The Dangers of Social Media on Relationships

Did you know that 20 percent of divorces involve Facebook? As a Facebook user myself, I was not surprised by this statistic. Facebook’s convenient social engagement – sometimes couched in the privacy of a message inbox – is an excellent way to stay in contact with old friends. But this convenience is also why Facebook can be dangerous for marriage. Brenda and I have a continual conversation on this topic. Social media is largely harmless, but if not approached with discretion it leads many down a path of emotional (and even physical) infidelity. We are not blind to this potential – and you shouldn’t be either.

Social media may not always be used in positive ways. Understanding the pitfalls can help you be aware of the potential dangers of social media on today’s relationships. Darren Adamson, PhD, LMFT, Chair of the Department of Marriage and Family Sciences at Northeastern University, lays out three potential dangers facing couples:

1.Social media serves as a distraction from focusing on the interactions that nurture relationships. “Social media use can become compulsive,” explains Adamson, “making it difficult to manage the amount of time spent on it.” In one study, American college students describe abstaining from social media the same way they describe drug and alcohol withdrawal—cravings, anxiety, feeling jittery.

2. People share their best lives on social media, so couples sometimes compare their mundane lives with other’s exciting lives, which can create destructive comparisons. “This can lead to discouragement with one’s primary relationship,” says Adamson. That discouragement can lead to conflict, fear, unrealistic expectations—why can’t you be like the partner portrayed in the social media posts? —or an overall discontentment with the relationship.

3. There is the potential for another relationship that looks so much better than the primary relationship. This can lead to extra-couple relationships that ultimately can destroy your marriage.

Guidelines for Maintaining a Healthy Balance Between Social Media and Relationships

As evidenced by couples who do use social media to their advantage, it is possible to have healthy relationships and be actively involved in social media. In fact, a 2013 study in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that people who share information about their relationship on Facebook were comfortable in their relationship. However, that setting guidelines on how to effectively use social media can mean the difference between a healthy use of social media in a relationship and taking it into the danger zone.

1.Don’t use social media as a negative point of comparison for your relationship. If you feel compelled to make comparisons involving your relationship compare where your relationship is today with what it was like a year ago—or five or ten years ago for those in a long-term relationship. Let the results of the comparison prompt changes in behavior that can build your relationship.

2.Spend time nurturing your relationship. Do things that create closeness in your relationship and do them regularly without distraction. This means leaving the cell phone/tablet at home—out of sight and out of mind. The distraction factor is one of the biggest challenges with social media. According to a study by Scientific American, the presence of a cell phone/tablet can be detrimental to interpersonal relationships.

3. Do not maintain a separate social media life. Share your social media world with your husband or wife. Spouses should not just share passwords – they should keep no secrets on social media. All messages, groups, and statuses should be open to your spouse. Just as it would be unsafe to keep secrets with a “real life” friend of the opposite sex, it is equally dangerous to keep even the smallest secrets from your spouse online. This may seem extreme, but in the world of social media we cannot be too careful. The protection of a screen gives a false sense of security, privacy, and even intimacy. This is why Brenda and I have a continual conversation about our social media channels, updating one another on who messaged us, what we’ve said lately, and the news we’ve received.

Social media is a part of our modern society, but there are also dangers in social media if couples let it get out of control. One thing you must keep in mind that social media is exactly what the name implies—media. It is not a separate and distinct world. It does not sustain relationships, because it is based on virtual reality that, by its nature, is not able to support the activities required to make a relationship work. That is up to you as individuals, and it still requires old-fashioned hard work and time invested in your relationship to make it thrive!

When Equality Does not Mean Equality

I am not a political activist, nor do I intend to become one. There is a difference, however, between being an activist and standing up for the truth, especially when it is suppressed and impacts our children. That is never more necessary than when powerful people seek to change foundational truths created by our Creator in an attempt to shut down any conversations or disagreements about a matter of utmost importance.

Such is the case with a recent announcement by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to give its full support to the proposed Equality Act through a celebrity driven video campaign. Contrary to what its name implies, the Equality Act soon to be introduced by House Democrats proposes anything but equality. As Andrew Walker wrote for The Gospel Coalition, this bill represents the “most invasive threat to religious liberty ever proposed in America” and “equates Christian ethics with hatred and bigotry.”

You may be wondering why I would bother with this topic in a blog about grandparenting. The reason is simple: God instructs us to teach our grandchildren the truth. For two decades I have talked about and written about this biblical mandate God gave to parents and grandparents for all times. We are mandated to tell the next generations the truth about who God is, what God has done and why He has done it. That includes the truth about who we are as male and female created in God’s image.

