A couple of days back, Jon Acuff–laugh-out-loud writer and author of Stuff Christians Like—wrote a post on how to manage social media use as a father. Acuff wrote the post in a whimsical style but ended up recommending that dads “pay for Tweets” in an effort to curb their phone use while at home.
Here’s what he said on this point:
The time doesn’t belong to me when we’re all hanging out. It’s family time. So if I want to use some of that valuable family time to write a tweet, it only makes sense that I would buy that time back from my kids. So every time I tweet on the weekends or on weeknights, I have to give each kid a quarter.
Let’s not treat this as some super-serious matter. Reformed types can sometimes end up treating every little cultural ripple as a major wave. We can bring a Thousand Mega-tons of Doctrinal Force to bear on the ministrations of a molehill. That’s not good. I should also say up front that I’m glad, genuinely glad, that Acuff is taking some kind of action to engage with his family and curb his social media addiction.
But I would say that I think Acuff may be barking up the wrong tree here. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned self-control? Are we really so addicted to social media that we literally can’t put the iPhone down?
I understand this temptation, by the way. I have an iPhone. Sometimes, you come home from work and you’re tired and you don’t want to engage. Or you get an idea and you really want to share it with the world (or at least several hundred/thousand of your closest friends). I get that. I’ve had to focus on this matter and essentially retrain myself out of bad habits. I’m like Acuff, after all–I like ideas, my brain is usually going, and most significantly I’m a sinner, so I can take immense blessings like my sweet kids and my great wife and ignore or disdain them.
It may not be the worst thing in the world, then, to “pay for Tweets.” Like I said, at least Acuff is fighting his addiction, unlike many parents I see. Let’s just be honest–the smartphone has become an escape tool. When you’re with your kids but your heart’s not in it, you jump on Twitter and scroll through comments. Meanwhile, your kids get annoyed, they act up, and no one ends up happy.
So some action is better than no action. But doesn’t “paying for Tweets” put your kids in the awkward position of adjudicating your fatherly behavior? That’s a silly idea, and a bad one. Your kids shouldn’t be your authority (even in a whimsical sense), you should be theirs. It may be fun for a bit to have them “police” you, but that’s ultimately an irresponsible position to put them in.
How about this for a proposal? Buckle your seatbelt, because this one’s really going to take your breath away; it’s likely that a whole new way to be a dad may open up for you in this very paragraph. How about fathers be fathers? How about they exercise major amounts of self-control, praying to God for the strength given them in the power of the Holy Spirit through union with the world-conquering Christ? How about they discipline themselves, and own their fatherliness, and take on responsibility, and live and think and act as a God-commissioned authority?
How about they cease to spend their time like a little kid with a new video game and instead leave their phone alone for, I don’t know, hours, and plug in with their tired wives and help their children who are filled with pent-up excitement and want nothing more than to play with them uninterruptedly?
How about about as fathers we cease to image a distracted, selfish, boyish father (a pale reflection of the father of lies, don’t you think?) and instead image a loving, strong, others-centered father (something akin to, say, the heavenly father)?
I’m guessing Jon Acuff wants to be a good dad and may well be. And I did break my promise and go a bit thermonuclear in my cultural analysis. But I do think that our culture of weak manhood has lowered our expectations of ourselves to a new low. We’re all grading on a curve nowadays, and we can trick ourselves into thinking that a “C” effort really deserves an “A.”
So how about this: we break our social media addictions (which really are sinful, by the way) and reassume the role of Christ-shaped champion of our home? We will surely bless our sweet wives and kids, and we’ll end up with a good deal more quarters in our pockets besides.