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4 Ways to Hack Social Media for Spiritual Growth

twitter-logo-image-2-839250783-84695God is not just saving individuals and preparing them for heaven; rather, he is creating a people among whom he can live and who in their life together will reproduce God’s life and character.”—Gordon Fee

Social media has become a natural and important part of many lives. A recent survey says that 79% of smartphone users are on their phones within 15 minutes of waking up. For those 18–24, the number rises to 89%.

The question for Christians isn’t about whether these tools are good or bad, it’s about whether these tools are contributing to, or detracting from, our spiritual formation.

If we’re intentional about the way we approach social media, it can be more than a tool for communicating—it can be a divinely used device to make us more like Christ. Here are a couple ways to use social media as a spiritual discipline:

1. Prayer

Set aside some time occasionally and pray through your Facebook or Twitter feeds.

Social media is often an invitation into some of of your friends’ struggles and challenges. As you scan through your feed, it’s perfect opportunity to remind yourself to be, be first of all, a vehicle of grace.

Don’t comment—not even to let them know you’re praying for them. There’s value in learning care for the needs of others without drawing attention to it.

2. Peacemaking

First of all, you’re not going to agree with everything your friends say. In fact, some of it will offend you—but that cuts both ways. I guarantee that not everyone agrees with you either. This is a great opportunity to learn to be a peacemaker.

The first part of peacemaking is learning to stay unruffled. It’s too easy to allow yourself to get worked up. How can Christians expect to deal with personal attacks with humility and patience if they can’t even see something they disagree with without getting upset?

Become a student of your personal responses. We naturally assume when we start to get upset that someone else is responsible for our reaction. They’re not; we are.

As you scroll through your feeds, put enough space between stimulus and response to scrutinize what you react to. Then stop.

It’s totally appropriate to take part in online dialogue, but don’t be contentious. Be assured that your online interaction is conditioning how you see and respond to people in other areas of your life. You need to be intentional to ensure it’s building a better you.

3. Humility

If you’re thoughtful, hardworking, and interesting, you can build a strong online platform in the midst of all the noise. But it doesn’t come without a dark side.

There’s a lot of shameless self promotion involved in the online game—and it can be a trap. God knows, it’s a battle that I’ve not always done a good job fighting.

But that’s not the only kind of self promotion you find online. We’re all guilty of creating an online persona that’s dishonest by degrees. We want others to think we have a better family than we do. We want to appear more successful, altruistic, intelligent, and funnier than we actually are.

If I’m creating an online image that encourages others to see me as more together and successful than I actually am, everyone suffers. I need to be brutally honest with myself about my motives behind how I communicate things about myself. I say brutally honest because the first person I fool with my updates is myself.

4. Abstinence

One spiritually formative thing we can do is to occasionally disengage from social media. A strong argument can be made that we’re missing more with our constant media engagement than we’d miss by disengaging.

If I’m honest, I’m checking various media channels almost constantly. And this lack of self control is inevitably seeping into other areas of my life.

It’s important to establish some impulse control, and one way to do that is to establish principles for my media engagement. Being serious about spiritual formation means I realize my habits touch deeper areas within me than they appear to.

What are some ways you use social media as a spiritual formation tool? Leave me a comment.

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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. “How can Christians expect to deal with personal attacks with humility and patience if they can’t even see something they disagree with without getting upset?”

    Gold.

    January 12, 2014
  2. All very good points. I’d also add that it’s useful to reach out to someone you know through social media and check in with them, make sure that you can lend a sympathetic ear and the joy of Christ to someone who’s feeling down.

    January 12, 2014
  3. froginparis #

    I have fibromyalgia with a dash of teen and family activities makes church attendance difficult. Often the only day of rest we get is Sunday morning. Social media has opened a window to the global church for me. Holy Spirit has validated answers whispered to my hear years ago, which the present physical church culture doesn’t preach.

    I agree that honesty and boundaries are important. Often I step away in order to apply lessons learned.

    January 12, 2014
  4. Somewhat social media related. I’ve added a number of feeds including, BBC, Amnesty International and HRW on my Twitter feed. Keeping up with what is happening around the world, helps me move the focus off of me, reminding me that there are people in the world, who require prayer and more than prayer. The beginning of empathy is simply being aware of what your neighbor, even the far away ones, face every day in the way of challenges. Inevitably, I realize that I cannot do much for some of these folks, other than pray.

    January 12, 2014
  5. Rosie Perera #

    Excellent ideas, Jayson. I have thought long and hard about the interactions between digital technology and Christian spirituality, and I have not come up with anything as deep as such a wonderful collection of ideas. As for social media, the best I’ve come up with is to take periodic breaks from it. But I love the idea of praying through your news feed. It reminds me of something Eugene Peterson talks about. He was once annoyed, as a pastor, at how his “to do” list felt like it was always an interruption in his real work of being a pastor. But then he hit on the idea of praying through his “to do” list, and that changed everything for him.

    January 12, 2014
  6. Carla #

    Wow! How timely this story was. I deactivated FB 2 weeks ago – for the mere fact I was taking precious time, reading stories I could care less about. You’ve put an honorable focus on it now. I should be praying for them and honoring their stories rather than finding them annoying. I started a twitter account a few weeks ago and only have people I’m following to
    be inspirational and motivating. Pretty selfish. I should include those I can pray for and those
    needing encouragement. Thank you, Jayson! Your blogs seem to always direct me where I need to be going. God Bless!

    January 12, 2014
  7. Jayson. A really nice piece. It is straightforward and practical – a modern echo of Col 3. 12. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

    January 13, 2014
  8. Great thoughts! It’s nice to see someone talking about social media as a spiritually positive thing.

    January 13, 2014
  9. Jayson – another wonderful piece. #1 sounds so obvious – why haven’t I been doing it?!

    Starting today!

    January 17, 2014

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