Social Media: Pointing to Christ or Merely a Distraction?

Smart phones and social media expand our universe. We can connect with others or collect information easier and faster than ever. – Daniel Goleman

The more social media we have, the more we think we're connecting, yet we are really disconnecting from each other. – JR

There’s no denying that social media is an integral part of daily life – especially for the younger generation.  Not only is social media easily accessible on computers; it can be checked with simply the tap of a finger on a tablet or smartphone. 

The question is: can social media be used to enhance a relationship with Jesus and share the gospel, or is it just a distraction from the things that matter?

In a recent study (ICM, 2014) conducted by the Institute for Church Ministry, Adventist young people were asked if they felt social media helped their relationship with Christ.  Only 22% of respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with this concept, while 36% said that they were unsure.  Forty percent “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” with this idea, acknowledging that social media does not enhance their relationship with Jesus.

The same study also asked young people if they viewed social media as a means of sharing the Gospel.  Fifty-seven percent “strongly agreed”or “agreed” with this idea.  Only 11% “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” with this concept.  Thirty percent remained unsure.

If social media is a central part of our culture today, how can we help our young people use it for spiritual growth?  How can we redirect them from using social media as a diversion to using it to focus on things of Heavenly importance?

On his website, Thom Rainer offers some great suggestions for Christians to use social media:

  • Pray before posting.  By praying before posting on social media, your youth may not only develop a more open and meaningful prayer life; looking to Jesus before posting may radically change the types of things they post.
  • Use social media for encouragement.  Many of the posts on social media are used to point others to look at “me, me, me!”  However, the Bible tells us, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).  If we are able teach our young people to shift the focus off of themselves and on to others, they will be able to show Jesus more clearly to others.
  • Remember who is watching social media.  If someone professes to be a Christian, you can be sure that people are watching them, waiting for them to slip up.  We must teach our youth to be mindful of the image that they set forth, as it is a reflection of their Creator.
  • Create a prayer ministry through social media.  Teach your young people to pray for those that they see on their social media accounts.  Encourage them to let others know that they are praying for them.
  • Use social media to increase accountability.  Many of the comments, pictures, and videos posted to social media accounts do not reflect Jesus.  Teach your young people to hold each other accountable for the things they post; it can be much more effective for a peer to say, “That is not appropriate!” than for a parent or other adult to do the same.

(To see the full list of suggestions, check out: http://thomrainer.com/2014/08/seven-positive-ways-christians-can-use-social-media/)

It appears that social media is here to stay – at least for the foreseeable future.  Not only is it our job to educate young people on how to use social media responsibly; we must teach them ways in which to use social media to know Jesus more closely and share His love with others.