As someone who’s grumbled already on this blog about social media, I think I should clarify. Trouble is, I’m moving from an intuitive, ill-defined gut-level revulsion of it to a more clear understanding of why I hate ‘it‘. Perhaps it’s not the social media itself I have a problem with, but what we do with it, and what it does to us.
Quite a few years ago, my job in communications didn’t involve Facebook or Twitter, or Blogs… that was something to waste time on in your own time (OK, we still do that), or for the few ‘early adopters’ who were hobbyists and liked to mess about with tech. It is now part of my job description. The world has changed, and some things like social media really aren’t going away anytime soon (though I still dream of the day…). On the other hand, human nature hasn’t changed… we’ve just got newer tools to vent on.
Social media following is almost like hard currency nowadays – both money and ‘following’ are signs of power and influence. It can be addictive. It can draw us in, and we can become slaves to it, rather than the masters. Like that verse ‘you can’t serve both God and Mammon’ (Luke 16.13), I think there’s something to be learned in it about social media too… you can’t live both for God and for popularity/’Social media leverage’. It’s that egotistic, self-important, influence-hungry ‘god’ that I so hate about social media.
This morning my colleague and I had a really good training/discussion session about how we use social media, both on behalf of a Christian charity, and as individuals. We talked about whether we use it, or whether it is demanding more of us than we’d like. Our talk together only added to the (g)rumblings for me… the sort of pre-explosive rumblings of a volcano – a warning of things to come. In terms of things I ‘hate’, I found myself using phrases such as ‘organisational narcissism’, ‘self-promotion’, and a resistance to using jargon such as ‘building a platform’ and ‘leverage’.
As our conversation developed, we were using other phrases that sat much more comfortably: ‘authenticity’ and ‘accountability’. We found ourselves faced with the need for a change of heart, not just a change in our social media content, wherever we saw evidence of selfish or self-absorbed postings, or if there was inappropriate content. We talked about checks and balances, about how our organisation encourages Social Media ‘buddies’ to follow content of colleagues and challenge it graciously if it might be deemed offensive or inappropriate. But clearly, we would do this in any case if we heard inappropriate chat IRL at the coffee point. We need help to use this social media stuff well, and we need help to be better followers of Jesus. If there’s a problem with my blog content, maybe that’s because there’s also a problem with my heart. When it comes to an obsession about ‘following’, I want Jesus to be the one I’m thinking of, not my Twitter analytics.
What Social Media does, is give you – dear readers – a window on my life, my views, my heart. If I’m shy, or if I’m hiding something, or if I’m sinfully self-absorbed, you can see it. I find this vulnerability an uncomfortable exposure. But on the other hand, if I’m following right, perhaps you might also see a glimpse of Jesus in me… and that would be an amazing thing.
So I’m digging into Scripture to help me find my way through this maze – seeing Jesus there and seeing how he was so free from public opinion, how he didn’t act to get a following (John 7.2-9), but how he also wasn’t afraid to publicise who he was. In everything I do – online and off – I want to be more like him.