Studies show that social media plays a role in the poor mental health in our society today, especially for GenZ; the generation born between 1997 - 2012. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Instagram has negatively impacted 1 in 3 teenage girls by worsening body image issues. The presence of social media isn't a bad thing, however, it can and is often used as a tool for destruction.
First of all, human beings use it. That means sinful, pointless, and just plain ignorance appear on these platforms. And in the same vein, encouragement, positivity, and healthy networking are also available. But have we seen any positive effects really come from using social media 24/7? Studies show the opposite is happening, people are becoming addicted, depressed, and anxious with continual use.
What led me to talk about this issue is the recent suicide of Miss USA 2019, Cheslie Kryst and Regina King's son, Ian Alexander, Jr; both committed suicide in January 2022. Cheslie Kryst was a former lawyer, a television hostess, a writer for magazines, a beautiful and high profile young woman, decided that she didn't want to live anymore. And according to the grieving family and friends, she never showed any signs of depression, although she did see a mental health counselor regularly. What's haunting about her decision is that she openly spoke about being bullied online for her age and how she felt like she couldn't live up to the standards of everyone; a feeling most people feel when it comes to social media and opinions that people love to voice.
But this woman broke an industry norm! She made history by being an African-American woman with kinky hair crowned Miss USA near age 30! If you don't know, when models near age 30, they are considered "too old" or often overlooked for high-fashion bookings and pageants. And Cheslie expressed in an article in Allure Magazine that she was disturbed by the online bullies and the fact that they thought she was too old and irrelevant.
Ian Alexander, Jr. was the son of Oscar-winning Actress, Regina King, and he was also a DJ and gourmet Chef. His last tweets on Twitter were also haunting and made mention of social media affecting his mental health. This was posted just a week before he chose death.
Unfortunately, it feels like their deaths are an example of what social media standards and the opinions of others can do to us. I'm not saying that this is truly the only thing that bothered them about living, but it can't be random that before their deaths they expressed grief from the noise of social media. Those words that others spoke about Cheslie basically haunted her and she wore them as tattoos on her heart. It reminds me of how powerful words really are, as the Bible states in James 3:8,
"the tongue is an unrestrained evil that spews out words full of toxic poison!" (TPT)
The opinions of others about her life set her destiny on fire. Because they thought she was irrelevant and too old, she lived her life according to their opinions. She thought she was running out of time to be great and to do all that God called her to do. I can imagine that she wrestled with those demons, tried to beat them, get ahead of them, or show them up...but ultimately those opinions put her in bondage, and had the final say.
That's haunting. And as I pondered on this...I wonder how many of us are giving mere human beings the final say about our life and destiny? Those words your mom or dad said that cut you as a child, are they still speaking today? The applause you didn't receive, the validation you never heard, the acceptance you never got, are they dictating your life today?
Who's voice is the "god" in your life?
I can tell you about myself...the love and acceptance I didn't receive from mom and dad had unconsciously become the god I served. I lived my life and made decisions based on the needs I never received growing up. I also covered up my forehead with bangs in high school because other people said it was too big. Who are these people?! Why do we keep bowing at the feet of frail and dusty humans? Why do we live for the likes, follows, and opinions of others who have no say or authority about who God made us to be?
And why do we speak negatively and hastily voice our opinions about our neighbors who are made in the image of God? We are all guilty of hurting someone with our words and cursing them. Who gave us the authority to speak from these frail lips about the destiny of someone else? I wonder how those online bullies feel when they get the news that their words cut someone so deep, that they became depressed or committed suicide. How would you feel if you learned about how your negative words affected someone's course of life?
Lately, I've been including David's prayer in my own, "Lord, set a guard over my mouth that I sin not against Thee", found in Psalm 141:3. Because if my words have the potential to lead someone to their death, my God, I'd better learn to superglue these lips shut or have blood on my hands at the judgment.
I think it's time for many of us to acknowledge God's authority and set Him in His rightful place in our hearts. He clearly states in the 10 Commandments that there should be no other gods before Him, and many of us choose the opinions of others as the gods we live for. Furthermore, we also choose our tongue as the god we live for by not being in control of what comes out of our mouths. I am guilty and I know I need God's help on both ends of this wickedness. I need His help to only live for Him and live by His words, and I need His help to control the door of my own tongue.
If Cheslie Kryst and Ian Alexander, Jr. were alive and were coaching clients of mine, I would tell them to renounce and break up with the opinions of others and take a deep dive into the Word of God who formed them. We've gotta learn to see past and discern what the enemy is doing to thwart God's plans in our lives.
I am doing this kind of work in my own life, I choose to renounce every evil word spoken of me and take to heart the spoken word of God in the Bible. What mom and dad did or didn't do no longer has any authority over me, what my classmates said holds no weight on my destiny, because God is the one who had my days written out before I even lived one of them. He deserves my allegiance, my ear, my body, mind, and soul. Let's continue to pray for the grieving families and check on our own people to see how they're really doing.
“The most important of all the commandments is this: ‘The Lord Yahweh, our God, is one!’ You are to love the Lord Yahweh, your God, with a passionate heart, from the depths of your soul, with your every thought, and with all your strength. This is the great and supreme commandment. And the second is this: ‘You must love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself.’ You will never find a greater commandment than these.” - Mark 12: 29 - 31