Pastor J.D. talks about how social media shapes us—whether we like it or not—and how we can participate in it in healthy ways.

A glimpse inside this episode:

Myth: the medium of communication is neutral, only content matters

Truth: Medium shapes the message and also you

  • E.g. Brand Luther: the printing press forced writers to write on more common levels and shorter
  • Blogs have made it even shorter; Twitter shorter still!


Our social media shapes our days in dangerous ways:

  • Tony Reinke in Twelve Ways Your Phone is Changing You: the average person checks their phone 81,500 times each year, or once every 4.3 minutes of our waking lives, twice in this podcast)
  • Email every 5 minutes in the midst of whatever else they are doing. The problem is that it takes an average of 64 seconds to resume the previous task after you finish (which means that because of email alone, we typically waste 1 out of every 6 minutes in ‘transition’ back to the previous task!)
  • Dis-traction: French word meaning “pulled apart” (drawn and quartered)
  • I know of one Christian counselor who says that distraction destroys more relationships than just about anything else today. Distraction, he says, makes intimacy impossible, because, you see, in order for someone to feel intimate with you—be that a spouse, a child, or a good friend—they have to believe (1) that you consider them a priority in your life; (2) you have plenty of unrushed time available for them; (3) you are giving them your undivided attention. Busyness and distraction make those three things impossible.

Nothing ruins my day faster (in good mood with kids, open up Twitter, and they can tell I’m on edge even if I don’t say anything).

Accomplishes little: Everyone running the same direction getting the earth spinning again

Those are the negatives. On the positive: To disengage is to intentionally mute our witness.

  • I saw Al Mohler say something about this years ago. He, as much as anyone, bemoans the ways that Twitter is not a format for nuanced and deep thought. But he also admitted, “There are people who won’t hear what we’re saying unless we say it in these formats. And I want people to hear this message.”

Some practical steps:

  • Set a limit for the time you spend on social media.
    • Our phones, thankfully, now have the capacity to track and limit the amount of time we spend on various apps.
      • I found this out after I turned on my “screen time” app on my iPhone. I thought, “I have pretty good habits here. This will confirm that.” And after a couple days, when I looked at the numbers, I realized I wasn’t doing as well as I had thought.
      • Honestly, do you want to be spending 45 minutes a day on Facebook? Is that an investment of time you feel good about when you lay your head on your pillow at night? Probably not. So have your phone set a limit. You don’t have the discipline to do this by yourself. That’s fine. Neither do I. Use technology to save you from technology.
  • Don’t use it as a crutch. John Piper wrote a great little article that asks why we are so drawn to turn to technology first thing in the morning and at the first sign of a lull. He gives 6 reasons.
  1. Novelty Candy. We have (FOMO). We’re afraid that our friends are going to know something we don’t know. (Sociologists have classified a condition where you experience a legitimate anxiety of being too separated from your phone—it is called “nomophobia.” Not kidding. Without Jesus your FOMO will lead to nomophobia. But with Jesus you’ll have NoMoFoMo.)
  2. Ego Candy (We want to know what people are saying about us, so we get on social media looking for likes and positive comments!)
  3. Entertainment Candy (We want to feed on what is fascinating, weird, strange, wonderful, or shocking.) – Oh look, this woman in Oregon has an Alpaca that can do Calculus.
  4. Boredom Avoidance (We want to put off the day ahead, especially when it looks routine to us.)
  5. Responsibility Avoidance (We want to put off the responsibilities God has given us as fathers, mothers, bosses, employees, students.)
  6. Hardship Avoidance (We want to put off dealing with relationship conflicts or the pain, disease, and disabilities in our bodies.)

Diversify: don’t get in an echo chamber.

  • Unfollow people who consistently make you envious.
    • Yes, you should diversify your social media feed. But if you’re consistently taking in things that are toxic for your soul, that’s a problem.
      • The deeper problem is your heart. But there’s also a lot of wisdom in just keeping yourself out of tempting situations.
      • Like Martin Luther said, “If your head is made of butter, stay away from the fireplace.”
  • Personal for me: Try to remember that people on social media are people, too.
    • People get nasty on social media—nastier than in real life, because the person they’re attacking seems just like an idea on a screen.
    • I used to criticize people in public eye until I got to know a few: I may still be critical, but I do so remembering I am talking about (and to) a real person.
    • Christians have a responsibility and an opportunity to show the world a better way.
  • If there were ever a place to apply James 1: be “quick to listen and slow to speak,” this is it.
    • I’ve gotten in trouble through fast responses and virtue signaling.