by Emily Conrad
I see you there, scrolling around the Internet. I see you because I’ve seen my own reflection in my computer screen or when I accidentally turn on my camera’s phone while doing the same.
On the surface, it’s boredom, but really, the scrolling is about more than that, isn’t it? It’s about a search for something that will strike a chord deep within us to undo everything that’s brought us to this place, be it grief, loneliness, injustice, illness, or something else.
If your newsfeed is anything like mine, I have an idea of what you find while you scroll: an odd mashup of adorable children and brewing storms, lighthearted memes and wildfires of every sort–literal, personal, social, and political.
These posts take the pulse of what’s going on with friends, family, the country, and the world, and some good comes out of that. But it doesn’t often meet our emotional needs. In fact, the more time we spend on social media, the more likely we are to feel depressed, dissatisfied, and discontent. This article on Forbes.com talks about how using social media to “fill a void” can create a vicious cycle–scrolling because you’re depressed, feeling depressed because you’ve been scrolling.
So, for those days when we scroll more out of need than out of interest, what will send us all back on our way, newly whole and equipped to face our lives? What fills the void?
Though social media is a dangerous place to turn to fill emotional need, there have been a couple of times when I’ve come away from it uplifted not because of any post itself, but because of Whom the posts pointed me toward.
One off day, I scrolled through Instagram and found myself uplifted, not because I saw a lot of pretty pictures, but because my feed was inundated with Scriptural truth.
More often, it’s the blog posts from friends I’ve made through social media that draw me in. The ones that resonate with me are by people facing the same sort of emotional voids we all do, yet they pen poetic, beautiful posts.
More than lyrical writing makes these posts uplifting. Anxiety and doubt and worry and fear and death and grieving can’t be prettied up by language. Instead, these stories become beautiful through a God-given strength to feel, to experience, to seek the blessing in the dark place, to hope in Christ regardless of circumstances.
I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19, NET, emphasis mine)
And so, what will send us on our way, newly whole, void filled? Not scrolling, not another adorable puppy photo, not three tips to success, but Jesus.
With Jesus, though we live in uncertain times and haven’t experienced the end of the story yet, we know what it will be.
Though grief and anxiety and illness linger, Jesus is our comfort.
Though we can’t see through the veil of death, Jesus is on this side of it and the other.
Though we run and sweat and bleed and die, Jesus is with us as a friend and a forerunner, a guide, and a redeemer.
Whatever flood or fire we face, we have hope in Jesus.
The by-product of knowing God and being a part of what He’s doing is that He fills our voids and satisfies our souls in ways scrolling social media never could.
It’s not that I’m against social media, but we’re wise to do heart checks on ourselves.
If we find our moods come down and voids open up when we scroll, it’s time to reconsider what we’ve allowed in our social media feeds. Are we staring at screens full of ugly debate and criticism or full of Scripture and God’s truth? This article talks about how quality of social media interaction really does affect us (maybe even more than the quantity). It’s important to remember we get to choose who we follow, and in some cases, what kinds of posts we’ll see most often from those we’re connected to. Don’t take what’s in your feed as a given when you have options.
We also need to pause before we open that browser. Instead of scrolling to fill a void, get away with Jesus, the Bible, and maybe a journal for some real time of connection that doesn’t require an app. By doing this, I’ve experienced relief so much sweeter than anything social media could offer.
Instead of the vicious cycle of depression and social media scrolling, Jesus invites us to enter a glorious cycle of letting Christ’s strength replace our weaknesses and our weaknesses serve as a reminder to depend again more fully on Christ.