Connor Leadley – CLI Intern
The popular social media app, Instagram, has on average 400 million active monthly users and about 75 million of them are actively scrolling through pictures every single day—but what for? Why do we sit around scrolling and scrolling and scrolling through pictures we’ve seen again and again? The main explanation I have heard from people is to “stay connected” and to “build community.” Which sounds appealing to me personally. The main reason I have an Instagram and Facebook is because I love seeing pictures and videos of my friends and family who are all over the world and choose to share their experiences through social media. I have a sister who is married and has two of the cutest little girls that live in Australia and I love logging on every once in awhile and seeing their’ cute faces smiling. For a second, I can escape my current reality and feel like I am with them.
Many of you are probably the same as me, you love seeing peoples pictures and videos because you feel connected to them. Social media causes us to feel like we are in community with our friends and family who are distant from us. As much as I’d love to stand by this and support it, I think it does the exact opposite. I think that social media destroys true connection and true community. Social media has created a platform for us to share what we want to share and when we want to share it, which allows us to craft who/what we want ourselves to be. We get to control our identity, convincing all of our followers that whatever we post online is the true us—and vice versa. Therefore, I believe that we trick ourselves into thinking that social media is community when in reality it is simply a distortion of it.
I always find it amusing when I go to restaurants and look around and see how many people are on their phones as they sit and wait at a table. Here they are sitting around a table with friends and family and the only place they feel connected is in a virtual social reality. We no longer know how to engage one another in real conversation because we are so used to being able to craft every single word we type when we post online. I say all of this not out of spite but out of a personal conviction. I do find it amusing to watch this happen to others, but to be honest I don’t even realize the times when I am doing it. I often will find myself wasting away time scrolling up and down trying to “stay connected” and afterwards having a really hard time being able to engage in real dialogue with the people I come in contact with. So, this is why I am writing this post. It is more of a letter to myself first and then it is a letter to whoever needs to hear it. I hope that at least one person will begin to see that true community cannot be found on social media and that you cannot be in true connection with someone by simply clicking “Like”.
True community requires more. A community is a place where people join in life together. A community of people bears one another’s burdens and prays together; they know each other’s hurts, fears, and struggles and enter into solidarity with one another. In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:
“ The existence of any Christian life together depends on whether it succeeds at the right time in bringing out the ability to distinguish between a human ideal and God’s reality, between spiritual and human community” (37).
I fear that we have been complacent with an understanding community on social media and haven’t even been able to distinguish between social media community and human community. Yet, as Christians we are called to an even greater spiritual understanding of community. In true community people know the real you, not just what you want to share. I am convinced that we are missing something so much greater when we think that we can find community on social media. If you are convinced that community can be found on social media, I challenge you and your family to delete your social media for one week and take note of the differences you notice. It’s only seven days but I think that your eyes will be opened to something so much greater.