Okay, okay, it kind of is. But it’s mostly about something bigger: paying attention to how we’re doing on the inside and letting God into the deep parts of our hearts.
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
Proverbs 4:23 NLT
Above all else, we should take care of and protect our hearts (our emotions, desires, and motivations) because our hearts will determine the way our lives go (and that includes the way our lives go on social media).
Social media affects our hearts, and our hearts affect our social media use, whether we like it or not. According to Facebook’s often-cited internal documents, “thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.” In the same study, researchers warned that the “Explore” page on Instagram pushes users into content that can be harmful. Social media also appears to have addictive qualities and is associated with higher levels of depression and anxiety.
And yet most of us still use it. Our reasons for doing so vary from person to person, but one reason is that the negative effects of social media aren’t necessarily universal. In a Pew Research survey, 81% of teens said they feel like social media makes them feel more connected to their friends. In the same survey, a significant majority of teenagers associated their social media use with positive rather than negative emotions, such as feeling included rather than excluded or feeling confident rather than insecure.
Grappling with social media on a societal level is outside the scope of a Deep Spirituality devotional, but addressing spiritual issues of the heart is not. The insecurities, emotions, and relationship challenges that social media creates and intensifies are the same heart issues that the Bible addresses and God wants to heal.
The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, GOD, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.
Jeremiah 17:9-10 MSG
Living in the age of social media means we are accustomed to constant stimulation and people pretending to be something they are not. In the midst of this, God sees us for who we are and can help us solve the puzzles of our hearts. He cares about our insides; he helps us uncover and deal with the deep insecurities, sins, and emotions we carry around with us.
And that’s what this devotional is about: how to let God help us with three big issues of the heart: anger, insecurity, and loneliness. These three emotions can cause a lot of problems in our lives when they go unchecked. When we learn to find forgiveness, security, and connection in our relationship with God, the course of everything else in our lives will change (including our social media usage).
So how exactly do we get started in this process of letting God take care of our hearts? I put together a spiritual checkup we can use to reflect on what our social media usage might be telling us about our hearts. As a bonus, we’ll also cover some tips on how to use social media in a more spiritual, connecting, and healthy way.
Question 1: How’s my anger and irritability level?
For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.
Ephesians 2:14 NLT
Hostility separates people from each other, and that’s not what God wants. It’s one of the reasons Jesus gave his life on the cross; he wanted to bring people together, even people who are very different from one another on the outside.
Social media, on the other hand, is (literally) fueled by hostility:
According to Haugen, Facebook prioritizes engagement above all else. The more people interact with content on Facebook, the more ads they will see. Facebook’s algorithms are tuned for this, and it means inflammatory content gets boosted. It’s easy to make people angry, and angry people click.
Clicks, likes, and comments keep social media platforms alive, and angry people click. That’s why the majority of comments we see on YouTube videos, TikToks, or Twitter are people arguing and fighting with each other—angry people engage.
Why does that matter? The Bible tells us over and over again that human anger and resentment are dangerous to our spiritual lives:
Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.
Proverbs 22:24-25 NLT
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
Hebrews 12:15 NLT
Simply reading hostile comments and posts online can leave me feeling more agitated and negative, even if I don’t contribute to them. They nurture any poisonous roots of resentment that were already inside me and plant seeds of anger that weren’t there before. I find myself carrying the hostility I read online into my relationships, agitated over the smallest things because my mind is filled with negativity. I see people as opponents to convince rather than humans to understand.
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.
James 1:19-21 NLT
Our goal in relationships should be to listen, understand, and connect. Human anger usually doesn’t lead to that. Anger can even lead us to seek out posts that make us angrier or prove our point, leading us to be used as fuel for algorithms instead of helping us understand ourselves and each other better.
That’s where God and the Bible can help us.
Jesus saw what was going on-not just the argument, but the deeper heart issues-so He found a child and had the child stand beside Him.
Luke 9:47 Voice
Anger, irritability, and arguments are good indicators that we have “deeper heart issues” we need God’s help with. Maybe we’ve been hurt and need his help to forgive. Maybe we feel jealous and ignored. Maybe we feel sad or afraid or stressed.
