Since 2013 I’ve seen a growth of just over 2000% on Twitter alone. On other social media channels I’ve experienced similar results as well. Having seen these results, I could probably easily jump in the murky waters of digital marketers, attempting to sell you on a 5 step process to achieve the same results.
But as much as this post is about social media, it’s really more about the gospel than social media.
(By the way, I have no clue what this photo has to do with social media. All I know is it’s awesome and my boys are currently obsessed with Lego Star Wars, so there you go.)
The other day my friend Stephen and I had this little exchange on Twitter:
Do you agree with all the books on your shelf?
— Stephen Smith (@stephenandstar) January 14, 2014
@sixsteps268 if I did, life would really be boring…but that’s what most people miss.
— Stephen Smith (@stephenandstar) January 14, 2014
This little idea got me thinking about Twitter and the people I follow. You see, I maintain a private list of just over 130 people that I follow. I don’t publish this list, but I allow these people to influence me in some way shape or form. While many of them I often do agree with, there is easily about 1/3 of them I don’t.
Tim Keller speaks to this when he says:
“When you listen and read one thinker, you become a clone… two thinkers, you become confused… ten thinkers, you’ll begin developing your own voice… two or three hundred thinkers, you become wise and develop your voice.”
Several times over the course of this past year I’ve intentionally withdrawn from social media seeking a better perspective. Because it’s my first calling to experience the gospel for myself, before attempting to lead others in doing the same, I’ve used that distance to develop a healthier gospel perspective about social media.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Everyone says they are an expert. I’m sure you’ve heard others mention this, but I tend to see this more as everyone wants to be a somebody, wants to be perceived as important, special, significant in some way. It’s what drives the “look at me” frenzy, endless self promoting, platform building culture we have now settled into. The gospel cures this (Matt. 16:25, Matt 20:16). John Piper beautifully communicates a better perspective when he says:
“We weren’t meant to be somebody–we were meant to know Somebody”
2. It’s not about connection as much as people say. Simply put, if this were true, then we’d be the most connected people group of all people groups in the history of people groups. And while we certainly are more connected than ever, rather have more access than ever, paradoxically it’s true we are also a more disconnected culture.
Jon Acuff presents the healthiest perspective here. Social Media is really more about collecting ideas, sharing those ideas, and spreading those ideas. The very best interactions I have on Twitter or Facebook or any other platform have always left me encouraged, and inspired. Not to mention, I’d still rather have an exchange over a warm beverage than an exchange of 140 characters.
3. Social Media creates an unhealthy attachment to identity. Just about everyone I’ve spoken to over the past several years have admitted to struggling with this issue. Because in many ways, social media provides instant gratification, propping up and inflating a false sense of self, it’s easy to allow your identity to be informed by things like number of followers and retweets.
“Our need for worth is so powerful that whatever we base our identity and value on we essentially ‘deify.’ We will look to it with all the passion and intensity of worship and devotion, even if we think ourselves as highly irreligious. ” ― Tim Keller
I’ve learned two things by gaining some distance:
- I’m just fine without social media. The world keeps on spinning without any complications.
- I’m confident what I won’t hear when I die are the words, “You didn’t have enough Twitter followers.”
4. The impact of Social Media can never be truly quantified. There are those out there with far more experience than I when speaking to this but as a father, my thoughts turn my family and my kids. Just the other day I had a conversation with Molly, my soon to be 9 yr old, about why she cannot have a Facebook account. I couldn’t believe she brought that up! Teaching them a new decorum for how to communicate and be responsible online is a challenge I never expected.
A line has been crossed for sure, we’ve reached a point of no return. Because of digital accountability, careers are now threatened. I have a feeling that for generations to come, we’ll be dealing with the ramifications of our actions online today.
“One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.” — John Piper
Experiencing the gospel creates a new filter by which you view the world. Suddenly things that used to matter, appropriately no longer have Kingdom value. And because of this re-prioritization, I’ve found that new freedom, new joy, new mercies, new grace, and new life can be discovered.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love social media. I love interacting and encouraging folks that I meet online. But the pseudo relationships built there will never, nor can they ever, replace your core need for true authentic community.
What does the gospel teach you about social media? What would you add to this list above?
Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!