Sermon Illustration: Social Media and Relationships

This Sunday, I will be wrapping up a series on healthy relationships. As with every sermon and sermon series preached, some good content gets left on the cutting room floor.

For instance. . .

I have been reading Jaron Lanier’s Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. I haven’t finished yet. But the thing that struck me most (so far) is the impact social media has on relationships.

Using Facebook as his target, Lanier offers some very interesting, frightening, and contradicting thoughts from Facebook’s leadership.

Consider this quote from Facebook’s first president, Sean Parker:

We need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever.… It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.… The inventors, creators—it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people—understood this consciously. And we did it anyway … it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other.… It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.

Now consider this from Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice president of user growth at Facebook:

So the problem isn’t behavior modification in itself. The problem is relentless, robotic, ultimately meaningless behavior modification in the service of unseen manipulators and uncaring algorithms. Hypnosis might be therapeutic so long as you trust your hypnotist, but who would trust a hypnotist who is working for unknown third parties? Who? Apparently billions of people.

Lanier’s conclusion?

Parker says Facebook intentionally got people addicted, while Palihapitiya is saying something about the negative effects on relationships and society. What is the connection between these two mea culpas? The core process that allows social media to make money and that also does the damage to society is behavior modification. Behavior modification entails methodical techniques that change behavioral patterns in animals and people. It can be used to treat addictions, but it can also be used to create them. The damage to society comes because addiction makes people crazy. The addict gradually loses touch with the real world and real people. When many people are addicted to manipulative schemes, the world gets dark and crazy. (bold emphasis, mine)



Even Silicon Valley parents don’t want their children on their devices. They understand (perhaps better than anyone) what it does to critical life skills.

Consider this quote from the book:

If someone gets a reward—whether it’s positive social regard or a piece of candy—whenever they do a particular thing, then they’ll tend to do more of that thing. When people get a flattering response in exchange for posting something on social media, they get in the habit of posting more. That sounds innocent enough, but it can be the first stage of an addiction that becomes a problem both for individuals and society. Even though Silicon Valley types have a sanitized name for this phase, “engagement,” we fear it enough to keep our own children away from it. Many of the Silicon Valley kids I know attend Waldorf schools, which generally forbid electronics. (bold emphasis, mine)


Main takeaway here? Don’t let social media rob you of real, rich, God-drenched relationships right under your nose.