I am (just) old enough to clearly remember life before WiFi and smartphones. My own teenage years formed a bridge between two technological eras, beginning in the days of dial-up internet and ending with the rise of Instagram. By contrast, today’s teens are digital natives, having never known a world without the dizzying array of apps and devices available now.
Our screens can feel a world away from anything the Bible says, but into that apparent void steps John Perritt’s new devotional for teenagers: Social Media Pressure: Finding Peace Alongside Jesus. It’s a month-long resource where both the structure and the content offer an invitation to slow down and thoughtfully examine our social media habits – and the hearts behind the habits.
“This isn’t a race; this is a relationship”
The devotional is divided into four weeks. Rather than a short entry per day, Perritt has written four longer reflections per week, each taking between twenty and thirty minutes to read. This format simultaneously allows for rest days and pushes back against the “quick scroll” mentality so many of us bring to both our social media and our quiet times. Perritt’s concern is more for teens to meaningfully connect with their saviour than to tick the daily quiet time box.
Perritt also encourages teens to find an “Alongsider” to read the book with them – a trusted adult or friend who will help them process the book’s contents one week at a time. This emphasis of relationship over rules flows throughout the content of the devotional as well.
Social Media & Jesus
In Week 1, the reader is gently encouraged to remember that all of life is lived before the Lord – including our activity on social media. With typical pastoral sensitivity and compassion, Perritt invites teens to reflect on the Lord’s presence, steadfastness and care as they encounter the temptations and sorrows of social media and the goodness of God’s life-giving Word.
Where Week 1 orients the heart upward to the Lord, Week 2 provides helpful discernment when viewing social media content. Where ‘highlight reels’ provoke a sense of jealousy or exclusion, Perritt thoughtfully unpacks Psalm 77 and Romans 8 to remind readers that behind every perfect filter is a human being experiencing the same ‘groaning’ to which this whole world is subject. Week 2 also slows down on the harshness and harm that can be observed or experienced via social media, ranging from cruel comments and bullying to struggles with lust or porn. While acknowledging these are difficult issues to discuss, Perritt points readers to the compassion, forgiveness and joy of Jesus.
Week 3 tackles the addictive nature of social media. The four entries introduce themes of worship, the deceitfulness of our hearts and how we are prone to wander after idols. While those may seem like daunting issues, Perritt leads the convicted or the discouraged back to Jesus, reminding readers that the Father’s love is not conditional on their performance and that Jesus perfectly resisted temptations of all kinds on our behalf. Week 3 is gospel-rich for worship-warped hearts, with plenty of practical ideas as well.
Building on the previous weeks, week 4 is an encouragement to engage wisely with the online world by fostering a healthy examination of the heart, nurturing love for our neighbour and reminding teens that true, lasting joy and peace are found in Christ alone.
The content is culturally American and the length of each entry may be best suited to teens who are motivated to examine their social media habits. However, the devotional is suitable for Christian teens and those who are not sure where they stand with God.
Any resource on social media usage risks the danger of straying into a legalistic “do this – not that” approach. Perritt skilfully avoids that pitfall with this accessible, biblically rich and pastorally sensitive devotional. It will undoubtedly bless teens and adults alike and encourage healthy discernment. Why not pick up a copy for a teen in your life – perhaps you can even offer to be their Alongsider!