These days when I meet someone who says they are not on social media, I tell them, “Good for you. If you’ve made it this far without it, stay off of it”. I have a love-hate relationship with social media.
To wax poetic about it, I think it resembles Gandalf’s relationship with the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. He tried to fend it off at the bridge of Khazad-dûm, and thought he had done so, but the Balrog still managed to drag Gandalf into the abyss. While he’s falling, Gandalf comes to terms with what’s happening and commits to fighting the Balrog.
I’ve been on and off social media a few times. Just before covid, I closed my social media accounts and stepped away completely. Then COVID hit and pulled me back into the abyss, like the Balrog’s whip around Gandalf’s ankle. I admit that the analogy of Gandalf vs. the Balrog may be a bit overdramatic.
I took a personality test some time back that told me that if there were 100 people in a room, I was more disagreeable than at least 99. My wife told me she thought that sounded accurate, but I disagreed; I didn’t think it was accurate at all. In fact, I disagreed with almost all of the results of the test.
In some scenarios, being disagreeable serves me well, but social media isn’t really one of them. Social Media can be frustrating for someone who disagrees first and then thinks later. At the same time, I have found it to be a surprisingly good avenue of outreach into the community.
I HAVE FOUND SOCIAL MEDIA TO BE A SURPRISINGLY GOOD AVENUE OF OUTREACH INTO THE COMMUNITY.
To give credit where it is due, our church communications team does most of our social media work and also comes up with most of the ideas. I am just kind of a mouthpiece. Social media gives the church and myself an incredible opportunity to communicate and interact with our community.
SOCIAL MEDIA GIVES THE CHURCH, AND MYSELF, AN INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY TO COMMUNICATE AND INTERACT WITH OUR COMMUNITY.
I know feelings about social media are wide and varied. I had a friend many years ago who refused to learn how to use a computer. Another friend told him, “You better learn. they’re not going away.” Social media is similar, it’s not going away.
My first official ministry position was working as a youth pastor. It was a church that had been around for a while. The church celebrated its 150-year anniversary while I was the youth pastor. I had the honour of speaking as part of the celebration.
Initially, I found it difficult to connect with young people at the church. Then I learned about this new online thing called “MySpace”, in which all the kids were involved. So, I signed up and started my own account. I have to admit that it changed the dynamic between myself and the young people I ministered to.
I had somehow unwittingly crossed a bridge into their world. They have since grown, and many now have families of their own. I’m still in contact with some of them through, you guessed it, social media.
I read an article about social media this week at: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/social-media-spiritual-distortion/ . Like anything on the internet, you can always find things to disagree with; at least I can. Give it a read of you like. I also talk a little bit about social in the upcoming episode #105 of the PC Speaking podcast @ PCspeaking.com
One of the things that I agreed with in the article was how social media “conforms our minds to the content we consume and reengineers our habits with its liturgical practices.” The article mentions that in May, Montana became the first US State to ban TikTok, and Arkansas enacted a similar law requiring parental approval for TikTok accounts. I’m sure kids won’t find a workaround for that. I predict more such laws will be passed soon, at least in the US. Introducing such laws in the US probably has as much to do with the US’s relationship and security concerns with China as it does anything else.
I have several social media accounts, an old-fashioned Facebook account, aka boomer book, according to some younger folks, Instagram, Twitter, Threads, and TikTok. I post content to most of these every day except Sunday.
I also have an account with BePerk, a weak attempt at a Christian social media platform. The software was so frustrating that I gave up posting content to the platform. I have found TikTok to have the strongest algorithm. After just a few clicks and likes, it seems to figure out what you are looking for and feeds you more of it, lots more of it.
The important thing I want to point out in this is that whatever platform you might be on, whatever search engine you use, the great majority of the content you consume is only what the algorithm decides it thinks you want to see.
WHATEVER PLATFORM YOU MIGHT BE ON, WHATEVER SEARCH ENGINE YOU USE, THE MAJORITY OF THE CONTENT YOU CONSUME IS ONLY WHAT THE THE ALGORITHM DECIDES IT THINKS YOU WANT TO SEE.
The problem with that is that it gives us a very unbalanced view of the world in which we live. For some, it creates an echo chamber of confirmation bias. For others, it paints a gloomy picture where they spend hours and hours doom-scrolling, growing ever more anxious and depressed.
But it’s not going away, so with that in mind, we all need to take personal responsibility and figure out how to use it healthily.
Here are some things I do in my personal attempt to consume content responsibly:
SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT GOING AWAY SO WE ALL NEED TO TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO USE IT HEALTHILY.
Somedays, I wish I could go back to the days of there only being one phone in the house, and it wasn’t mobile, and the news only came on at 6.00 and 10.00, but that’s not going to happen. I think as we move into the future, we will see social media and online interaction increase and become more and more integrated into life and ministry.
As a pastor, I either get on board or get left behind. If the events of Acts 17 were happening today, I could see The Apostle Paul doing something similar on his smartphone. It’s not going away, so I will try to leverage it for God’s Kingdom.