Facebook (FB) has revolutionized lives. Countless lives. Well, to be exact, over a billion people belong to FB and 500 million engage daily.
Yet, for all the positive engagement, it hasn’t changed all of life for the better.
Consider the findings of this University of Michigan study*. It confirmed that use of Facebook can be linked to negative shifts in subjective well-being**. “We were able to show on a moment-to-moment basis throughout the day how people’s mood fluctuated depending on their Facebook usage,” said University of Michigan social psychologist Ethan Kross, lead author of the study. These results held true despite a number of variants such as gender, how many FB friends they had, motivation for using FB, and how supportive (or unsupportive) they considered their friends network. “None of the factors that we assessed influenced the results. The more you used Facebook, the more your mood dropped.” Facebook appears to be ripe territory for jealousy, social tension, isolation, and depression. In all honesty, do we need statistics or researches to tell us something we already know?
If this weren’t enough, each of us faces the tinge of guilt due to lost time. Our use of FB is often comparable to the watching of a Keanu Reeves film – two hours of questionable entertainment value that we can never get back. Am I right? Time on Facebook doesn’t need to be lost. It can be redeemed for good.
Our use of Facebook, and our corresponding mood, can be changed for the better. How?
Make your viewing of Facebook God-centered and other-centered.
This approach is not easy. I’ve been utilizing it. I had been accustomed to quickly scrolling through my feed. But scrolling in order to be God- and other-centered slows me down. I prefer to scroll for my own entertainment. This new type of scrolling is for someone else’s encouragement. I have typically scrolled out of personal interest. This approach scrolls out of prayerful interest.
Consider the following examples.
1. Wedding pictures. Instead of wishing you were married or stewing about the state of your own marriage, thank God for this new marriage. Ask God to bind them together so that their marriage lasts when so many fail. Solicit God to make this couple one which beautifully reflects the relationship Christ has with his church.
2. Baby pictures. Rather than letting this depress you, praise God for this new act of creation. Every single life is amazing. Pray that this child would grow to be like John the Baptist – receiving God at a young age, paving the way for others to meet Christ, and maturing as an adult which holds Christ as greater than themself.
3. Other significant life events that you are not experiencing. This could include graduation, taking a big trip, landing that first job, buying a house, finishing that remodel, or running a marathon. Celebrate with them. The Bible says “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” Our unwillingness to rejoice with others in the midst of their joy reveals the self-centeredness that exists in our hearts.
4. Selfies. The tough part of online reality is that newer social media apps could make this problem worse. Instagram, which is built primarily on picture sharing, is being speculated as an even greater enemy against our subjective well-being. Perhaps we can extend grace to one another recognizing there is always a difference between the picture and the reality, the profile and the person.
5. Vaguebooking. This is the posting of an intentionally vague status update in order to prompt FB friends to respond. Examples are “I’m so angry right now. Arggh!” Or “Wondering if it’s all worth it.” Though we might disagree with their approach, we are a people called to care for those in need. So, instead of publicly asking what’s going on, could you be one who cares enough to reach out through a personal message?
6. Bible verses and inspirational quotes. It’s easy to internally slam them because you would have chosen a better verse (Admit it. We’ve all done that.) or silently ridicule them because you’d never share that trite inspirational quote. Instead, we can ask God to continue to use that in their lives to carry them forward. And, to whatever degree, God may want to use it in our own lives, that we’d stay receptive to it.
We can change our use of Facebook and corresponding mood! We can give rather than just receive. We can provide encouragement rather than just seek entertainment. We can pray for others rather than just compare ourselves to others.
I believe that this approach will revolutionize our experience with Facebook.
What do you think? Share your comments below!
*Citation: Kross E, Verduyn P, Demiralp E, Park J, Lee DS, et al. (2013) Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults. PLoS ONE 8(8): e69841. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069841
**The study lists two components of subjective well-being: how people feel moment-to-moment and how satisfied they are with their lives.