Fight for the Truth

If another generation is to know the truth—ALL of God’s truth, including what He says about sexuality and gender—it won’t be because our politicians and lawmakers are proclaiming it. It won’t be because celebrities promote it. It will be because godly men and women boldly and faithfully make it known generation to generation. But let us also remember that we teach and fight for what is true because it is true, not because it suits us or our ‘cause’.

We are responsible to teach our grandchildren the Gospel and the truth about things like God’s view of sexuality and gender. When a culture or a nation forces a lie on our children, we need to fight for the truth. That does not mean being vicious, unkind or unwilling to listen to other opinions. It does mean knowing what is true and boldly standing up for what is true, not just for Christians, but for all men.

Andrew Walker is right when he says, “Christians need to do a much better job of explaining the rationale and merits of their beliefs around gender and sexuality. We do not believe these are sectarian truths applicable only to Christians. Rather, we believe how God patterned creation in Genesis is the blueprint for human flourishing. If we don’t contend for the legitimacy and rationality of our views, they’ll end up being sidelined as intolerant and harmful—to the detriment of all.”

So, grandparents, I encourage you to engage with your grandchildren about these matters. Be ready to explain what God says and why it is important to believe what he says. Below are links to two articles I recommend reading, and a book I believe can be helpful to you in these conversations. These are conversations we need to have because they are conversations others are already initiating with your grandchildren in the public arena. We can’t afford to be lulled asleep on these matters for the sake of our grandchildren.

Important Resources

The Equality Act Accelerates Anti-Christian Bias by Andrew Walker

BreakPoint: The Equality Act vs. Religious Freedom by John Stonestreet

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World by John Stonestreet

GRANDPAUSE: Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.(Nehemiah 4:14)

Smartphone Conversations for Grandparents

Do you ever grow tired of the constant intrusion of smartphones in everyday life? Have dinner time conversations with your grandchildren been reduced to tweeting and texting activity while face-to-face human interactions almost come to a halt?

Few grandparents have much to say about whether their grandchildren are allowed smartphones, let alone when and how they use them. Mom and Dad have primary responsibility for how it’s played out. Everywhere, that is, except in your home space. 

Grandparents, you are in a position to determine the parameters for smartphone use in your home, if you are willing to set an example. You are the king and queen of your home, and you can help change the way your grandchildren think about and use their smartphones. It requires some intentionality and grace, and perseverance.

Before I share some ideas, you must first believe you can have a transformational impact in your grandchildren’s lives, even when you are not living close by. The Bible makes it very clear that grandparents are just as important as parents in teaching and training our grandchildren to walk in the truth. If your grandchildren are young, you can establish that influence early on by reading Bible stories and other good stories with them, and by talking with them about both the good things and the dangers of technology.

If your grandchildren are older grade schoolers and teens, we may assume they don’t want to hear anything grandma and grandpa have to say. That will be true if we only criticize and “preach” at them about stuff we don’t like. If, on the other hand, we establish an atmosphere of trust and vulnerability (we can still learn some things too), the opportunities are there to engage them with conversations that cause them to think more judiciously about the choices they make. 

Now, for a few ideas regarding smartphones in your home…

  1. Assess your worldview about God’s creation. Does it line up with Scripture or culture? If  God created man in HIs image, he also created him to create good things. Does that include technology, or is it inherently evil? Like all of God’s creation, it is good, but like everything else it is under sin’s curse. Still, if the bad side of technology is all you talk about, your grandchildren will have little interest in hearing what you have to say. That’s why the Gospel is so significant. God can redeem even technology. 
  2. Determine to be tech-savvy.Know what you’re talking about. You don’t need to be an expert, but invest some serious time in learning about the capabilities, dangers and purposes of smartphones. A smartphone is not neutral. It has a specific purpose—communication, but it also has an accompanying power to influence thinking and action. Do you know how to have conversations with your grandchild about these things? If not, I recommend you check out this free resource produced by AXIS Ministries. You might also want to share it with the parents of your grandchildren.
  3. Build a culture of blessing in your home.Make it a regular practice to intentionally speak a word of blessing over each of your grandchildren when the opportunity arises. There are so many negative messages coming at them. Your words of blessing and value as image-bearers of God can be transformational. We have a free download called Creating a Legacy of Blessing that can help you make the most of this tool.
  4. Establish meaningful guidelines for smartphone use in your home. Here are ways to build a focus on relationships and less technology dependence. I call them Tech-Free Zones or Recess Periods:
    • Family Table: Let it be understood that mealtime is set aside for family interaction. No smartphones or other devices are welcome at the family table. This is too valuable a time to allow smartphones to disrupt.
    • Other tech-free zones/recess periods: When the grandkids come to visit, help them understand the value of personal interaction by creating tech-free recess periods (pre-planned activities) in which smartphones are turned off and put away out of temptations reach. Here are some examples: baking cookies together, reading a book, working on a puzzle, sharing stories. You probably have a lot more ideas you could create for doing life together without smartphone interference.
    • Special Outings: If your grandchildren are old enough, plan for some outings with them where smartphones are not allowed (assign one person in charge of the emergency phone). These could be visits to a museum, zoo, play, picnic, etc. Make plans for things they would enjoy doing, but no smartphones allowed.

