A Social Media Exorcism

Posted by Kyle on April 7, 2011

This thought train started with an article in one of my favorite magazines last year. Last January, Wired Magazine published a story about a young boy died in an unlicensed rehab camp to treat "Internet addiction," which is supposedly a huge problem being reported in China and other parts of Asia, but is not an officially recognized pathology here in the US. This wasn't an isolated report, though, and throughout the past year, I've noticed reports from news outlets around the interwebs picking up the story...like this one.

The little psychologist in me thought a study should be done to determine whether the US suffers from this phenomenon. I wasn't alone.

Enter my daily morning pleasure...Slasdot! Yesterday, they posted an article from Reuters about a study that demonstrates American students may be suffering from similar malidies.

In the study, students were deprived of every means of communication - TV, computer, tablet, phone, etc. - for 24 hours and, says the report, began to show phsycological symptoms of withdrawl.

My first reaction was the same as the reaction every person ever born has had to an article about a mental illness: "Holy Cow! I have that!"

Later though, I decided to test myself and left the phone at home while I went on a two and a half hour evening stroll with my dog. It was awesome, and I really didn't want to come back to my phone. Thank God I'm OK!

The I had a rare moment of clarity: that shouldn't ever be the end of our response to the suffering of others. It should be the beginning.

Before I go on, here's the Christian stance on addiction:

It's bad.

Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with everything that you are and everything you have, quoting Deuteronomy 6:5.

He also said no one can serve two masters. He was talking about money specifically, but the saying holds for anything else. In fact, Jesus said that if you try, you will end up hating one master or the other.

If a person opts to serve their addiction, they cannot love God with everything because they end up loving their addiction more, violating his commandment in Deuteronomy. When you do something God told you not to do, or if you don't do something God told you to do, it's called sin. Sin is really discouraged.

The cool thing about serving God, and the whole reason Christ died, is that the end goal is that we would know perfect freedom, even from addiction.

This in mind, I wondered what role social media has in ministry. You don't give an alcoholic beer, so how careful should we be about creating new social media opportunities for teens that might struggle with a dependency on the Internet and social media? How would you even identify whether your ministry's Facebook page or website are contributing to that? How can we move our interaction with the lost from the virtual to the personal when we do encounter them online? How ironic is it that I'm using the Internet to promote my thoughts about the Internet in ministry?

I don't have a lot of answers, but I do know this. A Facebook page is not a likely road to salvation and, in all my study of the Bible, no one was ever saved via a "tweet." I CAN tell you this: I will seek, in my own ministry, to always try to push communication as close to face-to-face as I can.

The reason for this is the same as it always should have been: they might need it. I think this "emerging trend" might just be like a new episode of a formula murder mystery TV show. The plot is the same, but where the detectives find the hooker is always different.

In this case, it's another way to fill the hole that God really fits best into, and Satan has made himself nice and cozy.

These are just my thoughts on a Thursday night. More questions than answers, I know, but I'd really like to here your thoughts, too. Leave a comment!

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