These deeper heart issues are what we could call “unfinished business.” Deep Spirituality editor in chief Russ Ewell expands on the topic of unfinished business and how it affects our emotions and our relationships in his new book:
The presence of unresolved emotional issues is a warning sign that we have unfinished business. Whether we are seeking God, seeking relationships, or seeking to become part of a church community, unresolved emotional issues can unravel any progress we hope to make. They can upset, defile, and even destroy the spiritual and emotional fabric of our lives. If we get specific and ask for God’s help, these weaknesses can be turned into strengths.
Russ Ewell, He’s Not Who You Think He Is: Dropping Your Assumptions and Discovering God for Yourself
Dealing with our unfinished business and going deeper into our hearts can help us understand not only ourselves, but those around us. Jesus saw past arguments and looked at people’s deeper heart issues, and when we read God’s Word we can do the same. The Bible acts as a mirror (James 1:22-25), helping us understand ourselves and other people. As we read it, we will begin to understand why we get angry at certain things, and we can learn to resolve that anger through forgiveness.
Because of all that God has done, we now have a new perspective. We used to show regard for people based on worldly standards and interests. No longer. We used to think of the Anointed the same way. No longer… All of this is a gift from our Creator God, who has pursued us and brought us into a restored and healthy relationship with Him through the Anointed. And He has given us the same mission, the ministry of reconciliation, to bring others back to Him.
2 Corinthians 5:16,18 Voice
The more we spend time with God and let him influence the way we think, the more our perspective about people will change. We won’t judge them based on what we see on the surface (or in their posts), using worldly standards and interests. We’ll see people as people. Rather than looking for ways to argue with other people, we will look for ways to connect and reconcile relationships.
Pause and reflect
What kind of content do you engage with on social media? Does it make you think more negatively or positively?
How has your anger and irritability been lately? What do you think might be some of the “deeper heart issues” that have been causing that anger?
How do you approach interactions with people—seeking to be right or to listen and understand them?
Social media tip
Philippians 4 tells us to fix our thoughts on things that are good, true, and admirable. This helps us have healthy, close relationships rather than feeding any anger in our hearts. One way we can put this into practice with regard to our social media use is asking ourselves questions about what we have been looking at online:
Is the content I’m engaging with making me feel better or worse?
Is it making my relationships better or worse?
How is it affecting my mood?
What am I getting out of it?
What do I tend to do on social media when I’m angry? Why? How does that affect me and my friendships?
Also, we can try to engage with positive content, and contribute some when we can. The more we post, comment on, and “like” content that promotes understanding and compassion, the more we can affect the online culture. This doesn’t mean we should be ignorant or dismissive of the very real injustices happening in the world; rather, we should know that every small drop of connection in a bucket of negativity and hostility makes a difference.
Question 2: Where does my value come from?
I’m so insecure, I think That I’ll die before I drink And I’m so caught up in the news Of who likes me, and who hates you… If someone tells me one more time “Enjoy your youth,” I’m gonna cry And I don’t stick up for myself I’m anxious and nothing can help And I wish I’d done this before And I wish people liked me more All I did was try my best This the kind of thanks I get? Unrelentlessly upset They say these are the golden years But I wish I could disappear Ego crush is so severe … It’s brutal out here
Growing up in the era of social media means simultaneously experiencing the thrill of having access to anyone at any time, and the crippling insecurity, isolation, and irritability that often come as a result.
My girl Olivia says it best—it can be brutal out here.
But as I was reading the lyrics to Olivia Rodrigo’s song, I realized that many of the underlying feelings I associate with social media use aren’t new in and of themselves. Who hasn’t felt deathly insecure, or wished people liked them more, or felt unrelentlessly upset? Who hasn’t gotten caught up in the trap of comparing themselves to other people?
Luckily, God has been helping people with these feelings for a very long time.
Then I thought, “Why do people work so hard?” I saw people try to succeed and be better than other people. They do this because they are jealous. They don’t want other people to have more than they have. This is senseless. It is like trying to catch the wind. Some people say, “It is foolish to fold your hands and do nothing. If you don’t work, you will starve to death.” Maybe that is true. But I say it is better to be satisfied with the few things you have than to always be struggling to get more.
Ecclesiastes 4:4-6 ERV
So much of our hard work, striving, and desperation for success can be traced back to jealousy. Jealousy comes when we get our value by comparing ourselves to other people. Left unchecked, jealousy can turn into bitter envy. We feel angry that someone else has something we don’t and we criticize or tear them down, thinking they don’t deserve what they have.
