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Social media: it's the first term that comes to mind, to sum up our current generation. It's weird to remember that 15 years ago, my sister and I took turns using dial-up internet to Instant Message our cousins on Yahoo messenger. A couple of years later, I convinced my Mom to let me sign up for a site I'd just learned about called Facebook. Nowadays, social media isn't just for fun, it's integrated to the point where it's almost a necessity. It's how we find out what's going on in our area, it's how we buy and sell stuff, and it's how we contact people daily. The more digital we become, the harder it is to ask ourselves the most important question: what would Jesus do if He were you?
After 11 years on Facebook, I finally pulled the plug. I tell myself it was an act of self-control to get rid of something that hinders productivity. But the truth is, it was easy to let go because it was boring. There are all kinds of outlets to find new content that interests me. Instagram is my favorite social network because I love photos. I can tweak my feed to show mountains and inspirational adventures without the drama. And occasionally I’ll post a “candid” photo of myself floating on a lake or standing majestically in a field. But sometimes, I ask myself, would Jesus use Instagram? The reflex answer is "no" because I know that Jesus would never engage in self-centered and superficial activities. And when I think that way, I wonder if I should go off the grid. However, when I think deeper, I realize it's not that simple. Social media isn't good or bad; it's how we use it that makes it either destructive or constructive.
When we compare the world of the Bible to our culture, it seems impossible to do what Jesus did. After all, you won't catch most of us traveling by foot or penning letters to evangelize. What we need to look at is how Jesus did what He did. Jesus reached out to the broken and called us to do the same. Discipleship is not just for people who are "called to ministry" or to save for a mission trip. When you follow Jesus, you are a disciple. So what does that look like on an ordinary day? It looks like communication. According to studies, at least 90% of practicing Christians in the United States use social media. Yet, studies also show that in-person conversations still make the most meaningful impact. We need to make real human connections to change lives. It's easy to think that the more followers you have, the more people you will reach. But that is often not how it works. We have opportunities to connect with a much wider audience due to the digital age, and with that comes both amazing potential but also inevitable fatigue. We shouldn't let that distract us from face-to-face connections. It's a personal responsibility to determine whether social media motivates you or holds you back.
If you're like me, then the ability to connect with the world excites you. When it comes to spiritual conversations, I like to build relationships first and focus my attention on one person at a time. I'm not likely to have a large number in my in-person circle, but I still have big-picture aspirations. Like everyone else on the internet, I want my voice to be out there. What I need to hone in on is how to use my tools to listen to others. Jesus listened, and He loved through actions. When we choose actions of love, then we can evaluate how social media can support those actions.
We can use social media for God's purposes. The problem is, the public eye uses this “tool” to make it all about our image and self-esteem. We have to embrace our worth in Jesus before we can let go of the world's approval. It takes discipline not to get swept up in the endless flow of "look what I'm doing" content. I certainly know from experience. At the end of the day, everyone has seen it all. Our cute selfies and aesthetic poses are just drops in the abyss. It's okay to use social media for fun, but we glorify God and find freedom when we point to Him instead of ourselves. That doesn't mean we need to post Bible verses every day; it means we should reach out to others and create content that speaks to real-world people, rather than collecting likes as a currency for our value.
"Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven." - Matthew 5:15-16
In Luke 5:5-11, Jesus demonstrates the power of faith and tells His disciples, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will fish for people." God calls us to draw people in to see our source. No matter what we do, it will never be "good enough" for the world. Also, no matter what we do, it can never be bad enough to lose God’s unconditional love. In His eyes, we are so valuable, and we gain nothing when we try to earn love elsewhere. When our lives reflect Him, we do what Jesus would do.
Written Content Coordinator at Sun Valley Community Church. An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.