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Finding Rest in a Restless World

Psalm 23 offers something that we all need today.  It offers us rest and renewal in the midst of our busy lives.   In our always-on, always-available culture, we all want rest and renewal and we are all challenged to find both.  One of the reasons, we struggle to find rest is because our our unhealthy engagement with social media.  Social media is an all-of-us problem because it promises rest and fulfillment but never delivers.

As you live your life following Jesus, the Good Shepherd, consider these tips for living socially in a way that is best.

Be An Intentional Parent
The reach of social media is too great for Christian parents to plug their ears and hope it goes away. Martin says, “Social media is not a fad. It’s not going away. And it’s arguably the most pervasive discipleship force in the world right now.”  We must disciple our kids so that they know how to live in a social world where they are shaped by Jesus, not by algorithms.

Intentional parents allow age-appropriate online engagement.  Recently, Matthew McConaughey captured headlines when he allowed his 15-year-old son to join Instagram.  Even a man who lives in the public eye saw the dangers of social media for his kids.    He allowed his son to start his social footprint after a 2-YEAR CONVERSATION on the topic.
"Let's talk about what it is. Let's talk about the upfalls. Let's talk about the downfalls. Let's talk about the assets. Let's talk about the traps," "Let's talk about what you wanna tell. What's your story? Because what happens a lot of times with young people and social media is they wake up in the morning and the first thing on their mind is, ‘What will be a good post?’ Instead of, ‘What do I want to do today.'" McConaughey believes today's youth should be more concerned with what they're doing in their own lives before addressing what to share and record. 

IRL Mindset:  One of the ways we can be intentional parents is to pick up an IRL only mindset.   IRL - in real life - relationships are the starting point for our social engagement.   When our kids stepped onto social platforms, we allowed them to do so with limits.  We limited the platforms they could be on.  For instance, we didn’t allow Snapchat until they graduated from high school.  Our thinking was there is enough drama in a teenagers life.  We don’t need to add more with Snap.   Second, we limited their online connections to people they knew or were friends with in real life.   Social shouldn’t be just about chasing likes or growing our following so in real life relationships should also take priority even in social media connections.  IRL also protects kids from the dangers of online predators and others who seek to harm not help our kids.

Grow in Personal Discernment
Be an active fact checker.  Discernment is a key to Christian discipleship which social media opposes.  In fact, people actively hate fact-checkers and the seeming limiting of social content.  But, fact-checking is a practice we must all grow in so that we grow in our faith. “Because we are overwhelmed with so much content—whether informative, entertaining, or otherwise—our ability to discern the truth and moral value of content is hindered.” We can’t keep up with all the content and don’t have time or energy to fact-check every story so we default to truth, believing without ever discerning.

Set Screen Limits:  Since our capacity to discern is limited, we should limit our screen time.  When our kids were younger, we limited their screen time by having them check their phones in each night.  When it was time to rest, phones were powered down.  Was this always popular?  No.  Did it create some challenges for them when others were texting or messaging late?  Yes.  But, for their benefit, we checked their phones in and limited their screen time.  I have adult friends who do the same.  At a certain time, they plug their phones in and are done with everything online for the evening.  If you don’t have the discipline to do this for yourself, consider setting up focus settings and intentional screen time settings on your phone so that your device helps you to rest.

Unfollow, Unfriend Without Guilt:  Sometimes, we need to unfriend and unfollow people on social media.  We do this not because we are against them but because we are for ourselves!  If you find yourself being triggered by someone else online, be mature and unfriend or unfollow them.  When you do this, you protect you from you by only ingesting positive, beneficial content online.

Remember Where Rest Truly Is Found
Many scroll on social as a way to disengage, a way to rest, or a way to escape.  Yet, our attempts to escape only compound our problems.  According to Chris Martin in his work, A Wolf in Their Pockets, social media has 13 profound effects on us:

  1. It distorts our sense of purpose.
  2. It undermines our relationships.
  3. It breeds envy and discontent.
  4. It diminishes our humility and discernment.
  5. It fuels anxiety and depression.
  6. It distorts our understanding of sex and beauty.
  7. It polarizes our views and divides our communities.
  8. It undermines our trust in institutions and experts.
  9. It spreads misinformation and conspiracy theories.
  10. It erodes our critical thinking skills.
  11. It makes us more vulnerable to manipulation.
  12. It disrupts our sleep and overall health.
  13. It leads us to worship idols other than God.

Psalm 23 reminds us that our rest isn’t found in escaping from life but in trusting the Good Shepherd with all of our lives.  We don’t find rest through mindless social media pursuits, but by putting our hope and trust in Jesus.  Never forget:  The gospel is more beautiful, more transformative, more refreshing, and more captivating than anything social media sells.
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