Turning Over a New Leaf
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. – Romans 7:15 (NRSV)
When Paul wrote the above words down, is there any chance he had a premonition about social media in the 21st century, particularly the phenomenon known as doom-scrolling? Like any addictive behavior, it provides a short-term dopamine hit but ends up making you feel worse than ever.
The irony is that too much social media, which we go to for connection and joy, leaves us feeling depressed, lonely, jealous, and never-good-enough. Not to mention its pernicious role in exacerbating political polarization and tribalism (Parler, anyone?). The recent film The Social Dilemma notes that only two industries call their clients “users”: the one that sells street drugs, and the one that makes social media.
We know this, and might say we can stop anytime, but most of us don’t. We believe we can use Facebook recreationally, modestly, or just for business purposes, but in reality we have no idea how and how much it is using us.
Did you know trees have their own social networks? They “communicate and cooperate through subterranean networks of fungi,” according to researchers. What’s more, their socializing appears to be purposeful and altruistic: sharing resources from oldest & strongest to youngest & weakest, and raising alarms about environmental threats like bugs or bad weather. They even cooperate between species that might ordinarily be a threat to their own survival. Their networking makes everyone better.
No wonder I feel so good when I hug a redwood, or engage in the Japanese art of forest bathing. I’m listening in on an entirely different conversation than what I hear on Twitter.
Today, I’m making a personal commitment to back way off of my social media consumption, not just for a season but (hopefully, God give me strength) for the rest of my life. I will spend my reclaimed time with my own real live people, and with trees, God’s oldest children on earth.
God, help me to stop doing what I don’t want, and claim my life back for that which really serves both me and You.