“The Social Dilemma”: A response for Christian families

Written by Dan Martin
Published on October 16, 2020

The Social Dilemma is a documentary exploring “the dangerous human impact of social networking with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations.”

You don’t have to be a Silicon Valley tech insider or an Ivy League psychology professor to be aware that social media is changing us, and, as a result, it is changing our world. 

Some of these changes are incredibly helpful and useful. Many of these changes, however, are leading humanity—and especially our children—to be more divided and hopeless than at any other time in human history.

Scriptural responses to “The Social Dilemma”

One of the joys of my life is ministering to people and seeing them move deeper into relationship with their heavenly Father as they are exposed to the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. My objective in writing this article is to see Christian parents—who are also God’s children—connect with him and other followers of Jesus in more meaningful ways so that they can lead their kids by example.

By understanding the impact social media is having on each of us and by making a strategy to limit its negative consequences, I believe we can achieve these deeper and more meaningful connections and model digital stewardship for our kids.

I have to confess as I write these words that I love technology and the advances it has brought to our lives. I am a regular social media user, and, at times, it has created problems for me, namely sidetracking me from intentional time with my children. So much of what I teach and write about when it comes to stewarding technology has come from my own failures, regrets, and vulnerabilities to the distractions it causes in my life and in my relationships.

The Social Dilemma documentary was truly an eye-opener for me. Not necessarily because it was information about consequences of social media use that I didn’t know, but because of the depth to which the developers have gone (and will continue to go) to further harvest more and more of our personal data and attention.

The encouraging thing to me is just how relevant Scripture—teachings that are thousands of years old—is when it comes to navigating the problems and vulnerabilities of our day and age. 

As I listened and watched the content presented in this documentary, my heart was broken for people who don’t have a relationship with God and who probably don’t know that God not only warns us about such things, but he also gives us the solutions and grace to address these issues!

Here are some notes from the film alongside biblical wisdom to help us navigate the social media landscape (and, at times, landmine) and lead our children to do the same:

Social media steals our time and attention

Social media, by aggressively targeting our time and attention as commodities to be sold to advertisers, has transformed our ability to think for ourselves and interact with our fellow man and has increased our vulnerability to manipulation, all for the sake of financial gain.

Some helpful biblical wisdom:

  • “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 ESV).
  • “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15–16).

Social media warps our perception of truth

Truth, or, better stated, the truth presented to us by news feeds, is dependent on factors such as geography, psychology, algorithms, and demographic information. In other words, truth varies by user. Left unchecked and unregulated, it will continue to devolve into further falsities and division.

Some helpful biblical wisdom:

  • “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6). 
  • “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” ( John 8:32).

Social media has intended and unintended consequences

Such consequences include civil unrest, financial and intellectual manipulation, division, disunity, depression, anxiety, suicide, and addiction, to name a few.

Some helpful biblical wisdom:

  • “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). 

How to biblically respond to social media

Developers: Change the system by changing its financial models. 

Users: Get out of the system, or at least reduce the impact the system has on us.

Some helpful biblical wisdom

  • “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1:12).

Pointing out these things to our children and prioritizing face-to-face connection can help our families walk in health and freedom. Meditating on God’s word can equip us to engage on social media in positive, helpful ways. 

Keep these verses close by as you interact online today, and take a look at this fivefold strategy for stewarding technology and navigating our sexualized, digital age.

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Dan Martin

Dan Martin is the Ministry Relationship Director of pureHOPE, a ministry equipping men and women to pursue purity through relationship with Jesus. He has spent over twelve years in ministry and is passionate about equipping people to lead with confidence in a sexualized, digital age. You can follow along @findpurehope!

Dan lives in the Dallas area with his wife Kathie after sending their three adult children out into the world. He has parented his way into empty-nester (and now grandparent) status and has picked up a few things along the way.

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