College is the time to develop good habits related to social media and digital technology. 1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” (NASB) Social media and digital technology can easily evolve from useful tools for connection and efficiency to addictions and avenues for sin.

I am not immune to these temptations and neither are college professors. So I asked faculty and staff at Houston Baptist University what advice they had regarding digital and social media use.

Put the devices away.

I recommend that students fast from digital technology at least one day a week (Sunday is a great option). I also suggest that students put their phones away when they are with their friends and family and at every meal time. You can’t multitask a relationship with someone you love or care for. – Dr. Matt Boyleston, School of Fine Arts

Make the decision and just do it. Perhaps start with small increments such as Device-Free Sundays. – Dr. Lesli Fridge, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences

Leave your phone in another room while you are sleeping so that you can relax before bed, are not woken up at night with notifications, and don’t start your day checking social media or email. Give yourself time when you are not staring at a screen. – Dr. Lisa Ellis, College of Science and Mathematics

Disconnect from digital tech for 30 minutes or an hour every day (read, workout, go for a walk, talk with friends). Digital tech creates an environment of immediacy, which tends to fabricate feelings of urgency that do not accurately correspond to the reality of situations. The loss of that immediate access along with the sense that we are ‘needed’ to respond/like/etc. can be unnerving. – Dr. David J. Davis, School of Humanities

Set boundaries with your social media time. Although the University’s social media channels are awake 24-7, I cannot be. I try to have a boundary of three hours away from my devices when I get home. – Michael Taylor, Innovation and Strategic Marketing (Michael manages HBU’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube accounts.)

When you have your device, limit its intrusion into your life.

Turn off the notifications so that you are not constantly bombarded with updates. – Dr. Lisa Ellis

Currently, I limit checking my emails to twice a day (morning/evening), and I try to set aside one week in every year that I do not check email. Start small: turn off phone notifications and/or discipline yourself not to check apps more than 2-3 times per day. – Dr. David Davis

Choose to be different from the world.

Before our wedding day, my husband Steven and I read a book about marriage that recommended that newlyweds give up TV for their first year of marriage. Although we had both grown up in homes in which TV was frequently watched, we decided to give this recommendation a try. That first year of marriage, we came home from work each day and enjoyed talking, cooking dinner together, going for walks, working out at the gym, or reading books together. We so appreciated the opportunity to get to know each other better without the presence of the TV that by the time our first wedding anniversary rolled around, we realized that we really hadn’t missed having it! Now, eleven years into marriage, we have never owned a TV as a couple, and we truly believe that this has been a tremendous blessing in our marriage! In the absence of a TV, we have enjoyed so many other fun ways to spend time as a couple, and we both agree that we are much more productive than we would have been with the TV in our lives! – Dr. Katie Alaniz, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences

The Bible says that if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. (Matthew 5:30) Put an Internet filter on your devices. Cancel your streaming accounts or ask your parents to change the passwords. Give a friend, accountability partner, or mentor access to your browsing history. Buy yourself a flip phone and do all of your homework in the library if that’s what it takes for you to live righteously. If your devices are hurting your walk with the Lord, get rid of them. – Joannah Buffington, Office of the President

Understand the power of social media.

Social media is a tremendous component of developing a personal brand. Others will Google your name to learn more about you, and the search results associated with your name can either strengthen or tarnish your reputation. Please, please remember that each post, comment, picture, or video is contributing to your personal brand. A digital footprint will follow you for life, and what you post in college will still be around as you are submitting job applications, seeking a promotion, or browsing the Internet with your future children. – Dr. Katie Alaniz

Carefully consider every post.

Only use social media for the betterment of society and for things that will bring glory to God. Ask yourself before you post something – am I proud of this? Does this please the Lord? – Dr. Lesli Fridge

Be careful what you post. It will always be there, even if you delete it. So what do you want your lasting impression to be? – Allyson Cates, The Graduate School

Everyone checks social media – friends, family, universities, scholarship/grant committees, work places, etc. Make sure you THINK before you post.

  • T- is it TRUE?
  • H- is it HELPFUL?
  • I- is it INSPIRING?
  • N- is it NECESSARY?
  • K- is it KIND?

Cassie Sorrell, Campus Recreation (Cassie originally found this acronym here.)

Don’t ever post anything you wouldn’t want on the front page of your hometown newspaper or on your own job application. – Dr. Matt Boyleston

Recognize if social media use is adversely effecting you.

Use it minimally, if at all. Research shows that social media use leads to increased unhappiness and depression, not to mention the amount of time that could potentially be wasted. Keep in touch with your friends and family by phone calls or face-to-face interactions when you can. – Dr. Saul Trevino, College of Science and Mathematics

Limit it and control it. Know that social media usage actually changes our brain chemistry and makes us less happy and less able to concentrate on the important things in life. – Dr. Matt Boyleston

The illusion of social media is the magnification of one’s greatness in one’s own mind. Keep yourself grounded by continuing to pursue God’s purpose for your life through the reading of His Word, the Bible. – Michael Taylor

Place limits on how much time you spend on social media or it can become a black hole that sucks up your life! – Dr. Michael Licona, School of Christian Thought

Use social media to help you participate in campus life.

Social media is as useful and engaging as you make it. Too many people feel that they are connected to others because they follow them on Instagram or like a post, but those are false connections. Share meaningful posts. Follow and read posts from the various University departments and organizations so that you can participate in programs across campus and engage with your peers. Also, follow and read posts that will help you in your career of interest. – Dr. Lisa Ellis

If some of this advice seems extreme, then you probably need to evaluate if your devices, apps, and social tools have become addictions. Can you turn off Netflix, YouTube, Hulu – or whatever platform/site is reeling you in – at a normal hour? If you lost your phone today, could you survive emotionally? Has your device become an avenue for sin? Are you posting things that will come back to haunt you?

Use technology and social platforms, but don’t let those tools become masters in your life. If you are a Christian, you have one Lord and one master, and you need to submit all of your life, including your media use, to him.

Thank you to the Houston Baptist University faculty and staff who contributed to this blog.

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Blog edited by Joannah Buffington

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