In 2020, the average person spent two hours and 3 minutes each day on social media. By 2022, that usage was up to two hours and 29 minutes.
Although there are some potential positive outcomes from social media use, like staying connected to friends and family that are geographically separated from you, expressing your creativity, and finding others with similar interests, the overall effects of social media usage are negative. Various studies have linked social media use with mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual unhealthiness. In a 2020 survey, 63% of social media users and 69% of non-users said that social media has a mostly negative effect on their lives.
These statistics beg the question: Why is our usage of social media increasing year-over-year when we view its overall impact on our lives as negative?
The underlying answer to this question is science. Social media companies use science to get you engaged and keep you engaged because your time is their money. The more time you spend on their platform, the more ad revenue they can garner. It is in their best interest (not yours) that you keep coming back. Therefore, they leverage the knowledge of human behavior to get you to click on their app icon every time you pick up your device. They also use your user data to tailor their approach to you specifically. This is called an algorithm, and the algorithm knows you better than you know yourself.
Have you ever opened your device to complete a specific task like sending an email or adding a date to your calendar but instead clicked on a social media app icon because there was a notification badge yelling for your attention? Before you know it, you have spent several minutes scrolling through and have now forgotten why you opened your phone in the first place. That is the power of the algorithm. It enslaves you.
The algorithm is like a god in our lives. It controls and guides us. We find ourselves filling idle moments with it—reaching for it as if it could give us life when it is nothing more than a dry well. The algorithm depends on our being on autopilot. The way to break free from the algorithm is to be intentional about how we spend our time.
Let's look at some other statistics. The Center of Bible Engagement conducted an extensive research project, polling 40,000 people ages 8 to 80. They stumbled upon a fantastic finding they weren't even looking for. They found that those who engaged with scripture one or two times per week experienced no differences in their lives over those who didn't engage with scripture at all. Those who engaged three times per week experienced a small and negligible difference. However, the impact experienced by those who engaged scripture four or more times per week was tremendous. The researchers found that this group of individuals reported:
--Feeling lonely drops 30%
--Anger issues drop 32%
--Bitterness in relationships drops by 40%
--Alcoholism drops 57%
--Sex outside of marriage drops 68%
--Feeling spiritually stagnant drops 60%
--Viewing pornography drops 61%
--Sharing your faith jumps 200%
--Discipling others jumps 230%
WOW! Who doesn't want to see these kinds of results in their life? If I gave you a choice between feeling more lonely, anxious, depressed, angry, discontent and having a lower sense of self-worth versus feeling less lonely, less angry, less bitter, more peace and joy, and having a greater sense of self-worth and life satisfaction, which would you choose? Of course, you would choose the latter. To realize these benefits, we must make intentional changes in our lives because the algorithm is invested in keeping us enslaved and will not relinquish its prey easily.
Let's build a better strategy to avoid social media's negative impacts and experience the positive effects of engaging with scripture.
A Better Strategy
The first thing we have to do is short-circuit the scheme of the god of the algorithm. Social media companies provide an easy and frictionless way for you to engage on their platforms. They know that the more steps you are required to take, the less likely you are to use their platform, so we can use this knowledge in reverse.
Delete the social media apps from your phone
Most social media apps can be viewed through an internet browser, but it takes more intentionality to get there. Also, most social media platforms are less frictionless in their web browser state than in their apps. This takes some of the power from the algorithm and puts it back with you. Without an app, there are no notification badges screaming at you. It also takes a couple more clicks to get there, giving you more opportunity to short-circuit the mindless nature of clicking and making it more thoughtful and intentional.
Set aside a specific time to check your social media
The god of the algorithm wants us to turn to it every free moment we get, but we want to win back our free moments to use in a more healthy way. Therefore, we want to choose when we engage with social media and set a limit to the amount of time we will spend.
Be intentional about engaging with God and Scripture
Now that we have reclaimed some free time, let's look at creating frictionless ways to engage with God and scripture. Let's replace our social media apps with two apps to help us live unleashed.
The Bible App
There are several good bible apps available on the various app stores. The most popular one is the Bible app from Youversion. This app allows you to read the Bible from 2,863 versions in 1,868 languages. It also offers over 800 Bible reading plans and devotionals. The app provides features like highlighting, note-taking, and a prayer journal. Suppose we begin to fill our free moments with the various offers of scripture and devotional reading/listening from the Bible app. In that case, we will be on our way to experiencing the positive life changes the researchers discovered.
Tap into the Kindle App (or your favorite e-book reader)
We can also deepen our engagement with God and scripture by conversing with Christian authors as we read their works. The Kindle store offers thousands upon thousands of selections to choose from and is easily accessed through the Kindle app on your phone or tablet and dedicated Kindle readers. Many authors who have written multiple works have some devotional available that offers snippets of their writings for short, devotional reads. These work well to fill in those moments that used to get consumed by social media and give us something positive to meditate upon.
Rearrange Your Phone’s Home Screen
Once you have these apps installed, move them to a prominent place on your phone’s Home Screen so that using them is as frictionless as possible. Take a few minutes in each app to decide and set up what you will be reading so that once you open the app their are no decisions to make because more decisions add friction.
In part two of this article, I will offer you a curated list of books to read in the Kindle app as well as some Bible and devotional plans in the Bible app.
You might want to check out my post entitled How To Get A Great Start To Day to continue our journey together.
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