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Chuck Bentley

Dear Chuck,

Is social media really that bad? Everyone talks about it like it's the cause of all our problems but I don't feel like it really makes me compare myself to others or overspend. I don't click on ads or "swipe up" on Instagram to buy promoted products. So, is it actually a threat to my finances?

Fine with Facebook

Dear Fine with Facebook,

It is never good to only look at one side of an issue. Social media can be both good and bad. For instance, many helpful, God-glorifying articles and materials are accessed and spread via social media. Connecting with old friends, supporting a good cause or sharing uplifting content is great. It is not difficult to make a case for some of the good it provides. On the other hand, a great deal of negative downsides are mixed into the free offering that has become an invasive part of our lives.

In general, we have become a materialistic society. Our fleshly desires to elevate ourselves, praise our own accomplishments, and become our own god has wreaked havoc on the earth from the beginning of time. There is no doubt that social media has added fuel to this fire, giving it a platform, a name, and a $51.3 billion industry.

Understanding the Times

It's possible that you're in a minority of people that are affected less by social media. However, I would caution you to believe that it doesn't have any influence on you. I believe that with discipline, the right priorities, and limited amounts of time on social media, you can avoid many of the more adverse effects it can have. But you may not be entirely immune.

There are approximately 3.196 billion social media users worldwide. Sixty-nine percent of Americans use some kind of social media, with Facebook being the most widely used, followed by Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

A survey revealed that more than 25% of 1,000 people aged 18-35 (Millennials) feel pressured to keep up with their friends who post their purchases and travel photos. Two-thirds of these admit to comparing their lifestyles to others as a result of social media, while 29% of those aged 52-70 (Baby Boomers) say the same. And 57% of millennials admit to making unplanned purchases as a result of what they see on social media.

Companies can make over $17 per user with the right kind of social advertising. Whether or not you feel like it, thousands of marketers and advertisers around the world are having meetings to find ways to make you spend money on their products and services. And they know how to target you based on the very information that you click on, read, search for or post.

What To Do About It

Obviously, social media is a big deal. To be clear, I don't think that it's inherently wrong - I have my own Facebook and Twitter account and enjoy keeping up with family members and friends on social media.

However, it's easy to get carried away quickly. Protect your finances, your heart, and your relationships with the following guidelines.

Protect Your Finances

With or without social media, you need to have a budget! It's the first step in becoming a faithful steward and is your best defense to discontentment, debt, and financial disaster.

Before you make any purchase, ask yourself three questions.

  1. Is this a want or need?
  2. Does it fit my budget?
  3. Can I live without it today?

To protect your finances from social media, I recommend limiting who you follow to personal friends and family (aka people who don't make a living selling you items!). The "influencers" and "lifestyle bloggers" who make their living off your Instagram have great pages or profiles but are only there to sell you things.

Now, we've probably all also been messaged by well-meaning friends or family selling products in a new business venture! Kindly and politely decline these invitations unless the purchase would pass the three questions above.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me? Hebrews 13:5-6

Protect Your Heart

Let me say it again, social media can wreak havoc on your heart. It often acts like a small seed of jealousy, insecurity, or discontentment that can grow into a much worse problem if left unchecked. Which is no wonder, considering the global average amount of time spent on social media is 135 minutes a day.

If you've caught yourself stumbling into the comparison trap, wasting time scrolling, or acting unfairly to your loved ones, take a break. Declare a total fast from social media and detox it from your system. Just like any other fast, it will be challenging but will pay dividends in your life.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How do I feel about myself when I'm scrolling through my feed? Does that reflect how Christ sees me?
  2. How could I better use my time to serve the Kingdom?
  3. Am I reminded of my God-given purpose by scrolling through my feed?

And he said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

Luke 12:15

Protect Your Relationships

Just like discontentment and jealousy can creep into your finances or mind, it can be detrimental to your relationships. The dangers of comparison coupled with the easy access to content and people is a recipe for disaster. I have known of those whose marriages have been ruined by the rekindling of a high school romance over Facebook or a new follow request on Instagram. Please hear me - it's not worth it.

Protect your marriage, your children, and your friendships by following strict guidelines on your social media accounts. Share your passwords with your spouse if you're married or accountability partner. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Would I respond differently if my spouse read this?
  2. Does this conversation honor God?
  3. What's my motivation for talking with this person?

I have also seen nasty political arguments cause a split in friendships.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

Be Cautious

I'm glad to hear that social media hasn't had any of these extreme consequences in your life. I'd encourage you to be aware of the slippery slope it can be and to follow these or other strict guidelines to keep your finances, heart, and relationships free from the traps it can cause.

Jesus told us in John 16:33, I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

For most of us, we would be far better off spending less time online and more time doing those things which advance the peace of God.

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Money Problems, Marriage Solutions. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.
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