A Christian view of social media
Technology is distracting believers from the surrounding Christian community
Facebook. Twitter. Instagram.
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One month ago, I attended a lecture in the Jerry Falwell Library titled, “Antisocial Media: Communal Transformation and the Barriers of the Technology” given by Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, professor of English, and Dr. Chad Thornhill, professor of theology.
For an hour and a half, I was faced with the possibility that social media may be destroying the image of God in humanity.
Prior spoke first and discussed some rather frightening aspects of social media usage. She added that it is decreasing our intelligence, making us more depressed and shortening our attention spans. Thornhill added that connectedness is no indicator of true community. Rather, it gives us a false impression of our relational health as human beings.
We are more connected than we have ever been. We have a 24/7 news cycle, smartphones and Internet radio. We can share more about ourselves and know more about others than was previously
So why do we still feel lonely and unsatisfied?
Because humans were never meant to relate solely through screens.
In Genesis 1:26-27, God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (ESV).”
When God decided to create mankind, he used the phrase “our image”— “our” signifying more than one. A key belief of the Christian faith is that of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit exist as one. God himself is community.
Yes, we may be able to be maintain connections with others through social media and communicate via text, but what are we losing by doing this?
We are becoming less authentic people. We are denying the image of God in ourselves.
I am not against using social media. I am a Facebook user and occasionally binge-watch comedian Tim Hawkins’ videos on YouTube. I am thankful for the ways that social media allows me to stay in contact with friends who live in different states or out of the country.
But after listening to the lecture, I had to stop and think. Why do I use social media? What is it adding to my life? I am pretty sure that I am not actually friends with all of my friends on Facebook.
And that is the trouble. Facebook has redefined what it means to be a friend, just as Twitter has redefined what it means to be a follower.
When Jesus called his disciples “friends,” he was not reducing them to pixelated images on Facebook. And when he called them to follow him, he most certainly was not asking them to sign up for Twitter.
He was extending an invitation into the joyous, messy, beautiful thing we call community.
Digital communication is like fast food. It is quick, cheap and easy. It requires no significant investment of time or money and is often consumed on the go. It does not leave us full for long, so we come back for more, which, in the long run, is detrimental to our health.
Face-to-face communication is like a feast. Unlike fast food, it requires a commitment of time, money and energy. You lay aside other pursuits for the sake of spending time with the person in front of you. A feast is a multi-course meal, designed to satisfy the partakers. A feast cannot be rushed.
And this is what Jesus offers us, with himself and with others. But we often choose the fast food over the feast.
I am not suggesting that you give up all of your social media outlets or texting. But what I am asking is that you remember that you were created for more than virtual reality.
Let us focus on the faces made in the image of God — not just Facebook.
GRAF is a feature reporter.