, what is rooted in our despair that is fueled by comparing ourselves to the perfect days and lives displayed is coveting (Mark 7:21-23).
Therefore, we should find our worth in something or someone who will never lie or change his opinion about us (Numbers 23:19), who loves us unconditionally. God is the one who created us (Psalms 139:13-14). Therefore, we should not seek others’ opinions or have confidence in our abilities, looks or anything about ourselves, but in God who is forever for us and with us (Hebrews 10:35-36). Doing so will reduce our evil desire of coveting (Ephesians 5:5).
4. Social media leads to less healthy activity
Young people do less to zero healthy activities while spending time on social media. As a result, they do not do things that generate a sense of accomplishment, like learning new skills and developing talents. If you’re spending a lot of time on your phone, you have less time for activities that can build confidence, a sense of achievement and connectedness.
God wants us to be hardworking and diligent in the good works that he prepared beforehand for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). It is sinful not to work and expect to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Get yourself out there and do something constructive. You can even do some workout for it is beneficial to the body (1 Timothy 4:8). Learn a new language, get some skill like painting, woodwork or farming. Develop the habit to work with your hands (Proverbs 12:24); God created us to work (Genesis 2:15).
5. Social media disrupts concentration and causes sleep deprivation and depression
Social media capitalises on and encourages the low concentration span that most of us have. They have created their videos to last 30 seconds or less, and as such, we feel that it’s not a big deal to watch one more. Before you know it, you’ve been up much longer than you desire. At the same time, blue light from screens interferes with falling asleep and checking social media is usually not a relaxing or sleep-inducing activity.
If you can’t concentrate on a task long enough or have lots to do without achieving or completing anything, you will always feel like a failure. If you have concentration problems and are not sleeping enough, you should consider cutting down your use of social media. Rest is important for the body, and God gives sleep to those he loves (Psalms 127:2). Uncontrolled use of social media deprives you of Gods gift of rest.
Cyberbullying is a form of harassment done through social media. In April 2020, the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) ranked Kenyans as “the worst bullies on Twitter”. When you are a subject of bullying, you surely will be in distress, leading to depression. However, try as much as you can to live in harmony with one another so long as it depends on you (Romans 12:18). This would mean that you should not bully others, especially on the internet. As long as it is in your ability, keep off anything that may lead you to be a subject of cyberbullying, and that might mean cutting down on your time on social media.
Use Your Phone in a Smart Way
Social media is not bad entirely. It is something that we can leverage for improving our interaction. Technology is an extension of ourselves. Like the plough, which is an extension of our arms, phones, computers, and tablets are extensions of our mouths, ears and eyes. We should use them responsibly. Look at your smartphone habits. Tony Reinke, the author of “Twelve ways your phone is changing you“, says, “self-criticism in this area requires a hefty dose of humility and accountability”. I pray that God will help you use smartphones wisely.