Sickness, foolishness, neediness. You know the kind of day. The kind where you’ve cleaned messes and wiped faces nonstop, and yet somehow, you look around to find the floor and the counter and the table and the light switch and the toddler’s face coated in sticky crumbs. It’s the kind of day that makes you want to escape.
For several months, I struggled with contentment, and on a sticky, crumby day, the struggle raged. I compared my life to my friends on social media and came up short. I thought taking time away from social media would attack the root of my discontentment problem. This way, I could focus on gratitude during the Christmas season. So rather than turn on my phone to distract me in the midst of this less-than-glamorous day, I turned to a stack of Christmas cards. I opened the top one to find a beautiful photo of a friend and her family and flipped it over to read that my friend had just achieved one of my lifelong dreams.
An ugly feeling welled up within me. Or rather, an ugly combination of feelings: envy of my friend’s accomplishment, resentment toward my children for demanding my time, and most of all, discontentment with my current life, which didn’t allow me to achieve the same things as my friend.
The feeling was familiar. As I said, I struggled with it for a while. But now I realized with sudden clarity that I didn’t need the internet to incite envy.
We often look for someone to blame when we’re confronted with our sin, don’t we? Social media is an easy target. We blame it for distracting us from our duties, making us lazy, and causing us to be ungrateful for our blessings. There’s no doubt that it can instigate these things. But as I unhappily looked at that Christmas card—a physical card delivered by my mailman—I realized the only reason social media causes us to sin is because we already have sin inside our hearts.
Surrounded by the glory of Eden, Eve was the first human to ponder one of the serpent’s questions as she whispered, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1) Although she was surrounded by abundant beauty and blessing, she was discontent with God’s provision and boundaries. Instead of believing his commands were good, she disobeyed God.
We can limit our time spent with technology in general or social media in particular. Too much time on our devices can distract us from important things and tempt us to misplace our hope. But we can’t root out the sin in our hearts by simply limiting screen time or taking a break from social media. No, we have to go deeper.
Jesus said, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him” (Mark 7:14b-15).
Social media limitations can’t produce the fruit of contentment because it's not the root of our sin. Masking symptoms won’t cure a disease—and that’s why looking at a Christmas card led me to the same sin.
Simply trying to control our use of social media won’t change our hearts. It must be the other way around. First, we must turn to the gospel, which offers hope to idolatrous, ungrateful hearts like ours for transformation. We must acknowledge that sin isn’t delivered to us via wifi, but rather dwells in our hearts. And then we must turn to the One who has defeated that sin for forgiveness, grace, and deliverance. Only Jesus can make a sinner clean. Only he can satisfy our desires to have and be and do more. Only he is enough for a discontented soul.
Social media can certainly lead us to sin in a myriad of ways. But ultimately, social media isn’t to blame for our sin, and getting rid of it won’t transform our sin-stained hearts. Only Christ’s finished work on the cross can do that. By God’s grace through the Spirit’s work within us, will we find the ability to use social media for good purposes and not sinful ones.
And then, only then, will we see real change in our hearts.
Gen. 3:6, 3:13
Aubrie is married to Seth, her number one favorite person in the world, and mom to the three little ones who are tied for second place. As an RN-turned-stay-at-home-mom, she spends most of her days homeschooling their oldest while the toddler drives toy trucks over her feet and the baby hangs out on her lap. She can often be found schlepping a big tote of books home from the library, drinking microwaved coffee, and listening to a podcast or audiobook while she folds laundry. Aubrie is in awe of the fact that her ordinary life is being used by the Creator to accomplish his extraordinarily good purposes, and she prays her writing bears witness to his grace at work. You can find more of her work on her blog.