First, let me say I love social media; perhaps I even love it too much. I especially love the way social media has made it possible to reach so many people with the gospel. However, let me share with you why I believe social media is hurting the church more than most of us realize.
So many things that are fundamental to Christianity are undermined by social media and it’s making me think that the “smart phone” isn’t so smart after all. If we don’t get a handle on this situation, I believe we are going to reap the consequences for many generations.
1. Social Media Promotes Hyper-Individualism
Social media allows you to create your own world; a world that is highly self-absorbed and narcissistic. In fact, everything on your smartphone revolves around you and your preferences, doesn’t it? We post things online to make ourselves look good and see how many “likes” or “retweets” we can get. We block, or remove people from our newsfeed, who disagree with us or challenge us. Our music, our pictures, our friends, and on and on and on it goes; everything revolves around us.
Our faith, likewise, has become very individualistic. Many have abandoned “organized religion” because they prefer to worship God on their own terms and according to their own preferences. If a person does worship at a congregation, they want to know what that congregation offers for them. The music, the preaching, the children’s programs, etc. all have to accommodate and please us.
We’ve got to wake up, people! The online world you’ve created may revolve around you, but the real world does not. The real world revolves around Jesus Christ, to whom all authority in heaven and on earth has been given (Matthew 28:18). We have to understand that Christianity and an individualistic world-view are not consistent. Social media is feeding our egos and making us more self-absorbed than we have ever been as a culture. Christianity, on the other hand, is all about humility, obedience, submission, and selflessness.
2. Social Media Destroys the Concept of Friendship
Social media has made it so easy to simply “unfriend” people we don’t like. If you “unfriend” someone in your virtual world, you never have to hear from them again. That’s what makes the real world – and especially the church – so much more difficult. In the church, you cannot “unfriend” people. You cannot push a button and make them suddenly stop coming around or talking to you. Maybe that’s why so many people have simply unfriended themselves from the church. If someone in the church upsets me, I’ll just remove the church from my life.
We’ve got to recognize that Christianity can ONLY be truly lived out in the context of a church family. And church families are always full of imperfections and peculiarities. We cannot simply stop talking to people we don’t like. Scripture gives us very specific instructions about dealing with conflict in the church (see Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15-20), and none of those instructions include an “unfriend” or “block” button.
Social media makes it very easy to only have friends who look like us, think like us, talk like us, and most importantly “like” everything we post. But the real world isn’t like that; and it’s not supposed to be. We need to be challenged, we need to be put in our place sometimes, and we need to learn how to gently challenge others. We must learn to forgive and reconcile with people. We must even learn to tolerate, accept, and be patient with people. But, unfortunately, social media is robbing us of those vital skills.
3. Social Media Feeds our Entertainment-Driven Culture
Our attention spans are getting shorter and our appetite for entertainment is becoming more insatiable. Carrying around a smart phone means movies, television shows, video games, social media, etc. are all at our finger-tips. We are becoming BORED with singing hymns, reading Scripture, discussing deep spiritual truths, listening to expository sermons, and generally everything that makes Christianity, Christianity.
As congregations, we have two choices, we can either feed this entertainment monster by abandoning Christian worship and fellowship and adopting methods of entertaining the masses OR we can teach people to wean themselves from the entertainment. We have become entertainment-junkies and we have got to detox.
How Has Social Media Affected You?
It’s time for some self-examination. Has social media contributed to your disconnection from the church? Has social media contributed to your having less real relationships? Is social media feeding your ego? Is it time for you to cut back? Is it time for you to take a break? Just some things to consider.
I love you and God loves you,