By Pastor Jenna Couch Zion Lutheran Church, Jubilee
I’ve encountered many changes in this rapidly changing world. Not as many as others, but enough. I’ve known a world where cell phones and the internet didn’t exist. I was in college when Facebook was first up and running. Back then, it was only available for college students but has since turned into an amazing way to stay connected with people and friends from all around the world. I joined Twitter just last year and in that short time have learned what an amazing tool that can be as well. Social media is a wonderful thing.
I consider myself to be pretty “connected” with various forms of social media, the news, and the world around me. I use social media to help me keep connected with friends, family and people from the church I serve. I also get out into the world and actually talk to real live people. Both are effective means of communication.
Quite a few months ago there was a video circulating on Facebook called “Look Up.” It was a video that had an anti-social media sentiment to it. After several of my Facebook friends shared it, I decided to watch it to see what it was all about. It made me angry, but I also had to smile at the irony of an anti-social media video “going viral” by means of social media.
I get it. It can be super annoying when you’re trying to talk to someone and they can’t look up from their (insert electronic device here) long enough to look you in the eye and show you that they’re paying attention. I’ve had it done to me and I’ve been guilty of it as well. Anything in excess can be harmful and hurtful. We all have the capacity to misuse any number of things in this world. There is definitely proper and useful etiquette to engage in while using electronic devices and social media.
However, to condemn social media altogether as this awful distraction that only makes us lonelier, disconnected, disengaged, and “dumb” is just plain ignorant. In the last year I’ve become incredibly passionate about the use of social media as a tool of evangelism, both personally and professionally. When used well, social media can be incredibly helpful and can connect us with people we may not have had the privilege to know otherwise. It can open many doors for us and others.
I’ve used social media for many things. It has not made me dumber, lonelier, or disengaged. It has actually strengthened some of my relationships and made me feel more engaged with the world around me. I’ve learned things online about people that has helped me engage in conversation with them when I see them in person. Social media can start and continue conversations for people who may have been too shy to initiate dialogue in a social setting. Social media can also be a great way to share a Scripture verse, a religious quote, or even a prayer with people that may have been looking for a word of hope that very moment or day. This is probably my favorite use of social media. Every day a friend of mine posts pictures that she took and attaches a Scripture verse or prayer to the picture. I look forward to those images every day.
Social media is not only for cute cat pictures or sharing what you ate for dinner last night. It can also be used as a way to pray for people, share Scripture with them, connect with them, and show them the many ways in which Christ is present in this world.
When you see someone looking down at their phone, don’t automatically assume that they’re disengaging. They may actually be helping someone else engage in yet another way that Christ’s love can be shown in this world.