Every number of years, usually when your closet or drawers are overflowing, you realize that you need to clean out your closet. It is generally easy to start – you can quickly identify the pairs of clothes you have not been wearing anymore because they don’t fit or you do not like them anymore. However, sometimes you may have to take a step back and reevaluate what you still should be wearing. Perhaps there has been a recent sermon on dressing decently that has touched your conscience. When you stop to review your clothes with a critical mind, you may pick other clothes that need to go. You may not have realized how much your wardrobe has changed in the last number of years, but now when you step back with a different perspective, you might realize that one shirt might have inappropriate writing on it, another might be too tight, or a skirt might be too short.
With how much technology and software have changed in the last ten years regarding our cell phones, we must take a similar step back to evaluate what is on our phones and how we are using them. From the very beginning, our church leaders understood the dangers of television, but now instead of flipping through channels on our TV, we are scrolling through different apps on our phones.
Identifying items on someone else’s phone that should be removed might be easy, but reviewing your phone will be more difficult because you have grown into how you use it. As an adult, you can look at some apps on teenagers’ phones and quickly critique them. You can look over their shoulder or look at reviews for apps such as TikTok and Snapchat and identify them as problem apps that should be removed. However, what do you do when some of the components on those apps are also on your favourite apps, like Facebook or Instagram?
Instead of identifying a list of good and bad apps, we need to learn to evaluate them based on their merits and risk. When television was banned in our churches, it was not because there was nothing good on it. It could be that many people got a TV to watch the news, which in itself is not wrong. From there, many people could have discovered useful cooking or business shows that they could consider educational. However, the availability of inappropriate material was too accessible, so the appropriate use did not justify television’s downside. None of you will argue that our cell phones have much more potential for inappropriate material and wasting of time than the TV ever had.
Therefore, when reviewing apps, the first review should be the risks it poses. These risks can include wasting time or using inappropriate material. Both these risks are generally found in apps that contain video sections or “reels” that continuously play short videos from influencers or other non-friends. Almost all popular social media apps, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok, use some type of Explore feature that contains pictures and videos that are not linked to what you follow. These videos have numerous problems. The first is that most of them are not created by people you follow and often contain inappropriate language, dress and other content. The second reason is that all these social media platforms are designed with algorithms to get you to spend as much time on the platform as possible. Therefore, they will follow up videos that you watch with similar videos that you may be interested in. Almost anyone who has used these apps will admit that they waste too much time on them. On top of these risks is the entire subject of social media and the damage that constant connectivity does to individuals’ mental health.
The other item that should be reviewed is the necessity of a specific app. You might say Facebook is necessary to keep up with family members that have moved away. Or you might use Facebook or Instagram to promote your business. If you are a bit younger, you may say that you use Snapchat to communicate with your friends because it has features that make communication much easier than regular messaging apps. In this review, you must consider that all apps are trying to compete with each other for your time. Therefore, many will have valuable components, but all of them will add addictive features to get you to use them more.
Knowing the risks and the usefulness can bring you to a difficult decision. Is the risk of inappropriate content justified because of the usefulness of an app? Do you say that you can control yourself to just use the app for what you need it for and avoid spending time in the other sections of the app? If so, do you trust your children to do the same? And if you justify the usefulness of Facebook even though it has an unfiltered “Watch” section, can you explain why your children cannot use Snapchat?
The answer to these questions can be complicated, but if we compare it to the TV example, perhaps the best solution is to make the issue black and white and delete all of these apps from your phone. You may not have even realized what happened in the last few years, but some apps have been normalized. And along with the increased use of these social media apps, our exposure to worldly dress, attitudes and language has also been normalized, impacting our entire lives. When we have all of these apps on our phones, we are not just bombarded with temptations and influences from the world when we go to the mall, but we are carrying around the world and its influences in our pockets! For example, when you watch a training video from a fitness instructor wearing skin-tight leggings on Instagram, it may cause adultery for one person and for the next, it may normalize indecent dress. Unfortunately, normalization happens without us even realizing it. Because we have become so accustomed to the world’s customs, we may not even realize how much they have influenced us.
If you say that you really need a specific social media platform for business or communicating with a family member, it is time to look for alternatives. If Facebook is required for a business, you can log in on your filtered, public computer to manage your account during work hours, but is there really a need to have it on your phone? If you need another social media app to stay in contact with distant relatives, can you not contact them to find alternatives? Your relationship will likely improve if you take the time for individual communication rather than occasionally liking a picture on social media.
As a parent, are you concerned that if you do not let your children use the apps they have been using, they will get a second device to use them secretly? This is a possibility as we are rebellious by nature. However, do you want the rules in your house made by what has become social norms among young people, or can we start to change those norms so that we align more closely to what we have been instructed out of the Bible? It is essential to have conversations with your children to explain the dangers.
This pressure will only get worse as young people today have been exposed to more and more technology. Now is the time to reevaluate where we stand. Are we okay with getting caught up in social media and further evolving technology? Or is it time to make a stand and consciously remove some of these influences from our lives? In 2 Corinthians 6:17, it says, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.” If we allow the world to influence us by what we look at on our phones every day, are we really separate if we are not actually different from the world?