Anything is an idol if it comes between us and God.
by Carol Cumberland
“I love seeing you on Facebook, Jamie,” I said to our friend’s daughter. “But it’s pretty addicting, and I might have to get off of it altogether.”
What have I done? I just admitted to Jamie that I have an addiction to Facebook, of all things.
Jamie sat on our guestroom bed and stared at me. “I’d miss you on there,” she said. “Maybe you can get on in the evenings when it doesn’t consume all of your time.”
If she only knew how much of my days are consumed by Facebook. Yet her words encouraged me, and I found myself playing them over in my mind. Deep down, I felt God had a reason for me to be on that social network site. Maybe I can use Facebook just in the evenings — if I don’t overdo it.
Jamie’s sweet smile was my goodnight hug, and I went upstairs to get ready for bed. Having divulged my “secret sin,” I was surprised how much it helped.
When Facebook first came out, most people flocked to it. Not me. Thinking it might be too hard to figure out, I steered away from it. But everyone kept telling me how easy and fun Facebook was.
Though I joined without a hitch, it took forever to learn how to upload a profile picture. Friends were elated when, after months, I finally changed the boring girl silhouette profile face to a picture of me. I gradually became comfortable and added more pictures and information about myself.
I gained confidence to venture out and comment freely on others’ posts instead of just clicking “like” on a few. It seemed that every day I’d see someone new from my past requesting to be my friend. The more friends requested my friendship, the more comfortable I felt to request friends.
Before I knew it, I had 300 — all the way from grade school on up. Some friends were people I used to work with, while others I’d met at different churches we attended throughout thirty years of marriage.
I had recently retired and so had all the time in the world. It didn’t take long before I became consumed with Facebook. It seemed like one big party, especially connecting again with friends and family I hadn’t heard from in ages. It was great to catch up and see pictures of their families, some of whom I’d never met.
Before I knew it, I found myself caught up in Facebook’s newsfeed, with its new activity each day, nonstop. I’d read, comment or click “like” on some posts, and continue to scroll for miles, it seemed. When my family walked into the kitchen, I’d seldom look up.
After months of this Facebook indulgence, the times I did catch sight of my sons, I noticed they were looking at me first — perhaps to see if this time their presence would make a difference.
“How was your day?” I’d ask. When I realized what my addiction was doing to them, my heart broke. I’ll do better tomorrow, I told myself. I wanted to change the message I had been sending to them for months: “Facebook is more important to me than you are.” But I couldn’t.
Many times I’d get on Facebook several times a day, especially if I posted something. I couldn’t wait to see if people commented. If they did, then I replied to them.
This created a snowball effect. Some days I found myself still in my pajamas at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon. I consumed lots of time commenting on people’s posts. Every word had to be perfect. Obsessive-compulsive tendencies began surfacing.
Then something odd happened. If people didn’t respond to my posts, I felt snubbed. Hurt brought me to tears.
“Why do you want to be on Facebook?” my husband asked when he’d see me dejected for days.
“I don’t know,” I answered. “I guess I feel better some days and think I won’t get hurt again.”
Prayer for help
I tried to solve the dilemma by praying and asking God to help me forgive the people who damaged my emotions. It consoled me to know that, if I needed to, I could hide the “offenders” from view with a click of a mouse. Just seeing their posts aggravated my hurt more.
Through God’s grace of forgiveness, whether they tried to hurt me or not, I was able to unhide these people again. At the same time, it wasn’t unusual for me to hide someone else from the newsfeed for another “snubbing crime.”
God used these incidents to show me that I sometimes manufactured hurt in my mind. He also reminded me that at times I spoke out for Him, sharing His truth. Saying anything about God would bring out the worst in the Enemy, including his lies. Satan didn’t want God’s truth to be revealed.
Despite my attempts at outreach and seeking God’s forgiveness, at times my prayer and Bible reading fell far behind. By the end of those days, I could really feel it. God seemed so distant. I found myself leaving God out of my life more and more.
That’s when I realized the gut-wrenching truth: I was addicted to Facebook. I couldn’t even spend ten minutes with God, but I could spend up to three hours on any given day on a social media site. What’s wrong with this picture?
When Jamie arrived that night at our house, my Fackbook dilemma had come to a full boil. I was frustrated to the nth degree.
Early the next morning, on her way out to the car to go home, Jamie turned back. “I’ll remember to pray about your Facebook decision.”
Her prayers worked. In time, God showed me Facebook is a great avenue for encouraging others and receiving encouragement. I soon discovered my true “voice” for God on this social media outlet.
He taught me that putting Him first was the key. As I spent more time with Him in devotions, He gave me more of His strength and peace. He also empowered me to be a more effective witness on Facebook.
One day I shared my faith with a high school classmate — an atheist. Who knows what growth God will bring from the seeds I planted.
God is “growing” me too. I can better discern when priorities get out of kilter again. He is giving me a bigger helping of His wonderful fruit of self-control that I desperately need.
Recently, I’ve chosen to be off of Facebook and have found it refreshing. I’ve spent quality time with family and devoted myself more to prayer.
Facebook will always be around, unless God decides otherwise. He will provide plenty of His grace for me if or when He nudges me to venture back to the newsfeed and my timeline. I’ve learned that as long as I connect with God each day and make that my top priority, nothing else really matters.
About the Author
Carol Cumberland has been published in 101 Facets of Faith and God Still Meets Needs. She lives in Kansas City, MO.