SCRIPTURE: Galatians 5:13-15
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: August 2nd, 2014
13You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. (Galatians 5:13-15)
Yesterday morning, a social media giant was down. For a few hours, Facebook users encountered frustrating times when trying to log into their accounts. "Sorry, something went wrong" has become the bane of many people. For some, they continue to try "facebook.com" in the hope that maybe the problem was their own Internet connection. For others, they fled to the other social media titan "Twitter" to update their statuses. I was one of the latter ,who used Twitter to check on the status of Facebook. Ironically isn't it? Welcome to a new way of using Company A to check on Company B!
I marvel at the many messages due to this outage. Messages like:
|(Picture Credit: @_youhadonejob)|
- [Ash@Infamous_PR] "It's official, society has finally lost it! Facebook goes down for 19 mins & FB users act like the world is going to end!#facebookdown"
- [Bizarre Lazar @BizarLazar] "Facebook went down this morning, marking the first time in five years some people actually saw their family."
- People dialing 911 over Facebook outage (link)
- and many more that puts sarcasm over those who panicked over the whole situation....
I moved from laughter (lol) toward sighs of incredulity (*facepalm*) as I watch how a Facebook outage appears like an end-of-the-world scenario. What has the world become? Calling an emergency hotline (911) just because one cannot post anything on Facebook?
Welcome to a new version of PTSD: Post-Traumatic SocialMedia Disorder
A) New Face of Addiction
Dr Archibald Hart and Sylvia Hart-Frejd note that this phenomenon is becoming more common. They write:
"It may come as a surprise, but there is strong evidence that excessive use of social media programs like Facebook can become an addiction. Many, especially teenagers and midlife women, are spending too much time online accessing social media." (Archibald Hart and Sylvia Hart-Frejd, The Digital Invasion, Baker Books, 2013, p102-3)In a Gordon College study not too long ago, it was reported that the level of digital addiction is much higher and more sinister than we thought.
"Although, at this time, it is unclear whether over-zealous use of computer-based activities will be formally accepted in the U.S. as a distinctive, unique form of addiction; what is clear from the study we have just completed is that a surprisingly high percentage of people who frequently engage in electronic activities report a plethora of troubling negative consequences. Ironically, our study also reveals that a sizable minority mention several positive outcomes related to the time that is spent on Facebook or text messaging their friends." (Bryan C. Auday and Sybil W Coleman, Pulling Off the Mask)
The academics are not alone. Business studies researchers have also concurred that the levels of Facebook addiction are deeper than traditional addictions to alcohol and tobacco. One reports that "Resisting the urge to check social networking sites for updates is more difficult than turning down a drink." Another reports about the "cravings, anxiety attacks and depression when forced to abstain from using media." I call these a new form of PTSD: Post-Traumatic SocialMedia Disorder."
B) A Social Diversion
When Facebook was down, I cannot help but notice how perceptive people were with regards to admitting the level of social disconnect. Somehow, they know how much Facebook has become a part of their lives. They cannot live online without it. They have become so used to online updates that their offline world is becoming increasingly weird. Note that in our everyday language. People used to give out name cards to one another, or to scramble for a piece of paper to write down their contact information. Nowadays, they simply say things like:
- Can you DM me? (Twitter Direct Message)
- Can you email me?
- Can you Facebook me?
- Can you just send me a text? or WhatsApp?
Some families living under the same roof prefer to DM/Facebook/Text one another instead of simply talking face to face. Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane recognize the problem of kids growing up in a social media world. They ask a simple question: "Is technology bringing your family closer together, or is it driving your family apart?"
Ironical isn't it? Technology was once trumpeted as the solution to help connect the world. Yet, this very powerful advancement has instead led to a social division, diversion, and some may even say, social deterioration. If something has become so essential to communication, like Facebook and Twitter, that we cannot have a face to face talk without them, then we have a problem.
C) Freedom to be Free
We are free to Facebook. The trouble is, when Facebook is down, the social-media addict does not feel right. Freedom is something highly cherished in society. Our forefathers fought for it with their lives. Nations poured lots of money and resources into projects, initiatives, and even wars to make sure that they can be free indeed. In the Bible, freedom is one that stems from the Person of Jesus Christ. Like the way the Israelites were delivered from Egyptian slavery, we in Christ are delivered from the slavery of sin. Christ has declared that "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36). The Greek word "eleuthera" is used for liberty, freedom, and represents an unrestrained ability to make choices. Key to understanding this is by asking "freedom from what?"
