We affirm that social media is a useful relational tool.
However, we recognize that fear and anxiety are growing in our lives, contributing to a depression epidemic. The cyber world and social media are exasperating the problem. We often enter the cyber world seeking to avoid the stress of reality, but instead find our anxiety heightened through envy leading to discontent and breaking news leading to gloom.
Therefore, we urge everyone to cast their anxiety upon God to find that perfect love that casts out fear, rather than trying to cope by other means (1 Peter 5:7, 1 John 4:18).
--Joel is a student at Princeton Theological Seminary pursuing ordination as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA)--
I'd like to coin a new term: cyber-anxiety. Yes, there are bad things happening now, but if you study history, there are terrible things happening during every decade of human existence. Why then the current heightened anxiety? My assertion is that it is due to changes in social media. Facebook first gained popularity due to its potential for entertainment and escapism. Facebook gave users access to a controlled, idealized environment that allowed for a stress-relieving break from the real word such as after a long work day. With the rise of smart phones, social media became more and more immersed into every minute and facet of life, more and more blurring the lines between the real and the hyperreal. Our escapist reality has now become nearly inescapable.
The next major shift is an incredibly recent one. In a remarkably short amount of time Facebook has rapidly transitioned from an entertainment source to a news media source, bringing with it what news brings: detailed descriptions of the harshest, most depressing aspects of reality. The very crutch that our generation has learned to use and go to in order to relieve stress, is now a stress filled environment. In essence, why do today's evils seem so unbearable compared to the constant evils of the past? Because when our idealized hyperreality has been infused with the real, when we cannot escape our escapist reality, our only hope is that the real world become infused with the ideal.
This incessant demand for a new ideal world can be seen in the rapid rise of protests and social media activism. This desire for the ideal must be both commended and critiqued. Yes, it mirrors the Christian hope for the redemption of all things. Yet much is still lacking. The social justice movement has been infused with the modernist myth of progress, the idea that our world is somehow naturally bending towards justice, and that this is happening due to the work of human beings (e.g. the argument: “It’s 2017 for crying out loud!”).
This myth does not take seriously enough human sin. Our efforts to change the world, though valiant, are simply setting up a new puritanical age of works righteousness where so far from even attempting to love those who disagree with our world-changing ideals, we stitch the scarlet ‘B’ on their clothing: bigot. We cannot bring about a new world on our own. Even those of us who so wish to be world-changers are part of the sinful problem that needs changing. Recognizing the pervasiveness of sin in the world and in oneself, and the resulting need of God to be the one to ultimately bring about the new world, brings a humility, patience, trust, love of enemies, and willingness to forgive that is desperately needed in our reform efforts. Trusting that God has wise reasons for delaying the new world, our anxiety can lessen, and we can be content to identify areas of a proleptic inbreaking of the ideal into the real.