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Avoiding Tech snares

This article describes several snares we can fall into when using technology, whilst remembering all the positives it can bring into our lives. I’m using the term ‘technology’ to describe the electronic channels we use to consume media and connect with others. This list includes social media, news channels, TV (broadcast and streamed), Apps and video streaming sites.

Here I have sought to identify six snares, show what the Bible says about them, suggest some practical ways to escape them, and then stay away from them in the longer term. One of the best practical principles I know for changing bad habits long term is to replace them with something better. For example, if I try to give up sweets for a season, I’ll probably spend that whole time missing sweets. But if I replace sweets with peanut butter sandwiches (or whatever satisfying healthy snack you prefer!), I am much less likely to gorge myself on Skittles!

Similarly, if we are filling ourselves with Tweets, newsflashes, social media posts and car-chase videos, we need to reflect on what needs we are seeking to satisfy in ourselves and find a godlier way of satisfying them. 

One of the best practical principles I know for changing bad habits long term is to replace them with something better.

Snare #1: Judging others

Do you find it easy to make snap judgements about others on social media? Sometimes this might be judging the person making the post, or maybe they are encouraging you to judge someone in the public eye. It is so common, even amongst Christians, for us to be judgemental about politicians and celebrities that it’s easy to forget Jesus’ words, “Do not judge or you will be judged” (Matt 7:1). Instead, we are to “bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another” (Col 3:13). They should know us for our grace rather than our judgementalism.

Escaping this snare        

  • Avoid/reduce social media altogether or particular elements (e.g. newsfeed)
  • Block/hide people on social media who trigger unhelpful judgements in you    

Staying away

  • Only post kind or encouraging comments
  • Resolve not to respond immediately to annoying posts
  • Aim to follow up in-person rather than online
  • Ask God for grace in your heart and mind
  • Mute particular subjects or words that are likely to annoy you or lead you to responding negatively      
  • Snare #2: Coveting what I lack

Do you look at perfect-looking photos of happy families or idyllic holidays on social media and covet what you do not have? Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is a modern malady, but the airbrushed and curated images that seduce us are often shallow and false.The last of the ten commandments tells us not to covet “anything that belongs to your neighbour” (Exodus 20:17). Instead, “Be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5). We might think that contentment with our lot in life is hard to find, but the writer to the Hebrews immediately reveals the secret to true contentment in the same verse, when he reminds us of God’s promise in Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Freedom from covetousness comes through finding satisfaction in the promises and presence of God. The Apostle Paul suggests practical steps for the Thessalonian church to achieve this: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Escaping this snare    

  • Avoid/reduce social media altogether or particular elements (e.g. newsfeed)
  • Block/hide people on social media who trigger your envy
  • Commit to a phone/screen sabbath once per week to help with freedom from FOMO

Staying away    

  • Remind yourself that this is the curated image of a person
  • Pray for the person and be thankful for what they have
  • Get to know the real person, and see their flaws/insecurities etc.
  • Recognise your loss, and ask for help with grieving/releasing it
  • Give thanks to God for what I have and how God has made me    

Snare #3: Lusting with my eyes

Do you struggle to keep your eyes away from online material that leads you to lust? It might be something obviously seductive for some, such as pornography or erotic stories. For others, it might be content that is harmless to most people, such as TV adverts or sports footage. Apps such as YouTube do not wait to be invited before enticing us with tempting videos to watch. Jesus calls us to be ruthless with anything that causes us to look at another person lustfully, even calling us to amputate a hand or gouge out an eye that leads us to sin in this way (Matt 5:27-30). But, of course, He really means that we must amputate anything that might lead us to sin. Practical examples of this might be cancelling a TV streaming subscription, removing an app, or even getting rid of your smartphone or broadband access for a season. Instead, we are to displace unhelpful thoughts and images from our minds by thinking about whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8-9). You might do this with Bible reading, prayer, conversation with a Christian friend, or choosing to relax with a Christian podcast or worship music.

