Being "always on" when it comes to social media can be a source of anxiety or depression, but it also can be a way to strengthen faith, says author Angela Gorrell, Ph.D., assistant professor of practical theology at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.


In her book “Always On,” she writes about how social media spaces can be instruments of God’s unconditional love — but also sources of anxiety, jealousy and depression.

"We often encounter an enormous amount of suffering online, and the amount of suffering and the velocity of these encounters — rapidly seeing multiple examples back to back in articles or our newsfeeds — can nurture empathy burnout. We can become numb to the suffering we see online and take it but do nothing about it or think very little of it.

"Likewise, being on social media and passively scrolling through people’s status updates, tweets and stories for unbounded sets of time and looking at copious amounts of content but never replying, messaging, posting or sharing has been linked to depression and anxiety."

She suggests these strategies for using social media wisely:

1. Llimit passive scrolling and following as much as possible. Instead, create something and share it online. Join conversations. Reply to people’s statuses rather than just clicking emojis.

"When you see that someone is celebrating, share their joy in a significant way. Share it as your status with a note of congratulations or text them or call them. When you notice someone is mourning, message them. When you encounter suffering online, stop scrolling and do something in response. Get offline, take a walk and pray about this suffering. Give money to an organization that is relieving this suffering. Learn more about how to help or how to invite other people to care."

2. Develop a rhythm for life with your friends or family that specifically addresses technology — when you will use it and for what purposes, when you will not use it and what boundaries you will have. 

"I encourage people to find times in their week or month or year to not use devices and social media and to write down their plan on a calendar," Gorrell said.

"A college student told me that he and his friends put all their phones in the center of the table at restaurants and say that the first person to pick up their phone during dinner pays the entire bill. Since they started this ritual, no one has picked up a phone during dinner. Practices like these help people to be present to people they are with in person."