It felt like a game of “one of these things is not like the other.” Teenage girls and 40- something moms of adolescent girls mingled and found seats beside other mother-daughter duos. I, a 30-something mom of 4 and 7 year old boys, made my way to a “not like the others” loner chair in the back of the room. Though clearly not a member of the target audience, I attended the talk, “Re-orienting our Teens to the Truth Social Media Distorts” as a cheerleader for my dear and gifted friend, Kristen Hatton. She opened with the following exercise:
“Please stand if any of the following statements apply to you,”
- I have posted a picture, or seen pictures posted, that I know portrayed a false reality.
- I have struggled with feeling left out or have experienced other negative emotions from a social media post.
- I have found myself comparing how I measure up to my friends on social media.
As I stood with nearly every person in the room, I thought,
Hmmm…perhaps one of these things is just like the others after all.
Three things struck me as Kristen talked:
- Social Media is not the problem. Oh, there is most definitely a problem, but it’s deeper, bigger, and trickier than Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. We hear the cultural lies—that beauty, wealth, talent, and social status will bring us worth and satisfaction. Satan nods his head and smiles his crooked smile, convincing us in the most personal ways that if we can just get those things, our lives will work! We will be free! And if that’s not enough, our own sinful hearts buy into it—if we attain all of this, we will finally feel restful! The three-headed monster of the world, the flesh, and the devil is what we’re up against, people! Social media has it’s own, powerful way of stoking the fire, but ultimately, it’s just another way that broken people interact with a broken world. The enemy we are fighting is the same one we’ve been up against since the beginning of time.
- Hey Momma, surprise! You can’t control everything. While this is not a parenting revelation, like a ninja, it sneaks into every arena of motherhood and somehow surprises me all over again. Often the messages we hear as Christian parents in regard to social media go something like this:
Never let them have a phone with Internet capability!
You must monitor absolutely all activity on their phone/computer at all times!
You should never let them have a device alone in their rooms!
NONE of these things are bad and in fact, can be wise advice depending on the age, personality, and tendencies of our own children. However, when presented with the tone that social media is the ultimate problem, we miss the larger picture and the bigger, more important opportunity as parents. As Kristen pointed out, in our natural desire to protect our children from the falleness and pain of this world, are we teaching and equipping them how to walk through it and fight it? Are we thinking of them as future adults who are, in a few short years, going to leave our homes? (Pass the Kleenex.)
- Train your brain…and your child’s too! As Christians, we are called “to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” As we place ourselves under God’s word and authority, our minds are changed. The Spirit helps us discern what is “good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2) and the things of God become desirable and satisfying. That’s what I want for my own life—to increasingly experience my true worth, satisfaction, and delight in the Father. When it comes to social media, this means I must identify the other places I look to find affirmation, fulfillment, and lasting joy. Kristen offered some good places to start: Is it in the perfectly decorated house? The trendiest clothes? Being seen with the “right” people? Having a certain body type? Going on fancy trips? Family outings where everyone is getting along? Friends, are we training our children to think the same way? Because we know there is a common enemy, are we teaching them to identify the cheap and fleeting ways they seek approval, value, and happiness? Are we demonstrating how God’s truth preaches to our forgetful hearts that settle for less? Are we showing them how God’s goodness brings lasting comfort, peace, and freedom to our own lives?
I came to this talk to cheer on my friend, but I received infinitely more. My fear about social media lost some of its power. I was reminded of the real problem and the real remedy: sin is enticing, evil prowls, and my heart wants to concede…
His power is greater and my true worth and identity are found in Him alone. He longs for us and for our children to know this.
So to moms like me on the “few years away from the realities of parenting social media” train, I challenge us not to fan the flames of fear that creep into our lives as we observe what’s going on around us. Let’s examine our own hearts and our own Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat accounts. Let’s practice identifying the lies we believe and replacing them with truth. Let’s help our children pin-point these patterns in their own lives long before they have access to social media. Because while we don’t know what the technological trends will be once our little people are “of age,” we do know that the real battle will still be against the age-old enemy. Let’s arm ourselves…and become Facebook friends.