5 Dangers of Social Media Quicksand

You’ve heard of quicksand, right? It looks the same as other sand, but once you step on it you are drawn into the earth…sucked down toward the core. The more you wiggle, the deeper you sink–as it takes you down with its miry grasp.

Yes, this can also happen with social media. It can capture you quicker than you might think. Personally, I enjoy social media and I like to think I use it well. That is, when I’m not stuck in the quicksand. And to be honest, I’ve been there too many times.

So, how do we know when we’re sinking? What types of quicksand can trap us?


1. Compassion Quicksand:

Let’s face it. We are human and can only hold a certain number of troubling situations in our hearts before we overload. When I overload I can experience “prayer freeze”. The needs seem so overwhelming at times I don’t know where to begin.

I have too often been overly burdened by following heart wrenching stories on social media about people I don’t know. When my emotions become so involved with those outside of my sphere of influence–I can think I’m exercising compassion, but if I end up without the time and emotional bandwidth to attend to and focus on the actual needs of those right around me—those  I can touch with words of encouragement, visits, prayers, meals, etc.–then I’ve let social media sadness become a hindrance to true compassion.

It’s easy to step into this quicksand with the best of intentions, but before you get emotionally involved, think it through. Pray and give it to God or contribute and give it to God…or both—but don’t carry it to the point you use up your emotional energy on those you can’t touch more personally. Thankfully God is big enough to hear it all, and loving enough to care deeply.

2. “Always Available” Quicksand:

There is something “addictive” about social media.  I’ve had to deliberately decide to avoid the cyber-world until after I spend time with my God in the spiritual world. Only then can I choose the most needed priorities for my day and avoid getting dragged into social media’s never-ending chase for chatter.  Loud chatter—the little “ding” when a message comes, or when a status updates, or a new photo is posted. The ding screams for me to check my phone or computer right now.  After all, what if it’s a message from a loved one who is stuck on a desert road without water? Or in a stand-off with aliens? They’ll need me! NOW.

When I’m always available for social media it seeks to own me and continually screams for my attention. In fact, it’s screaming now. (I will not look, I will not look.)

As I write this sentence I’m distracted by a stack of receipts on the desk to  my left. They need to be scanned and recorded in a spreadsheet made for business expenses. Oh, the details of life. Unfortunately, this stack has been there for several days (ahem…weeks), for I chose instead to see what was happening “out there”…the cute pictures, the latest on Deflategate, what a friend in another country had for dinner, and other ‘vital’ issues. (OK, I just did it…spreadsheet done!)

Social media is happy take over and to be any “excuse” for keeping us from tasks at hand. It’s hard to set boundaries…but beware if you don’t. The quicksand will take you down faster than you can blink and keep you there longer than you can stay awake.

3. Guilt Quicksand:

I may be a little crazy, but I can often feel guilty for failing to send a birthday or anniversary wish to someone in my friends or contacts–seems it’s become a sort of moral obligation to me. Birthday greetings are quite nice, and one of the super encouraging “treats” on social media. And, I appreciate the reminders to wish someone a happy day. Really I do.Yet, if I don’t check in for a few days and find I have missed numerous birthdays I feel badly, like I did something wrong.

It’s nice to remember, but honestly at times I just need to get over myself. While the wishes are encouraging and a good thing, my greeting won’t make or break someone’s day. And for family and close friends, a call or card is even nicer.  A remembrance is a nice gesture, but I step in quicksand when I feel badly when I don’t send 15 greetings a day. Anyone else relate?

4. Approval Quicksand:

When we start feeling like our value is measured by “likes” or what others think of whatever we might be doing or saying we’re going down in the muck faster than we can shinny down a greased flagpole. It’s nice to know that someone likes what we’re doing, or writing. I’m not going to lie. It’s encouraging. However, it can matter too much. Do we check for what others think and like more than we read, think, and pray about what God thinks and likes? Just sayin’. It’s good to step back every so often and check our shoes. Perhaps they have a bit to much quicksand covering them, and we fail to realize we are already there…slowly sinking..

5. Motion Picture Director Quicksand.

Certainly, it’s wonderful to capture memorable moments and share them with friends and loved ones. That’s the biggest reason I use and enjoy social media, so please don’t stop. However… We can have such an intense focus on memories as “seen from behind the lens” that we miss out on genuine interactions, laughs, tears, surprises, hugs, etc. We are too busy “directing” for our posts. While you can’t share memories in quite the same way without pictures, it’s also quite nice, at times, to simply hold those precious moments in your heart. We can then have real face to face conversations that paint pictures of what we experienced and how we felt as we experienced it. Often, those deep conversations can be even more exhilarating and meaningful than a photo. So, keep those pictures coming–but take a break from the camera often enough to feel and think and remember and share (verbally). Otherwise, your camera may get ruined because you are sinking in the motion picture director quicksand.

If you find you’re stuck in any quicksand…slowly and deliberately you can get out. And we may need to grab each other’s hands.

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders. My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD; do not let me be put to shame. I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.

Psalm 119:10-16; 27-32 

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  1. Elizabeth Thompson

    BRILLIANT, JEANIE. Thank you for this. I am wrestling so much with all of this right now, and trying to find ways to manage/compartmentalize it all mentally and time-wise. I’m SO glad you said #1. That is the hardest for me—I feel pulled into sad stories I cannot touch, and overwhelmed. I will definitely share this. xoxo >

  2. jeanieshaw

    Thanks, Elizabeth. Yeah, #1 is a hard one. All of them are pulls for me. It helped me to write this. Helped be get more in touch with the traps set for me. Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. Patty Simmons

    Thank you, Jeanie…I have definitely felt myself getting sucked in at times. I love your style of writing!

    • jeanieshaw

      Hi Patty,
      Thanks so much. Great to hear from you! You and Curt are in our prayers. You both inspire me!

  4. marcia lamb

    Thank you Jeanie! Such a needed topic, especially about our guilty feelings and neglect of real relationships! (Especially God!)

    Sent from my iPhone



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About Jeanie Shaw

After retiring from forty-five years in full-time ministry, Jeanie Shaw went back to school to earn her master’s and doctorate in spiritual formation and discipleship. She also serves as a certified Christian life coach who loves helping people discover the joy, peace, and purpose that come from finding and following God’s plan for their lives. She has taught classes and workshops all over the world and has written numerous books. She has four grown children, eight grandchildren, and a golden retriever who thinks he is human. When she is not reading, writing, coaching, teaching, or enjoying her family she might be found walking along rivers, learning new lessons about life.

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