Why Social Media Makes Us Unhappy

by Dr. Christopher Cone, Christian Examiner Contributor |

A past study from the University of Michigan showed that "Facebook use actually predicts declines in a user's well-being." While the study quantifies that Facebook use in young adults "may undermine" well being, the study doesn't go so far as to attempt to explain exactly why. I offer here a few explanatory suggestions. Oh yeah... and it's poetry (because poetry and unhappiness go so well together).

On Connectedness, Perceived and Real 

by Christopher Cone

We have thousands of friends we can instantly address.

We have no need to listen, care, or confess.

We need not rejoice or weep face to face,

Instead we can focus only on our own tastes.

We broadcast what we are eating, doing, and wearing.

We express our anger with outbursts and swearing.

It matters not who hears, hurts, or cries.

We have thousands of followers to hear our brilliant replies.

It must be entirely all about us –

We're sure they care about our meaningless fuss.

But then we learn it's not like that at all.

They didn't retweet, or like our posts about the mall.

Angry, we become (like the great Yoda said),

And we hold back our tears and crumple into our bed.

A bad day has become solemnly worse,

Because the world didn't confirm that indeed we come first.

It promises connection, fulfillment, and joy,

But instead disappoints like a poorly built toy.

We are social creatures designed to interact,

We are deceived to think that online fills all that.

Yet it leaves us wanting because it cannot give us

What we need to fill the deep longing within us.

Expecting fulfillment from social media

Is like relying and depending upon Wikipedia.

Indeed, both serve their valuable purpose,

But neither meets needs much deeper than the surface.

Our hopes are dashed on the rocks of despair,

So we open a YouTube to find peace and hope there.

We cry out, longing for our voice to be heard

Above the noise and tweeting of other hopeless birds.

Our voice is not heard, though we write with capital letters –

Ours is drowned out by voices that Klout better

So much is happening that our feeds are buffering,

And we are constantly reminded that we are... well, nothing.

If we cry out in pain, there seems no one listening,

For the masses gather to hear only the few that are glistening.

But all that glitters is most assuredly not gold,

Despite what we are in 140 characters told.

Like never before, we see tragedy as it happens;

We need not wait for the morning papers' wrappings.

We view the world's heartaches in instant blood-red.

And injustices more blatant than we can comprehend.

We find life to be more painful than we can endure

And we long for something – just one thing that's pure.

We ache to step up, but there's nothing we can do.

Our voice is faint and inaudible to all but a few.

Like the nightmare from which we wake in silent screams,

We long to make a difference but have no power beyond dreams.

So all we are left with is fractured and broken.

All we achieve is naught but a token.

Before we connected to the digital world,

We were blissfully ignorant, but now we've been hurled

Headlong into a world teeming with demons;

Yet we wield no mighty sword with which to defeat them.

All our impotence, loneliness, and sorrow

Give us no hope at all for a brighter tomorrow.

Our connectedness underscores how great our loss,

And perhaps it can help us understand the true cost

Of what we gave up that was ours for free,

When we traded His life for fruit of a tree.

Despite our nasty, brutish, and short existence,

He hasn't given up – He still loves with persistence.

He promises to fill our hearts with His peace,

To give us life and joy that will never cease.

The lostness that 'online' so graphically shows

He does not meet passively with quiet repose.

Instead, He loves mightily and sent His dear Son,

So our battle with death and hopelessness would be won.

We can try it our own way and see if that works,

Or we can trust in Him, leaving off of our ridiculous quirks.

The digital world is a sort of final frontier,

In some ways it makes things foggy and unclear,

But in other ways it helps inform our ontology

That the connection we seek is not borne of technology.

That the wages of sin is nothing but death,

And His loving gift to us is more than mere breath.

When we understand that, even the world online,

Takes on new meaning, being touched by the Divine.

And in Him a new kind of beauty we see.

For from heartache – and far worse – He has set us free.

As the deer pants for the water brooks,

So my soul pants for You, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;

When shall I come and appear before God? Psalm 42:1-2

—Dr. Christopher Cone, Th.D, Ph.D, Ph.D, serves as President of Calvary University and as Research Professor of Bible and Theology. He has formerly served in executive and faculty roles at Southern California Seminary as Chief Academic Officer and Research Professor of Bible and Theology, and at Tyndale Theological Seminary as President and Professor of Bible and Theology. He has served in several pastoral roles and has also held teaching positions at the University of North Texas, North Central Texas College, and Southern Bible Institute. He is the author and general editor of more than a dozen books, and his articles are published at http://www.drcone.com. Christopher lives in the Kansas City area with his wife Cathy, and their two daughters, Christiana, and Cara Grace.