Proverbs 14:30 tells us that jealousy rots the bones. It eats away at us, slowly corrupting every part of our lives. It eventually makes us completely miserable and dissatisfied with ourselves.
Thanks to social media, there is no end to what we are capable of being jealous of. My feed can be full of insanely talented, successful, and in-shape people. I go on Instagram and see people I went to high school with getting their advanced degrees or progressing in their career. Then I head over to Facebook and see someone else buying a new house. Then I switch over to TikTok and see people who are younger, skinnier, more creative, and more talented than I am. Then I go back on Instagram and start the cycle over.
I end up feeling insecure and inferior, which seeps into my relationships in person. I try to feel secure by looking for ways to be better than or superior to my friends, but I fall short because I’ll always find something they have that I don’t.
You see, my heart overflowed with bitterness and cynicism; I felt as if someone stabbed me in the back. Even though I was angry and hard-hearted, You gave me good advice; when it’s all over, You will receive me into Your glory. For all my wanting, I don’t have anyone but You in heaven. There is nothing on earth that I desire other than You. But the closer I am to You, my God, the better because life with You is good. O Lord, the Eternal, You keep me safe— I will tell everyone what You have done.
Psalm 73:21,24-25,28 Voice
If we read all of Psalm 73, we see that this psalmist’s “wanting” made him bitter, critical, and even doubtful of God. He was only able to break out of that cycle when he “entered the sanctuary of God” (Psalm 73:17), where his perspective and source of value in life changed.
Rather than being confident in what he had or could do, the psalmist became secure in his relationship with God. Being close with God made life better than anything else. He could be content, and he felt no more need to compete.
We, too, will be satisfied with what we have when we see God is enough for us. If our value comes from God’s love for who we are, then it will always be enough.
God said to me once and for all, “All the strength and power you need flows from me!” And again I heard it clearly said, “All the love you need is found in me!” And it’s true that you repay people for what they do.
Psalm 62:11-12 TPT
Oftentimes we become jealous because we are looking for love and strength in all the wrong places. When we spend time with God and see that he loves us for who we are regardless of our success or ability, we will be content even when others’ lives look better than ours. We can even admire and appreciate who they are without feeling the need to compare ourselves to them.
Pause and reflect
Where do you try to get your value?
What do you see when you look at others? Do you see people to compete with or people to admire?
Do you believe God loves you for who you are? What can you do this week to make that enough for you?
Social media tip
We can fight jealousy and the comparison trap by taking five minutes to write down on a piece of paper or our Notes app what we feel grateful for. What or whom are we happy to have in our life? The next time we feel tempted to get sucked into the hole of jealousy, we can look back to the gratitude list we wrote.
Gratitude in prayer transforms our hearts in ways we can’t fully understand (Philippians 4:6-7). Praying about what we’re grateful for not only helps change the way we think about and engage with other people, but it brings us closer to God in your relationship with him. When we have this satisfaction from being close to God, it will be a lot easier to change how we engage with others on social media. We’ll find ourselves feeling happy for people when they have victories instead of being bitterly jealous or critical.
Also, we can practice turning our jealousy into admiration! If someone posts a photo of an achievement or accomplishment we want, we can praise them for it and let them know we admire them. If it’s a skill we’d like to develop, we can even ask them for help or tips.
Question 3: Do I feel like I have someone to talk to?
It’s incredible that something meant to help us connect can make us feel so distant and detached. The internet and social media are supposed to bring us closer to those around us, and yet we can feel increasingly isolated and lonely the more we use them.
I found an interesting study recently that touched on this contradiction.
The findings also indicate that, even in the digital age, humans still form friendships based on personal interactions, said Tommy Nguyen, a Rensselaer graduate student and member of SCNARC (Social Cognitive Network Academic Research Center). “Even though, thanks to the Internet, you can be friends with anyone on the planet, the likelihood that a person will be friends with someone in a distant location chosen at random is far lower than the likelihood that this person will be friends with someone who lives in close proximity,” said Nguyen. “Proximity creates a strong boundary for who will be your friends.”
Though we have access to anyone around the world online, proximity is still the strongest indicator of friendship. Social media is not as reliable as physical proximity when it comes to being friends with people. In other words, the role of social media in our lives should not necessarily be to forge and build new friendships, but to maintain and strengthen the ones that already exist.
