Avoiding Pitfalls in Ministry through Social Media
When we engage online, we face temptation to make too much or too little of ourselves
There has never been a time when the message of the gospel could be spread more widely around the globe than today, through the avenue of social media. I’m a mom of two small boys who uses social media to spread messages of hope. From my laptop in my living room, I can write an encouraging blog post that can go to endless lengths I will never know of, just with the click of a button. I can share freedom and truth in 140 characters on Twitter that can go through endless networks I may never meet face-to-face. I can post a status update on Facebook that can be shared with friends of my friends and their friends in a matter of minutes. All while drinking my coffee and watching my boys jump off the walls.
Who Do You Think You Are?
It’s a remarkable world we’re living in. That said, with this unlimited potential has also come an unspoken oppression over those who seek to use social media for good. I remember the first post I published on my blog and the backlash from both friends and strangers coming at me with accusations with an underlying tone of “Who do you think you are?” I was accused of narcissism and wanting the spotlight. Many saw my blogging as an attempt to get to the top. The top of what? was my thought in response.
At that point, giving up to please others was tempting. Was I really trying to be a superstar? Through contemplation I came to the conclusion that my desire was to see God’s Kingdom grow in a world in need and if I didn’t speak out, issues that God pressed on my heart such as addictions, poverty, and trafficking would remain under the proverbial rug. Considering the Internet has made expression, creativity, and writing our message open to all, I’m not convinced there’s a “top” to get to.
I recently had a friend tell me she had a secret confession. I prepared myself for a dark, soulish experience, but instead I heard her whisper her desire to start a blog. Seriously? That was it? That was the deep, dark secret? When I asked her why she felt this was such a big deal, she replied, “Who am I to start a blog?” She had felt the waves of the unheard voices telling her she had to be somebody special to blog. How did this message start, and who’s feeding it?
Some face an opposite temptation to use social media to expand their influence and gain power. Obsession with “klout” scores and Google Analytics is a great example of this. When we become preoccupied with our klout scores, or with how many blog hits, likes on Facebook, or retweets we’ve had on Twitter, we’ve really missed the point.
This obsession will eat our souls and consume us as we try to up our game on our witty status updates and controversial blog posts. We can become obsessed with feedback on what we’ve written, returning to our computers, pressing “refresh” every few minutes. The more likes, the more our egos are boosted.
Unfortunately, we can also become over-occupied with comparing ourselves to others who have more likes and followers than we do, trying to do all we can to up our ante to get to their level. Before we know it, we’ve been deceived into building our own kingdoms rather than God’s. To get to this point is easier than we think.
Fear of Rejection
The trouble with social media is that as limitless as it is with getting messages out, it is also limitless and sometimes shameful how hurtful people can be in response. Because it’s not a face-to-face conversation, comments on blog posts, Facebook status updates, and replies on Twitter can be devastating and hurtful to one’s soul. No one wants to put their art on display for all to mock and throw things at. If we can overcome the “Who do you think you are?” syndrome, it’s not long before a couple of hurtful comments will shut us right down. It’s our deep-rooted fear of rejection that keeps us silent.
Silence guarantees our safety, but not others’ freedom. Yes, our silence may protect us, but the liberation that could be brought to many from our acts of courageous writing and/or speaking will never manifest under the oppression of fear.
The worst criticism of all can come from ourselves. Even with a supportive community, thoughts of self-criticism, perfectionism, and “Who do I think I am?” are always at the forefront of the mind, ready to bring the same fear and doubt. How often do we keep our thoughts and gifts of writing to ourselves because of our own egos, believing what we create is not good enough to be read or viewed by others?
All about Me
The overriding temptation we need to avoid with social media is to make it all about our own egos and followings. The problem is that we can be deceived into thinking that we are all about building the Father’s kingdom while we’ve become consumed with our own. This extreme and the extreme of allowing others to shut us down both make us overly sensitive to criticism because we’re allowing what others think of us to dictate our actions. This fear of man cannot lead to good fruit.
At the end of the day, we need to care more about justice, truth, and freedom for others than our own egos. I have to conjure up tough skin so when the messages thrown back at me are telling me I’m wrong—my thoughts are wrong, my writing is wrong, my opinion is wrong—I can stand firm in who I am and not crash and burn in flames of self-doubt. This is not for the weak of heart.
We may not be able to silence all the voices that bring doubt to those wanting to use social media for good, but one by one we can create courageous spaces for those whose voices need to be heard. We can encourage one another to continue to write and speak about things that are close to our hearts. We can challenge one another to keep the ego at bay and to remember why we do what we do. We can “like,” retweet, and make constructive, positive comments on blogs that will encourage voices to continue to raise for the sake of the gospel.
How are you encouraging voices to continue rather than to shut down? Do you see engaging in social media as ministry? If you feel you’re not in a season of “ministry” or you’re not finding a place to live out your calling, you may find that social media has opened that door for you if you’re willing to step through. As long as you don’t fall prey to its negative pitfalls, the stay-at-home-mom, the introvert, the person in transition or just trying to find an avenue for your voice can be released into ministry! It is indeed a very exciting time for anyone who can see the opportunity and seize it for the kingdom.
Connie Jakab is the author of the book Culture Rebel. Connie is passionate about rebelling against status-quo living and encouraging others to branch out. Connie drives her passion outward into the arms of those wanting something more radical and meaningful in life. She can be found on twitter @ConnieJakab. Connie is honored to be part of the Redbud Writers Guild.