(You’ll find a few other suggestions in my book: Courageous Grandparenting)

Grandparents, you can tell yourself that it is not your responsibility to teach your grandkids about their use of smartphones or any other technology. But that is cop out. God’s design is that we should work together—parents and grandparents—to train up a child to walk in the truth.

If you and your adult children are not on the same page about this, make sure you are on the same page with God’s truths about life and His creation. Ask God for wisdom and understanding to help your grandchildren avoid the dangers and make the most of technology for God’s glory and purposes.

Cultivating Godly Adult Influence

At the young age of twelve, I attended a True Love Waits Conference and pledged to remain sexually pure until my wedding night.  23 years later, on August 16th, 2015, I handed that pledge to my husband on our wedding night!

While waiting those 23 years to meet Greg, I dated many “frogs” and wondered if God would ever bring a godly man into my life to marry. Again and again my parents (and other key people in my life) encouraged me to choose hope and continue living my life to the fullest. It wasn’t easy as I found myself attending countless weddings and baby showers! But my support network challenged me to use my singleness to do great things for God…and by God’s amazing grace, that’s exactly what I did. I shared my journey of singleness (and sexual integrity) with as many young people as I possibly could. My goal? To give them hope that they’re not in this battle alone and to inspire them to wait for God’s best.

What helped me wait to be sexually active until my wedding night? Was it a stellar sense of self worth?  Maybe self-control made out of steel?  No, neither of those.  Sure, some might blame it on the fact that I am a firstborn – you know…the responsible, rule following type.  But it goes much deeper than that. What led me to make different choices than my peers was primarily one thing, godly adult influence – people that were Jesus with skin on to me.

The first place I met Jesus was in the home – through my parents.  My parents have been married now 44 years and have done an amazing job modeling a healthy marriage to my brothers and me.  Not only did they model covenant love to each other, they also loved us unconditionally.  They listened to us, believed in us, and encouraged us. Most importantly, they consistently pointed us to Jesus and discipled us into a saving relationship with Christ. Their presence made all the difference in the world!

In addition to my parents’ influence, God brought quality mentors into my life that spoke the same truth into my heart.  Their words of wisdom and guidance strengthened my conviction to wait to be sexually active until marriage and in turn, stand out from the crowd.

Godly adult influences were an anchor for my soul when the storms of life tried to blow me over. How well anchored are your children?

Reflect and Respond:

  • If you’re married, what does your marriage demonstrate to your children? Is it time to get away and focus on each other? Consider Family Life Today’s Weekend to Remember. Check out familylife.com/WTR to learn more.
  • How many godly adult influences do your children have? Consider each of your children individually and work together as a couple to brainstorm the godly (and not so godly!) influences in their lives. Then after spending time in prayer, make a list of action steps you can take to build more godly adult influences in their lives while minimizing the negative ones.
  • Read and discuss Proverbs 11:14 and Proverbs 15:22 as a family. Discuss the importance of having advisors/mentors throughout life. Make a point to mention that it doesn’t matter the age or stage of life we’re in, we all need one! Consider brainstorming as a family the qualities of an ideal advisor/mentor and who may already be playing that role in their lives.

 

Teaching Our Children the Value of Waiting

I remember playing the role of Mary in the Bible story of Mary and Joseph. I was 14 years old at the time and the man playing the part of Joseph was 25. I wasn’t the boy crazy type of teenager, but when it came to “Joseph,” I fell head over heels. I even told my mom that I was going to marry him. Yikes – yes, I really did believe that! No, I didn’t marry “Joseph” but as I reflect back on that time, it’s evident that God planted the desire to marry deep in my heart at a very young age. Then he had me wait 21 years for that desire to be fulfilled!

Waiting is a common theme in the Bible and one every human being is familiar with. If we stop and think about it, waiting is a regular part of our lives. Whether it be small things like waiting at a stoplight, in the drive thru at your favorite fast food restaurant or at the doctor’s office, we all wait for something. Or it might be big things we wait for…like a student waiting to hear back from their top college pick, a man waiting to hear back on his blood work results or a married couple waiting to receive word that they can meet their adopted child. We can’t avoid it and we can’t escape it.

