Does Social Media Connect or Disconnect Us?



Technology expands: we can instantaneously reach out to people a world away, connecting over passions, over challenges, over beliefs, over values. But it also constricts: the people closest to us can feel a world away. Instead of oceans, we’re separated by screens.

We’re more connected than ever. But many of us feel more disconnected — and more lonely — than ever.

This.

We need prayers.

Recently, a friend of mine was in a horrific accident. She was trapped in her car — submerged in icy water — for twenty-seven minutes. Twenty-seven minutes. How could she possibly survive? She was, for all intents and purposes, dead.

We got the word out. On social media, we asked for prayers from around the world. People heard us. God heard us. Today, you would never know that anything happened. Her recovery was nothing short of miraculous. Thank God!

And thank social media for giving us a platform to reach so many.

The Promise In Social Media: Meaningful Connection

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn… these platforms give us the opportunity to connect with people around the world. This is amazing!

We can connect with those who will work with us to make a difference — we leveraged LinkedIn’s professional community, for example, to meet the people who helped launch FaithTech.

We can reach around the world to have impactful conversations. FaithTech is in communication with people in Bangkok, Thailand, about all things faith and tech. Separated by 13,000 kilometers and an expensive 17.5 hour flight, we can now talk any time — for free!

We can educate. Experts can train anyone, anywhere. We can diagnose. Medical professionals can listen to patients and create treatment plans — online.

Technology gives us the opportunity to get our message out to a much broader audience, to reach exponentially more eyes and ears and hearts. Sharing the good news of Jesus can be done to the ends of the earth from this very place I am writing this article from.

More people can lead to more impact. To real, authentic, powerful connection.

The Disconnect

While technology holds massive potential, we need to think critically about how we use it. The President of the United States is able to give on-demand thoughts at any time which is very cool in one sense. Very scary in another sense. Half-formed thoughts get the Presidential seal of approval, and hundreds of millions consume them.

All other issues aside, this underscores a troubling aspect of tech: it is designed to help you go wide. Not deep. Tech companies are concerned with networking more than relationship. At the end of the day these tech companies are for-profit corporations demanded by their stakeholders to have rapid growth predominantly by means of advertisements dollars. Advertisers spend money when eyes view their content or click on their product links. The more eyes, the more money.

It’s easy to confuse the notion of whether we are more or less connected. We’re certainly more networked. And more isolated. The generation that was all but born with a device in their hand — 18 - 24 year olds — are four times as likely to feel lonely “most of the time” compared to those over 70.

Think of all the celebrities you see on Instagram and other platforms: they must be greatly fulfilled, right? But their carefully curated digital personas often cover up true loneliness and isolation because they lack real relationships.

Therapist Olivia Assuncao explains:

We all desire to be validated and accepted. Social media, however, is a space where there is little or no emotional connection created, therefore it makes emotional validation increasingly difficult to obtain, leaving us feeling lonely, even with many ‘friends and followers’... Celebrities are human and would have the same emotional experience on a much bigger scale as the general public.

Social media can make us into mini-celebrities. We have “friends” — but perhaps they’re better described as our network. There is much less personal, deep, connection. This is why we can have 1000 friends and feel utterly alone.

Jesus’ Followers

Let’s put this into context: Jesus, the most widely known figure in all of history, did not have core relationships with millions. Not thousands. Not even hundreds. Jesus had 12 disciples. Twelve companions, with Peter, James, and John the closest of the close.

Always go back to Jesus. When we think about how we use social media, remember that He connected with a handful of people closely, personally, intensely. The 12 were Jesus’ early adopters.

But He also knew the importance of reaching the masses. Throughout His three year ministry, He had many followers, who came and went. “Many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him” (John 6.66). He taught them, He spoke the truth, but He did not put in the same time and effort with the crowds then he did with the core group.

The twelve chosen went everywhere with Him. Ate with him. Slept by him. Sacrificed with Him.

The rest came and went, and Jesus Himself retreated from the masses. To get away and be with the Father. To rest. “When Jesus heard [that John the Baptist had been beheaded], he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” (Matthew 14:13).

What’s amazing about this verse is how Jesus dealt with sorrow. He took time to process it alone. To get away from the noise.

With social media, it’s easy, and tempting, to take all our sorrows to the masses. But this is where we as Christians should be different. If all culture is in one place, we must decide if we should be present, absent, or impacting that space. If we are there intentionally, with the heart of Christ in us, with boundaries, than we can follow in His footsteps.

Deep or Wide?

The questions that we all must wrestle with are these: do we want to go wide or deep? And what role does technology play in helping us do this?

We have to go deep. We have to be intentional. We have to put the masses (culture in general) in its proper place. What is our purpose for being on Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? Is it to network? Or is it to connect? Is it to let tech influence us — or is it to be a source of positive influence?

We are more networked, and less connected. But we have the power to change that.

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