If you have ever bitten into the skin of citrus fruit, you know the strong, sour taste that immediately hits your tongue. Adults know the skin isn’t meant to be eaten, so we peel away the bright outer layer before sinking our teeth into a tangerine. But babies often have to learn this on their own.
It was Bible study night, and I had set out a bowl of tangerines for the ladies to snack on. I centered the bowl on the coffee table in the midst of a water pitcher and glasses.
One of the women arrived with her twin boys. Once unbuckled from their car seats, they began their usual investigation of the living room on their hands and knees—ignoring the full bag of toys their mother had packed for them. Their focal point quickly became the array of shiny glasses and bright orange “balls” on the coffee table. The more adventurous twin pulled himself up on the coffee table and grasped one of the small tangerines in his little hands.
“Don’t worry about it,” I replied to his mother. “There are plenty of tangerines. I don’t mind.”
We watched as he examined the fruit for a few moments. Then, like every baby, he put it to his mouth and clamped his new teeth into the skin. His nose scrunched up and he pulled the tangerine back to get a better look at the thing that had just sprayed such a tangy taste into his mouth. We couldn’t help but giggle in amusement at his discovery.
By this time, the other twin had become interested in this new toy, seeing both its appeal as something new and the attention it brought his brother. He scooted next to his brother and stole the tangerine from his hands. And, like his twin, sunk his little front teeth into the skin. Within seconds, he let out a scream and pulled back, his nose wrinkled and lips drawn down into a frown.
But the horrible taste didn’t stop him. After a short inspection of the fruit, he placed it back in his mouth only to have the same reaction.
This is all part of learning for infants. It may take a few sour bites to realize that you don’t eat the peel of a tangerine. But I learn more quickly when I have an adverse reaction. Babies need to learn cause and effect, but I am able to make such connections much more quickly.
Or am I?
The Anxiety of Social Media
Each day, there is something I do that at times causes me stomach-squeezing, palm-sweating anxiety. It’s a tiny square on a device I swipe my thumb across multiple times a day. It’s in endless scrolling through various feeds. As my mind circles around the same worrisome thoughts surrounding these little squares, I continue to immerse myself deeper.
Friends, I have a theory that at least some (if not more) of my anxiety begins with my social media use. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you can remember a time when the simple click of a button caused your heart rate to rise. Maybe you can think of a time when a simple picture left you chewing your bottom lip anxiously.
In a perfect world, social media would be a source of smiles as we connect with friends and share memories. But we don’t live in a perfect world—we live in a world tangled in the thorns and thistles of sin. And in this world, social media can be a place where anxiety flourishes through comparison, knowledge of the turmoil and terror that surrounds us, envy as we worry why God hasn’t given us what He has given someone else, and anxiously checking stats and “like” counts.
When the little twin made the connection that the horrible taste in his mouth came from biting the tangerine, he tossed the bruised and sticky fruit to the side and scooted over to the bag of toys as the tangerine rolled under the couch. Perhaps if he had gotten past the thick skin, he may have found a sweet and healthy fruit to enjoy underneath.
In a similar way, we may feel the only way to deal with the anxiety of social media is to discard it completely. Delete the apps and perhaps buy a flip phone. For a season this may be beneficial, or even necessary. But removing social media won’t truly fix the problem—because social media isn’t the actual problem.
Social media is a place our anxiety can flourish, but the root of our anxiety is found in our hearts. Removing social media simply eliminates the platform, but because the anxiety comes from our hearts, it will eventually grow somewhere else.
When the Pharisees confronted Jesus and His disciples about how they did not wash their hands before eating, Jesus explained to His disciples, “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone” (Matthew 15:17–20).
Jesus was explaining that our sin begins in our hearts. Behavior modification isn’t the full answer. We need radical heart change first. We need Christ and His refining flames.
Isn’t that the message of the gospel? That our works do not save or change us, but rather God’s grace given in opening our hearts to understand and believe the gospel, and we are then given new hearts that desire to serve Him. The same is true in this battle against the anxiety of social media. We need to begin with our hearts.
Ask yourself: Why does my heart lean toward comparison? Why am I so prone to envy the lives of others when I see their pictures on social media? Why do I anxiously strive to take glory for myself? Why does an awareness of the depravity of the world make me so fearful? Where does this deep desire to match the perceived perfection of others come from? Asking ourselves questions like these will help us dive beyond the surface and see what is happening in our hearts that leads to anxiety when we use social media.
Ultimately, we need Christ to change our hearts. We need Christ’s help to die to this anxious toiling over social media and to teach us how to use it in a way that reflects His atoning work and grace toward us.
Anxiety to Glory
I’m not sure if that little toddler has enjoyed a tangerine yet. Maybe one of these days his mother will turn to him at his highchair, peel the skin away from a tangerine, separate it into smaller sections, and give him a chance to experience the sweetness underneath.
I hope the same for us, as believers—that we can learn to set aside the wicked parts of social media that may lead us astray into fear and worry, and instead use it in a way that glorifies God. Use it to be encouraged and encourage others, to grow Christ’s name and not our own, to compare ourselves only to our Savior and see how we desperately need Him, and to recognize that perfection is not something we can find in our own striving but something only Jesus can give.
Lara d’Entremont is a biblical counselor in training, and her desire in writing is to teach women to turn to God’s Word in the midst of daily life and suffering to find the answers they need. She wants to teach women to love God with both their minds and hearts. Lara is married to Daniel and they live in Nova Scotia, Canada.