Social Media: Soda, Wine, Oxycodone, or Heroin?

The following is a guest post (my first ever) from my friend and fellow Mungarian Mike Pratt.  Mike and I have been having a friendly argument about social media: is it mainly helpful, harmful, or neutral?  I’m increasingly of the opinion that it does more harm than good, but Mike doesn’t agree.  Here’s what Mike thinks.

 

Andrew asked me to write a guest post on this blog in response to my taking issue with his argument. It’s not that I think his points in his first post and subsequent follow-up post are entirely wrong, but I’ll argue they have omissions and thus fail to convince. I will counter his argument and offer an alternative framework for viewing this thing called social media.

Before I start I’d like to make one side point: I also think Andrew’s statement:

“What has your attention is what has your worship.  What you think about in your free moments, the topics and places to which your thoughts tend to go, those are your gods.”

is gross generalization of the meaning. As Keller puts it

“What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give…”

To simply have your attention is not necessarily bad or false worship. When it has all of your attention, in place of other, more important things (first and foremost, God) then it becomes an idol of worship. Thoughts can go to many things and not render those things worship. Thank God or my daydreaming is convicted!

Now to the Main Topic

This analogy is by no means perfect but I think it’s a decent framework to look at the issue. As you read each blurb on these four substances, ponder in your mind which one you think is most analogous to social media.

Soda

With a few exceptions, soda is viewed as a relatively benign substance to be enjoyed. In small quantities, it’s clearly harmless and even for regular users, there have been few, if any, documented cases of extreme adverse health consequences. It is accepted that soda is not even remotely hazardous like any of the other 3 substances in this analogy.

Wine

Given the alcohol contained in wine, it’s a step up from soda in that it can be abused and in extreme use cases, is addictive and can have serious health consequences. The Bible celebrates wine in measured doses (wedding at Cana) and also condemns its abuse (drunkenness.) Many people drink wine. Many choose not to.

Oxycodone

This seriously addictive and controlled substance is a ruiner of lives when abused. It is also extremely beneficial in tightly controlled use cases (post surgical pain relief) It is highly controlled because it is so addictive as well as misused (leading to abuse).

Heroin

There are no beneficial uses. Highly addictive. Bad bad bad.

 

So what is Facebook, then?

One man’s opinion:

It’s not soda. I think, to Andrew’s point, there are many people who are hooked on the stuff. “Hooked” in this case being defined as “they use it so much that it takes away from the lives they normally led in a detrimental way or at the expense of basic things”

It’s not Oxy. That implies a very limited, positive use case like Oxy which is just not true. A significant number of social media users engage on their platform(s) of choice in positive and beneficial ways. The government does not (nor should) control use of the platforms to prevent a possible mass wave of harmful addiction because with free use, the facts are that only a minor set of users qualify as “harmfully addictive.”

It’s not Heroin. That presumes there are NO beneficial uses of social media and while many do think that, those folks probably think all soda is a mind-control beverage that Pepsi uses in cahoots with the government.

It’s wine. There are plenty of beneficial, everyday uses of Facebook. Can it get out of hand? Sure. Can you “drink too much”? Sure. Should some people give up drinking? Definitely. The key is to look at what you “drink” and why. Does it rule your life? Are you grumpy without a “drink” or do you love a “glass” with a good meal or when out with friends? Andrew posted a picture of everyone in line at an airport on their phones (presuming that it was a “wrong” state of the world) Replace everyone in that picture with a paperback (Google search images and you will find plenty pre-Facebook!) The devices were simply being used as boredom elimination devices. I don’t think that picture was indicative of the eroded state of the world.

A Word on Facebook’s (or Coke’s) Intentions

Coke wants you to buy Coke Zero. Coke Zero is not medically addictive. You may think Coke wants to “addict” you but it doesn’t matter. They can’t. They will do everything they can to get you to buy it. They should. That’s their business. Blaming Facebook for “not caring about the consequences” is like blaming <insert your favorite brewery or winery> for not caring about the consequences of having a glass. They inform you to drink responsibly and it can be argued that Facebook should not need to place a warning label that you might spend too much time in their web app.

So, I’ll leave you with sage advice: Don’t drink and post!

The above was a guest post by Mike Pratt.  (Click here to subscribe to regular updates from this blog.)  Mike is:
  • A Mungarian!  (Member of Munger Place Church.)
  • The CEO of technology startup Panamplify
  • Founder & President of professional org Digital Dallas
  • A former soldier, wall street trader, marketing exec and non-believer
  • Check out Mike on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikepratt
  • Email Mike: mike@mikeratt.tv

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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6 thoughts on “Social Media: Soda, Wine, Oxycodone, or Heroin?

  1. As a fellow Mungarian, I would like to take issue with this guest post. Andrew’s reflections on Social Media are well thought out and appropriate. The guest post was a defensive reaction to support a closely held affection/addiction. The fact that he makes a living off of Social media may play a part, too. Remember the reaction of the idol makers and populace in support of the Temple of Diana! They strongly resisted Paul. The picture of all the people standing in line looking down is the new norm and it is not comparable to people looking at paperbacks. That never happened. Have you been in any restaurant lately? At many tables the majority if not all the younger people look down at their phones during the dinner rather than engaging their companions in conversation. People never read paperbacks like they look at their phones during dinner now.
    I would liken social Media use more to cigarettes rather than wine. Highly addictive yet meeting many “needs”- oral fixation as well as stimulation and avoidance of boredom.Yet toxic in the end.
    In the past I have seen many people putting out their cigarettes in their food. Disgusting. The habit of looking down at one’s phone at the dinner table is similar in my opinion.
    Embrace boredom!

    • Great feedback, Stephen. A few thoughts (hopefully I don’t seem defensive 🙂 1. I do not make a living off social media and I don’t consider myself having a closely held affection/addiction (although I will concede that to be a rather subjective thing to assess so who knows) The only thing about the cigarette analogy is that there is no good usage of cigarettes. They were always bad for you. I’m not sure I subscribe to the notion that all use of social media is bad. I also hate phones at the dinner table which was why I was specific in the example of killing time in the airport line (not a gathered social setting like the dinner table)

  2. Gentlemen,

    Great posts on an interesting topic! I enjoyed this debate. Right now I’m agreeing with the wine analogy, but definitely good points on both sides. I do agree, Andrew, that it tends to make us more self-focused/ narcissistic as a culture, and I’ve been crediting social media with eroding debate and dialogue of dissenting opinions into 120 character jabs instead of more thoughtful, invested conversations. But I guess that’s not always true since this thoughtful conversation is on a social media platform. 😉 Thanks for making me think this Friday morning.

  3. Fun discussion. The four substance analogy works, but I think Andrew’s bigger point is whether social media distracts from God. Whether it’s benign like Coke or deathly like heroin, sure, a case can be made for everyone in each.

    Additional framework, adding scripture to the discussion, and a quote from commentary on Bible Gateway.

    Ephesians 6:18
    And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

    “As we go through the day, prayer should be our first response to every fearful situation, every anxious thought, and every undesired task that God commands. A lack of prayer will cause us to depend on ourselves instead of depending on God’s grace. Unceasing prayer is, in essence, continual dependence upon and communion with the Father.”

    What if we substitute “check FB” for “pray” in the Ephesians verse?

    Ephesians 6:18
    And “check FB” in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on “checking FB” for all the Lord’s people. “Check FB” also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. “Check FB” that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

    When I’m bored or anxious, do I turn to scripture and prayer 25 times a day, or do I turn to social media to occupy my mind with inanity?

    Is social going to kill me with overuse? Not necessarily, but it could render me ineffective and neutral in the 100x more important fight of Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”