Close your eyes – think about going on Facebook or Twitter and scrolling through your feed. Imagine the typical posts you encounter. Now think about the comments on the most engaging posts. What do you feel? Dread … confusion … sadness … anger?
We don’t need studies to tell us that individual are feeling more isolated and depressed after visiting social media than ever before. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds are filled with divisiveness, arguments, superficiality, jealousy, and anger. Despite this, social media is continuing to become even more engrained in our culture.
What do we do? Do we leave Facebook? Do we remove ourselves from this part of society?
You might be tempted. I know at times I’m tempted to leave. But the simple answer is – we can’t. We must be present.
We cannot abandon what Pope Benedict calls the “Digital Continent” to the darkness permeating our society. Christians are called to be the light in the world.
Imagine a world in which Christians shined with the light of God’s love on social media, one post at a time. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram would reflect love, truth, understanding, and — most importantly — mercy.
If each of us made an effort to live our Christian calling in the midst of the negativity and ugliness, we could make a huge impact. A tidal wave. There are more than 72 million Catholics in the United States and 1.2 billion across the globe. And if we work together with other fellow Christians, that number jumps even higher. That’s a huge tidal wave.
So how do we create this tidal wave? By tithing our social media posts, engaging with other as in real life, and by showing mercy online.
Tithing our Social Media Posts. I challenge you to dedicate at least 10% of your social media posts to God. The way you do it should be as unique as you are. Overt, subtle, witty, serious, grateful, abstract, personal, evangelizing, spiritual, funny, joyful … be you!! It can be as simple as “checking in” at church or sharing your favorite scripture, quote, meme, prayer, reflection, or whatever speaks to you. Invite your social media followers to observe how your faith is intertwined into your life.
Engage as you do in real life. When you run into a person in real life and hear their “news” do you give them a thumbs up or a heart? Probably not. You say “Congratulations” or “I’m so sorry” or “Were you scared on that roller coaster?” So why not online? Slow your scroll and just talk with your Facebook friends as if they were right in front of you.
Show Mercy to Others. We need to avoid contributing to the negativity that tempts us to leave social media. When you feel it necessary to disagree or correct someone online, take a pause and prayerfully consider how you respond. Avoid piling on or saying something about someone you wouldn’t say to them if they were right in front of you. And remember, sometimes the best response is no response at all.
My pastor recently said about social media:
Like any man-made thing, social media is neither good nor bad in and of itself. It’s how we use it that makes the difference. If we use it to tear people down, to destroy them, to exact our pound of flesh, then it’s a bad thing. IF we use it to build people up, if we use it to spread the Good News, if we use it to show our Christian faith, then it’s a good thing.
We have the opportunity and possibly the responsibility to shift the tone of the online space. We can shine with the light of God’s love by sharing the Good News, being personal and authentic, and showing mercy to others in our online community.
The power of social media in our society is expanding. Rather than abandon it, hide from it or shut it out, we need to engage and be present! Not just be present, but to live our Joy in Christ and light up the Digital Continent with God’s love for all.
Copyright 2019 Lisa Henley Jones