Am I using social media to isolate myself?
Sometimes we use social media to isolate from our friends instead of connecting with them. We may turn to it to escape, check out, and detach ourselves from others. When we do that, one unintended consequence is being consumed with our own thoughts, which can make us extremely self-focused:
One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound wisdom.
Proverbs 18:1 CSB
I have fallen victim to this more times than I’d like to admit. If I’m feeling sad, insecure, or even guilty about something, I have many friends I could call, and I know that would make me feel better. I also know that it’s not healthy for me to numb out to my emotions; I could pray, read some encouraging verses of the Bible, or even journal to help me understand what’s going on. But more often than not, I would rather scroll through social media and ignore my feelings, which only leaves me more miserable. I get focused on myself, thinking no one would want to talk to me anyway, and I get stuck in the cycle of jealousy I mentioned earlier when I see other people’s positive posts. I then feel worse about myself, and I don’t want to feel those feelings, so I get back on my phone.
Am I using social media because I don’t have someone to talk to?
While we sometimes use social media to isolate ourselves from our friends, other times we turn to social media because we genuinely feel we don’t have anyone to talk to. We might feel misunderstood, lonely, or overlooked. In these moments of loneliness, we can take comfort in knowing that God sees us and understands us deeply.
I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe. You have approached even the smallest details with excellence; Your works are wonderful; I carry this knowledge deep within my soul. Explore me, O God, and know the real me. Dig deeply and discover who I am. Put me to the test and watch how I handle the strain.
Psalm 139:14, 23 Voice
God sees us even when we feel invisible. He knows and loves even the smallest details of who we are. With God, we never have to be completely alone, because he sees us and knows us.
Having the confidence that God understands and sees us will help us feel more confident about reaching out to other people too. Thinking of others pulls us out of the dark holes of self-criticism and self-focus, which leads us to be happier and more confident.
My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.
1 John 3:18-20 MSG
The way to shut down our debilitating self-criticism is not isolating ourselves even more or numbing ourselves to those feelings and thoughts. It’s thinking of others and practicing real love. When we do that, we often find that we aren’t alone—people around us feel the exact same things we feel, and we can help each other with those feelings. All we need to do is reach out, express our need and desire for friendship, and take an interest in their lives.
One of my favorite illustrations of this is in the movie Eighth Grade. (Quick disclaimer – Eighth Grade is a rated R movie that touches on some heavy and mature topics. I’d recommend parents preview it before watching it with teens). Kayla, the main character, goes through life pretty isolated and alone. She tries to feel better by going on social media or fitting in with who she thinks she’s supposed to be, but this only makes her feel more lonely and insecure. It isn’t until she lets her dad into her life, expressing what she thinks and feels, that she realizes she isn’t alone. He knows her, sees her, believes in her, and loves her for who she is. This leads her to come out of her own head, and reach out to connect with people she can be herself with.
This is what God and friends can do in our lives. If we don’t express what’s on our minds and hearts, we will think we are completely alone, and won’t be able to see all the opportunities for relationships around us.
Also, the more Kayla takes notice of those around her, the more confident and outgoing she becomes. Rather than focusing on how she looks or feels, she takes an interest in others, speaks up to people who were being mean, and begins to enjoy her life rather than hide from it. We can do the same when we build relationships with God and others that are real, deep, and connected.
Pause and reflect
What are ways you isolate yourself when you’re feeling a lot and don’t want to talk?
Do you see God as someone who cares about all the details of your life? Why or why not?
Who is someone you can reach out to today?
Social media tip
When we feel stuck in a social media rabbit hole, we should try praying to God. God is a friend, and we can talk to him anytime, anywhere, about anything.
Then we can text or call a friend, letting them know how we’re doing and asking how they’re doing as well. If we feel especially stuck in our in-person friendships, we can social media as the bridge to connect! We can send a friend something funny we saw online, or something that made us think of them. After sending it to them, we can use that connection as an opportunity to let them know we need a friend and to ask how they’re doing, too.
There is so much to talk about in regards to the effects of social media, and this checkup really only scratches the surface. But we hope the questions we’ve given you provide some helpful reflection about using social media in a way that keeps your heart and your relationships intact.
Also, if you’ve felt especially stuck in any of these areas discussed today, think about taking a social media detox! Just taking a week or two to reset our minds can help us to work on our hearts and relationships.