Social Media Trade-Offs

Social media applications on mobile

Writing about individual choice and social media technology for Discourse Magazine, Bryan Gentry argues:

Any time that we spend on entertaining technology is time for which we sacrificed something else. A 2007 study found that teenagers who played video games for eight hours each week spent less time reading and doing homework than non-gamers, and less time with family and friends (except when playing games with them). In 2016, researchers in a U.K. study found that time spent on social media meant less time being physically active and lower physical fitness.

Time trading may also change our values. A study earlier this year found that teens with more screen time prayed and read scripture much less often, even those from highly religious families.

Gentry draws from Lois Lowry’s The Messenger and Son, and dubs our choice to be on social media (or other forms of entertainment technology) instead of engaging in other worthwhile activitie, like exercise, socializing, or prayer “time trading.”

We’re not only trading time. We’re trading well-being and human flourishing. We’re trading connection. We’re trading creativity and insight. We’re trading deep meaning discovered in moments human and divine.

For years I’ve heard people say, “No one ever says at the end of their life, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.'” In another fifty years, people may say the same about time on a smartphone.

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