Will there be social media in eternity?
As redeemed children of God, we eagerly await new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness Himself dwells (2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:3) and where our broken bodies will be made like Christ’s: glorified and perfected (see Philippians 3:21).
What might glorified and perfected social media look like–stripped of everything that too often corrupts it? Might it abound with praise to the Almighty God? Edify His people? Bring them together to accomplish great and beautiful things?
To some extent, this is mere speculation. Whether eternity looks anything like this is far beyond this article’s purpose.
But thinking in these terms sets our focus on one truly practical question: How can you and I use social media for the kingdom of God, in a way that reflects His glory and perfection?
The obvious answers might be “Share the Gospel,” “Stay away from sinful content,” and “Don’t let it consume all your time.” While absolutely true and important, I think we can get more specific.
Each social media platform is unique. Each therefore offers its own unique opportunities, both for good and for evil.
Let’s take a look at each major platform and consider how we can use it, specifically, for the Church’s work on earth. With opportunities come dangers, though, so we’ll be sure to cover those too.
With around 2.8 billion users, Facebook is currently the most popular platform for social media. Facebook also spans a lot of demographics: Most of us know plenty of relatives and acquaintances, young and old and in-between, all using the platform.
This reach, along with versatility in the types of posts users can create, makes Facebook a prime avenue for fellowship. Connecting on Facebook corresponds naturally to how we connect in real life: through our own social circles, in our own unique ways.
The broad format of Facebook lets us keep up with friends, hear and share needs, rejoice with others’ celebration, discuss important topics, and console the hurting. When used intentionally, it opens the door for greater fellowship than we might have otherwise.
What are the dangers? As with any other form of fellowship, Facebook can easily breed judgment, gossip, and vain arguments. Especially online, it’s vital to approach one another humbly and compassionately.
When used from a heart of neighborly love, Facebook becomes a wonderful tool for fellowship.
Twitter propels us outside our social circles and into a vast network of people across the globe. Twitter’s website invites users to “join the conversation” – and conversation is really what it’s all about. Twitter threads can become dialogues connecting people of all kinds: singers, authors, politicians, and everyday folks like me.
This variety leads to a lot of different perspectives, and Twitter’s format encourages users to approach those perspectives with concise, intentional conversation. This is an exercise in quality dialogue that can be great for Christians, since the Church itself is naturally full of varied perspectives. Twitter is the place for Christians to exemplify thoughtful, meaningful, and charitable dialogue.
But charitable dialogue isn’t always what Twitter is known for. In part, this is due to not valuing different perspectives. It’s natural to follow only people we agree with, but this can make us feel superior and justified as we attack other opinions. Where Twitter’s conciseness ought to help us dialogue better, it can easily lead to sarcastic quips and attempts to simply “win” at conversation.
If we approach one another in humble, charitable dialogue, though, Christians can leverage Twitter for some incredibly fruitful conversation.
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” Photos are far more than just interesting things to look at. They tell stories and evoke emotions. They shock, satisfy, and inform. Images are truly versatile. This makes an image-based platform like Instagram difficult for me to pin down to a single virtuous attribute.
For many, though, Instagram is a source of daily encouragement. This doesn’t just refer to screenshots of positive quotes: Encouragement can take the form of beautifully captured photographs, inspiring projects, candid celebrations, and (of course) memes. Sometimes a post may showcase someone’s need, and encouragement then has the opportunity to go the other way around.
Amid the beauty, inspiration, celebration, and humor, though, there comes the temptation to compare ourselves with others or fill ourselves with vanity, sometimes filtering our own lives to make it appear as though we live a fairy-tale life.
Just as photographs capture real moments of life, Instagram can be a place where we encourage one another as we share our real lives and thoughts together.
In Snapchat, as in life, few things last forever. Unlike a timeline or profile where posts remain indefinitely, Snapchat uses temporary stories and messages to convey the moment. In this sense, Snapchat is less about likes and shares as it is sharing life moments with friends.