Waiting is a reality and a normal part of life. The question we must not ask ourselves then is, “How do I get out of this situation?” but rather, “How can I make the most of this situation?” Paul David Tripp put it this way: “…God never wastes our waiting, frivolously prolonging what we get at the end of the wait. Rather, waiting is fundamentally about who we become as we wait. Waiting should always build character.”

Waiting until I was 35 to meet and marry my “holy hunk” challenged me more than anything. It required me to depend on God as my Provider and Sustainer, it tested my identity and where I found my worth, it confronted my propensity to compare myself to others and ultimately it led me to surrender my will to God’s will. Waiting for my husband was the instrument God chose to use in my life to build godly character and to establish His truth deep in my heart.

You might be thinking, “What does waiting have to do with teaching my kids about Biblical sexuality?” Everything! The culture teaches them to let their feelings be their guide; Biblical sexuality teaches them to walk by faith. The culture teaches them to be the master of their own lives; Biblical sexuality teaches them to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The culture teaches that they are to set their own standard of right and wrong; Biblical sexuality teaches that there is one standard and it’s found in the Word of God.

If you want your children to embrace Biblical sexuality, a good place to start is by allowing them to face experiences where they have to choose between faith and feelings, surrender and control, Truth and their own standard of right and wrong. Shepherding them as they face these kinds of experiences will help develop their character and teach them the value of waiting on God. If this is what you want for your children, what are you waiting for?!

Reflect and Respond:

  • How well do you wait? How well are you modeling the concept of waiting to your children?
  • Read Paul David Tripp’s article on waiting called “The Waiting Room.” (https://www.paultripp.com/wednesdays-word/posts/the-waiting-room)
  • Discuss with your spouse how the two of you can work together to give your children more opportunities to wait well.

 

Eye with world image

Does Worldview Matter to You?

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…”
2 Corinthians 5:17

I have an 18-year old grandson with Asperger Syndrome. He’s a brilliant young man. He’s also fun to be around, and so gracious and teachable. He does an amazing job of making friends despite his social awkwardness and diminutive physical size. He has difficulty at times relating to his peers. Yet, one thing governs how he sees himself — a worldview shaped by the Gospel. Here’s how I know.

Dear God

His mother found a letter in his bedroom that he had written as a prayer at age sixteen. What he wrote then is still true for him now:

“Dear God, I don’t want to get confused as to what my identity is. I don’t want to think that I am nothing less than Your child, Creator of all things. I am a child of You, Lord, that is who I am. Likewise I don’t want to base my identity, my worth, on what other people think, but on what You think of me instead. And don’t let me forget how dependent I am on You either. This is who I, Corban B…., truly am. I’m a Child of God.”

Where did this come from? It came from a worldview he learned and embraced that gives him identity in the world in which he lives. He sees his world as one God created, and one we messed up. Yet, because of God’s grace, he knows he is child of the One who made him and loves him deeply. That’s his source of worth, identity and purpose.

That’s an expression of worldview. It matters to all of us. And I’m glad to know it still matters to him today.

A biblical, kingdom worldview provides the motivation for us, as believers, to engage the culture around us. Our world is shaped by a non-Christian worldview, which is why our worldview matters.

I believe because of his worldview, Corban (who’s name means “gift devoted to God”), will one be of those who will make a difference, and maybe God will use his ‘different-ness’ to make an impact in very powerful way.

Worldview is Not Optional

John Stonestreet, President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, says worldview is not optional. It’s human,” he writes. “It’s as much a part of being alive as breathing is. We don’t decide whether we’ll engage the culture. Just how.”

Grandparents, does worldview matter to you? Does the worldview rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ shape how you see the world and engage with people in your world? Does it compel you to teach and encourage your grandchildren to discern and courageously engage this world? We can’t afford to hide our heads in the sand and ignore what’s going on around us. Only those who hold up the light will dispel the darkness. That’s why Jesus called us to let our light shine. It must not be hidden, but held high for all to see.

Available Resources

There are a number of tools available to help you have the conversations with your grandchildren about worldview–which is really a conversation about how we view life. Here are a few I would recommend:

  1. A Practical Guide to Culture by John Stonestreet
  2. The Story of Reality; and Tactics by Gregory Koukl
  3. Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side; and Talking with Your Kids About God by Natasha Crain
  4. The Secret Battle of Ideas About God by Jeff Myers

Check the Gospel Shaped Family web site for additional resources for young children.

Also, check out these podcast episodes (Part One; Part Two) with John Stonestreet talking about the importance of worldview.