Escaping this snare        

  • Avoid TV/YouTube/websites/internet altogether or at certain times
  • Find better things to do with your time than look at a screen
  • Set up internet accountability or filtering software
  • Limit tech use to shared rooms where others can see your screen    

Staying away

  • Clear your browser/viewing history  and cookies after a lapse, so that apps don’t prompt you in the future with unhelpful suggestions
  • Appreciate the beauty in others to God in prayer
  • Listen to radio/podcasts instead of looking at content on a screen    

Snare #4: Passive consumption

Do you live in an “echo chamber” online where your newsfeeds and social media reinforce your personal viewpoints? When you put your feet up and turn on the TV, does the critical part of your brain turn off? Unfortunately, our online consumption can simply reinforce all our biases and fuel our outrage when we adopt this posture. The Bible tells us to “let no one deceive you with empty words” (Ephesians 5:6). After all, “The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.” (Proverbs 14:15). Instead, we are called to keep our minds active, think critically about what we see/hear online, and pray for insight, as the Apostle Paul does, so that we can “discern what is best” (Philippians 1:10).

Escaping this snare    

  • Avoid media/feeds that fuel your bias, anger or outrage
  • Pray that God would give you discernment    

Staying away    

  • Watch a range of media, including ones that challenge you
  • Watch and discuss programmes with others
  • Use Christian critics to help balance, critique and curate your viewing 
  • Limit your intake – be discerning    

Snare #5: Time wasting

Do you sometimes go to bed much later than planned, having failed to stop the TV from going on to the next episode and then the next...? Is it hard to stop checking your messages or scrolling endlessly through social media posts? God knows we need refreshment after a day’s work, but the Bible calls us to appreciate this life's fleeting nature and know that our lives are “but a breath” (Psalm 39:4-5). It’s easy for us to excuse hours of wasted time online because what we are looking at is not sinful. But God calls us to, “be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity” (Eph 5:15-16). 

Escaping this snare    

  • Avoid binges – turn off “Autoplay next episode” on streaming sites
  • Set limits (e.g. daily/weekly hour limit; no screen time after 10pm; look at scripture before phone in the morning)
  • Pray for self-control
  • Leave the phone or tablet downstairs at night and, if you wish to read something, look for a ‘proper’ book!

Staying away        

  • Log what you watch and how much time it takes up
  • Combine screen time with something wholesome (e.g. washing up!)
  • Download a podcast and go for a walk/run
  • Get recommendations from godly friends for wholesome material to watch    

Snare #6: Chasing the ‘latest thing’

Do you feel you have to be ‘in the know’ on the latest Twitter storm? Are you a news junkie, always hungry for updates on the latest political feud? A small minority of people have a valid reason for being plugged in like this. But, for most of us, it merely fuels distraction, destroys our focus, and breeds an unhealthy preoccupation with matters that we are powerless to change. Obsession with novelty is not a new thing! The Bible notes it was a common mindset in metropolitan Greeks at the time of the early church: “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas” (Acts 17:21). Instead of attuning ourselves to every latest twist and turn (“there is nothing new under the sun”  Ecclesiastes 1:9-10), we need to search for the old treasures about God that we will only find when we seek God wholeheartedly (Jeremiah 29:13), and recognise that we are not going to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Eph 3:18), and other profound riches via a Tweet or a newsflash!

Escaping this snare        

  • Recognise that there is “nothing new under the sun”
  • Reduce the frequency of your news intake
  • Turn off push notifications on your device

Staying away    

  • Find a recommended book, podcast or video about the wonders of God
  • Learn something that is new to you, but not necessarily the latest fad    

In conclusion

I hope that describing these six snares has helped you identify a few habits to change in your use of technology. I would encourage you to note what you intend to change and hold yourself to account with a friend. Often, we fall into these snares because we don’t really know what we are looking for. We might turn on our device because we feel an emotional pull and are hoping for a boost. You may find it helpful to talk this article over with a Christian friend, small group, or therapist to better understand what drives you to seek fulfilment in an app, website, or box set. May each of us be able to say, like the Psalmist, that, “We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”- Psalm 124:7-8

This article was originally published in the summer 2022 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.

Download the summer 2022 edition of Ascend