I heard a term recently that resonated with me. “Social Media Hypnosis” … sound familiar? If you’ve ever sat down to your computer to check the weather and looked up two hours later… you know. If you’ve ever picked up your tablet to answer a text and found yourself trolling through YouTube videos for long unaccounted for gaps of time, you’ve experienced it. If you regard it as normal to spend hours a day on Facebook even while you have very important things to do, and then claim you have no time … something has happened. Snap out of it!
Social Media Hypnosis is Unjustifiable. It’s hard to justify the amount of time spent in social media. Twitter and Tumbler posts accumulate so quickly that you never get to the end of them. At the end of your time, barely blinking planted in front of a screen, there isn’t much news to report. There’s a kind of faux news (not Fox News, depending on who you ask) that garners our attention. We know what Bob had for lunch and that there are three hundred new prayer requests (how many did you commit to remember in prayer? Are you being honest?).
Social Media Hypnosis is Creeping. It’s growing into every corner of your life. I’m sure there is a science behind this strange obsession with the screens that are always in front of us. I find it hard not to watch TV without my iPad so I can look up the actors on IMDB and see in what other programs they’ve performed. Some shows even have ‘second screen experiences’. Hard to resist! I don’t know the science, but I know that there are millions of people being drawn into endless electronic rabbit holes with no way out.
Social Media Hypnosis is Revealing. Are there things that should draw us in with no consciousness of time – but do not? Back before we looked at little screens people read a lot more (conjecture, just an observation). Anyone remember getting lost in a good book? Is that still happening? Do we ever get so caught up in reading or studying our Bibles that the time escapes us? Did you ever have to set a timer so that you wouldn’t pray so long? Wouldn’t it be an awesome experience to be so interested, so attentive, so tuned in to prayer that we went into kind of a prayer hypnosis and before we realized it an hour to had gone by? Shouldn’t that be a normative experience? I think most people would say that they have a hard time keeping their focus during times of prayer and Bible study – even if they have accommodated their social media addiction with prayer and Bible apps. It may be an unfair comparison. After all, social media is fairly passive … prayer and study are more intensive. But I think you can see where I’m going with this.
Social Media Hypnosis is Passive Education. If we fall prey to social media hypnosis, how much of our own thoughts are being driven by other people … often strangers … and in what ways are we being influenced to think, perceive? As we mindlessly ‘like’ pictures, some of which come from very spurious sources, watch videos, and reference trends … are we being subconsciously educated by the masses? Do we feel pressured to ‘like’ something that we do not necessarily agree with – for the sake of a ‘friend’? Do we ‘share’ items because we are asked to rather than because we desire to propel a cause/idea? And is that sometimes a pooling of ignorance?
Social Media Hypnosis is Deceptive. It’s too easy to think that this couldn’t happen to us. But then you consider the unfounded and ridiculous things passed along as “news”. It’s totally unbelievable but rational intelligent people click ‘share’ as if it is reality. Bill Gates hasn’t decided to give away his money via Facebook shares! The Obamas did not use their left hand over the heart during the National Athem! (But I saw it in a real live picture!!!!) There are not only a few items like this, there are thousands. Sometimes when I have suggested someone check it out with some source that scans these news items, I’ve been told “I don’t believe them“. Does anyone see the irony of believing the fabricated urban myth and disbelieving the fact checkers that exist to expose these lies? Have we come so far as to prefer to believe the scam rather than back off of something we shared?
Social Media Hypnosis is Blank. We have no expectation we have no expectation of remembering what we have read. We can’t even find posts we read five minutes ago. The stream is a torrent. We have no reasonable expectation that we are connecting in particular to anyone or anything, we are just experiencing the exposure to the media at the moment. Much like the junkie lives for the moment of the high, with all other time devoted to getting to the next high, there is no return for the investment of time. A momentary laugh at a prank, a tearful reunion of soldier and child, a Bible verse on a pretty picture, a sarcastic cranky saying, a politically snooty remark, on and on it goes and we get a charge with each one but when it’s over we close our iPads and look up at the world around us none the better.
This is not a call to end Facebook, destroy Twitter, nor incinerate Instagram. I like them all. But I need to be aware (and so do a lot of others) that we can be drawn in and hypnotized to no good end if we are not careful. An old funny cartoon said, “I love my computer – all my friends live in it.” That is a modern reality. There are lots of friends, connections, sharing, prayers, and encouragements to be found. It can be a ministry and a blessing to so many. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking it is more than what it is.
This is a call to be intentional in the use of Social Media. If it is the only thing that catches and keeps our attention, then a break is called for. Just … put … it … down. Take it out of your ‘favorites’ bar. Remove it from your phone. Disable your account … just for a little while. You are not a slave to a frenetic experience where we are exposed to flickering ideas and images and sounds in a rapid succession. Or are you? This post is an attempt to break the hypnosis and help us to use Social Media mindfully.
Thanks for reading,