Social media have added a powerful new dimension to our lives that was not a factor just a generation ago. We can keep in touch with friends and family around the globe, stay informed about world events, access a range of entertainment that still boggles the minds of those of us who grew up with three-channel-television, and promote events to an unlimited number of people with a single mouse click. We live in a marvelous digital age.

Those same media can, of course, waste our time, lead us into unhealthy attitudes and actions, and demonstrate our worst tendencies as individuals and societies. Fire can both heat and burn; social media can do both good and harm.

I’ll leave it up to those (usually younger) people who are more adept at their use to tell you all of the positives inherent in the various forms of social media. I’ll take a stab at reminding you of some of the negative possibilities. A few weeks ago someone forwarded to me an email (another great invention of the digital age) with an attached graphic of the classic list of deadly sins and their relationship to specific social media. I offer now brief commentaries on each.

Pride — Instagram
You will find with each of these media that one can delude oneself about its use. If you ask someone why they are posting photos to Instagram of their new car or of their vacation, they are likely to tell you that they are just keeping their friends informed about their lives or wanting them to share in the joy of their experience. Maybe. They might also just be showing off.

Greed — LinkedIn
This career networking app can be helpful in finding a job or in discovering potential employees. It can also lead you to think about how much better your life would be if you had a different job, how many more things you could have if you just made more money, how others are clearly enjoying more of the good life than you are….

Lust — Tinder
I don’t know much about this one, except what I read on Wikipedia, but it seems to me that when you are using an app with pictures and brief descriptions of people in the hope of finding a relationship (even just for a night) there is the possibility of objectifying people instead of treating them as persons. Since everyone puts their best foot forward when posting on this site (I doubt anyone intentionally paints themselves in a bad light) it can also lead to unrealistic expectations and dissatisfaction with your current relationships. And let’s be clear: if you’re in a committed relationship, you have no business being on this site in the first place.

Envy — Facebook
Since the advent of this almost ubiquitous social network a new term has come into use: curating your life. When you choose to post to your Facebook account you may occasionally feature some tragedy or child’s mess, but most of the time you will put your best foot forward. You know you’re doing it; you don’t think so much about everyone else doing it too. So when you see the attractive, put-together lives of friends and family while living in your own messy life, envy is always a possibility.

Gluttony — Yelp
This one may be a stretch. Most people like to go out to eat and life is too short to eat bad food, so you want as much information about a restaurant as possible before you go there. However, gluttony is the over-emphasis on a necessary bodily function. Reading too many reviews and thinking too much about food takes time away from other things.

Wrath — Twitter
There must have been a time about twelve years ago, when Twitter first came online, that it was used to disseminate helpful information. If you wade through all the vile rantings, name calling, negative labeling, disrespecting criticisms, and mischaracterizations that dominate this platform today, there might still be a little good. Not enough to keep using it. Here’s a tip: Never call anyone anything except their given name and never direct any comment toward an individual that you wouldn’t say to his or her face. If you can’t use Twitter to build people up, get off.

Sloth — Netflix (or HBO Go or Hulu or whatever video streaming service you use)
Guilty. At the end of a long day it is just too easy to hit the Netflix button and watch a couple of hours of British murder mysteries or old television series (without the commercials!). Probably not so bad as an occasional diversion, but couldn’t we find something better to do with our time? Like talk to someone?

I know I am coming across as some ancient Luddite. I really do think all of these social platforms can be used for good, but like anything else, overuse and misuse violate our sacred covenant as children of God to be more like Jesus — both in the spirit we display and in the way we treat people. The next time you pick up your electronic device and start to go to one of these sites, ask yourself why you are doing it. Any honest answer might compel you to spend your time in some other way.