There is freedom from slavery to the Law. The context of Galatians 5 points to the usage of law to enslave our faith. Like the use of circumcision just to lock us into some ritual to demonstrate our faith. Worse, people use ritual as works to justify or to assure us about our salvation in Christ. More specifically, Paul is contrasting the differences between living in the flesh and living in the Spirit. The moment we try to use the Law to justify ourselves, we are obligated to use the entire Law, not just bits and pieces we like. Paul is trying to tell us that we will never be able to perfectly fulfill the entire Law. That is why we need the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
There is freedom to manifest the fruit of the Spirit. We are thus free to choose, and Paul exhorts us to choose the things of the Spirit which are listed in Galatians 5:22-26 in contrast to the things of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21.
We are free and the worse we can ever do to ourselves is to choose to be enslaved to the flesh again. Will a dog return to its own vomit? Proverbs 26:11 reminds us what fools look like.
"As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly." Peter adds to this by using the washed sow which returns to its mud (2 Peter 2:22).
There is freedom to decide to use or NOT to use technology. We are free to use technology. Are we then able to recognize the point in which we are no longer free to use, but enslaved to a lack-of-use when rudely disconnected due to a social media outage? Are we guilty of indulging in our flesh when we become addicted to social media?
D) Spiritually Free
There is freedom to let God work in us. In our fast-paced, solutions-driven economy, we pride ourselves in being able to get things done quickly and efficiently. If not, we try to make sure the solution is found as soon as possible. Bill Hull was chatting with a friend one day about how so many people call themselves Christians but are not disciples. The friend that replied: "What is the solution?"
Hull reflected on that and connects to the larger culture that tries to make things happen, to do something rather than to let the Spirit do something in our lives. Active is good. Passive is bad, so they say. Hull offers his advice:
"I have spent a lot of my life trying to make things happen and trying to get the people around me to do what they didn’t want to do or didn’t have the character to do. I’ve decided to stop trying to change the world. I’ve even stopped trying to change the church. People seem to get so angry. I have decided to focus on changing me. I’ve hit a lot of walls in my life and have hurt a lot of people. I’m finished with that. I just want people to be attracted to Christ because of who I am and what I have to say and the way I say it." (Bill Hull, The Kingdom Life, Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2010, p109-110)
Before we attempt to change things outside, let the Spirit change us inside. Life happens outside only when something has already happened inside us. This core truth is what discipleship is about. The tendency for us to panic and become anxious over things happening outside is because we inside have not become secure in Christ. When we are spiritually free, we do not need to panic over the loss of an Internet connection or a website outage. When we are spiritually free, nothing will sway us.
There is freedom to live with or without Facebook or social media. In our technological world, we are free to connect or to disconnect. Feel free not to let our emotions be too locked into an online connection that we become enslaved to it. Feel free to disconnect when necessary. Feel free not to be worked up. Feel free not to enter a state of Post-Traumatic SocialMedia Disorder. Do not let Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media resource dominate our lives. They are just a part of our world. Do not make them a whole for they can never fill the spiritual hole in our hearts. For we have a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill.
There is freedom to do things at God's pace. In a 24x7, non-stop Internet connectivity world, it is even more important that we go offline on a regular basis. Remind ourselves that it is ok not to update our social status so frequently. Connect with people one on one, face to face freely. Discover the beauty of slow, silence, and simplicity. Sip, not slurp. Savour, not devour. Slow, not speedy. Take time to smell the flowers.
THOUGHT: "In many cases, people who’ve become aware of their mortality find that they’ve gained the freedom to live. They are seized with an appreciation for the present: every day is my best day; this is my life; I’m not going to have this moment again. They spend more time with the things and people they love and less time on people and pastimes that don’t offer love or joy. This seems like such a simple thought- shouldn’t we all spend our lives that way? But we tend not to make those kinds of choices until somebody says, 'You have twelve months to live.'" (Bernie Siegel)
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