Those who know me, know that I am a fan of social media. I use social media in my own life in a variety of ways: in my personal life to stay in touch with family and friends, to keep connected with members of my congregation, and to discuss ministry with colleagues. My real passion for social media comes among colleagues, talking about how this resource can be used by the church to further the kingdom.
The potential of these new forms of media was brought home to me in a surreal way this last week. Late Wednesday night, I logged on to Facebook, only to discover that they had changed up the appearance of the newsfeed. I saw a couple of complaints from friends about the new look, and I new how this would go. By morning there would be a flood of complaints about the new timeline. So I looked through my pictures, and found an image from someecards that I had posted from the last time Facebook changed the look of the feed, reposted it, and went to bed.
Now, I have had a few things I have posted become popular before. Mostly among other church folks, I've had a couple of posts from this blog get shared by as many as 100 people on Facebook (I thought that was pretty impressive!). Thursday morning I woke up, and the image had been shared 2,000 times. I was shocked. By the end of the day, it had been shared 5,000 times. It even had been shown on the Houston afternoon news and WGN in the evening. Yes - my post to Facebook was on the news from Houston to Chicago.
Let's do some quick math. Round down the average number of Facebook friends to 100. At 5,000 shares, this image was seen by at least half a million people. To put that in perspective: On an average Sunday, I preach to around 170 people. I serve a congregation of about 500 members, in a town of 14,000 people. With one post, I had reached 1,000 times more people than there are in the congregation I serve. By the next morning, I had friend requests from across the US, from Britain and Ireland, Germany and Austria, Australia and New Zealand.
I love the potential that social media has for reaching people. The church is called to carry the Gospel to all nations - to all corners of the earth. Just over five hundred years ago - the printing press made that mission more feasible than ever. Now social media has made it more practical, possible, and probable for the church to carry the message of the kingdom to the ends of the earth.
And yet ...
What gets shared on social media? I have posted about ministry, about politics, about the Gospel - about all sorts of things. Out of all those posts it is a silly post, about Facebook that went viral. Some of the most popular Twitter feeds are the ones that dole out sarcasm or pop culture commentary. Social media shows the truth of who we are: it is not the meaningful, deep conversations that move us. As a species, we are infatuated with the inane. And I hate that social media exposes our shallowness.
How do we, as people of faith, overcome our infatuation with the inane and use social media's potential for communication to share the good news?