In essence, this is discipleship: Leading others to a closer walk with Jesus through the fleeting, everyday moments.
Snapchat can promote discipleship when we share these everyday moments, doing our best to walk faithfully with Jesus while honestly showing the real – even imperfect – aspects of our lives as well. Snapchat messaging also opens opportunities to extend this to genuine, one-on-one conversations with those we’re discipling.
With sharing everyday moments come the dangers of unfiltered sharing, though. We shouldn’t try to present a fairy-tale life, but we also should be wise in what we make public. Simply because a post seems temporary doesn’t mean it couldn’t also be damaging. Discipleship itself isn’t intended to be done with every person on our friends list, but for the few we do disciple, Snapchat offers a great way to share life honestly and fruitfully.
It’s clear today that video is one of the easiest ways to consume a ton of media. It’s practically effortless, and with TikTok’s short video format, the platform basically masters the art of providing bite-size content that’s easy to binge.
This provides a wonderful opportunity for infusing meaningful content in a way that’s easy for people to digest. It’s a way to approach important topics with tact, brevity, and intentionality.
Yet this implies that there’s also a lot of meaningless content available: surface-level, fleeting enjoyment. This isn’t always a bad thing. Entertainment is important! But to spend hours at the surface level, using the simplicity of video media for entertainment rather than something more, misses out on how TikTok can be used for a higher purpose.
TikTok could be one the greatest platforms for outreach in our day if we use it with purpose, compassion, and conviction.
Not many of us are YouTube creators. But just about all of us are regular – or at least occasional – YouTube consumers.
Much like TikTok, YouTube delivers content in a way that’s easy to view while brushing your teeth or washing dishes. And since YouTube videos aren’t as time-restricted, they can take the time to expound: Step-by-step tutorials, detailed comic book fan theories, and even full-length sermons are all free for the taking.
As consumers, YouTube is a nice way to unwind. But it can also be a means of insight. There is so much we can learn from people around the world, people with differing experiences and talents. YouTube provides a way for those people to share with us, and us with them. This isn’t limited to informational videos, either. YouTube presents opportunities to hear other people’s stories, benefit from their expertise, and grow in our awareness of important issues.
However, a pitfall of being a mere consumer is falling into the constant posture of consumption. With so much quality content available on YouTube, it’s easy to grow accustomed to constantly consuming. We were meant to be more than consumers. We were meant to do: to love, to serve, and to glorify our Creator. Consumption is the means, not the end, and YouTube can be the means by which we love, serve, and glorify all the more.
Reddit describes itself as a “network of communities”. There are communities for just about everything on Reddit, from common interests and hobbies to support groups and Q&As.
Community is also fundamental to the Church. The Church is, in a way, a large community – even a community of communities – joined together by a common faith. We support one another, pray for one another, admonish one another, mourn with one another, and celebrate with one another. Reddit has the capacity to foster these sorts of communities as well.
But the evil twin of community is tribalism. As people grow closer in community, the easier it is to view those outside or new to our community as “outsiders”. Of all people, believers should welcome outsiders! We too were once outsiders, but we’ve been brought into community with Christ, just as He calls us to community with others.
Reddit, then, is an opportunity for Christians to demonstrate what real, Christ-like community looks like.
A Field Ripe for the Harvest
Social media connects billions of people every day. It’s one of the most common ways people connect and share information. This makes it a bountiful field, ripe for a harvest of good works, much like what Jesus taught in Matthew 9:37: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
Each platform has unique formats and features that promote different and beautiful virtues, but it’s important to note that no platform holds a monopoly on any of these. We can disciple through Facebook, gain insight through Twitter, and encourage through Reddit too.
So don’t feel guilty if you’re not on all these platforms (few people should be!), or even any of them. Social media is a tool that can be used for wonderful things, but there are many other tools out there. No matter the tools you use or situations you find yourself in, our mission as believers is the same.
If you are on one of these platforms, though, I hope you’ve found these considerations helpful and even inspirational.
Were there other benefits to these platforms that came to your mind? I’d love to hear in the comments!