The following is an excerpt from Redeeming Technology by A. Trevor Sutton and Brian Smith MD. Social Media has become increasingly prevalent across age groups. Although it does bring some benefits in terms of connection, social media can also be a breeding ground for discontentment, pride, and distraction.
Consequences of Prideful Posting
Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and other social media platforms are often used as the highlight reel of people’s lives. The content is curated and cropped, filtered and fixed up. People rarely post about messy living rooms, mounting debts, or muddled relationships. These digital trophy cases of words and photos make everyone else’s life look really, really good. Digital timelines, walls, and pinboards are jammed with success stories, great accomplishments, new jobs, and five-minute miles. While our friends display their successes on social media, we are out there in the real world just trying to get a participation ribbon. No wonder we walk away from these places with our hearts full of envy.
Pride and envy are interwoven. Researchers have explored the relationship between envy and pride in digital spaces and found that self-promotion—pride, boasting, humblebragging—is a way that people try to deal with feelings of envy. According to the researchers, social media users employ an envy-coping strategy in which feelings of envy are offset by self-promotion and prideful boasting. It works in this way: an individual scrolls through social media posts, sees the successes of others, and becomes envious. As a way to manage these feelings of envy, this individual will share posts about his or her own successes and engage in prideful self-promotion. Others see these posts, become envious, and engage in similar behaviors. The researchers observing this phenomenon called it the “self-promotion-envy spiral.”
Humblebrags and Instagram-perfect pictures do not just randomly show up on your feeds. Rather, these prideful posts abound on the internet because of the sinful envy and pride within us all: “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:16). Digital technology powerfully plays upon the desires of the flesh and pride of life. The drive to worship becomes perverted, turning away from God and directed inward.
Technology as a Distraction
A distraction is something that prevents full attention from being given to something else. Technology can prevent us from giving our full, undivided attention to meaningful thoughts and activities. Technology can become a barrier to living with godly purpose. Being distracted is also defined as a state of agitation of the mind; a distracted mind is one that is not at peace. These days, a multitude of technological advancements scream for our attention, reducing the attention we can give to any one thing. When we end up attending to or doing more than one thing at a time, we are multitasking. Our brains are not built to focus on more than one thing at a time. Multitasking creates increased stress on our brains. This increased mental effort is called cognitive load, and multitasking overwhelms the system.
A multitasking brain completes tasks more slowly and with more errors. Lending equal importance to all tasks, even meaningless ones such as scrolling through Facebook, results in being off task at times for all tasks. Distractions are unhealthy in the long-term, such as diminished learning from constant inattention, and in the short-term, such as the deadly consequences of texting while driving.
Why do we multitask? Multitasking is an illusion. It makes us look and feel more productive. Eventually, after the tasks are completed, the individual mistakenly assumes that the tasks were completed because of multitasking. The opposite is true; the tasks were impeded because of multitasking. Are teenagers more capable of multitasking because they all do it all the time? No, even their young, modern brains are not capable of focusing on more than one task at a time. The more you multitask, the more distracted you are. Research has demonstrated that you do not get better at multitasking by doing it more. In our culture, there are many unhealthy behaviors that we mistakenly assume everyone is doing. You were not built for multitasking. These technological distractions are a product of humankind, not of God.
From Redeeming Technology: A Christian Approach to Healthy Digital Habits, pp. 79–81. Copyright © 2021. Published by Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Want to learn more about the roles of technology in the Christian life? Explore Redeeming Technology: A Christian Approach to Healthy Digital Habits.