4 Ways Social Media Is Changing Us for Better and Worse

Youth Specialties
July 26th, 2016

This post originally appeared on DARREL’S BLOG and we thought it was so wonderful that we wanted to share it too!

I like science fiction movies. From Star Trek to Minority Report, science fiction movies are a fun way to look into the future and see what might be.  However, after reading an astute observation on Twitter, I think there’s a flaw in science fiction movies that affects the way we see ourselves and technology.

The tweet I’m referring to is from Professor Noah Smith:


That’s the issue technology and more importantly social media, isn’t it? We’re given the promise of more efficiency, better connectedness, or sometimes greater success. However, if we looked across our pews, I think we could agree that while some of these promises have come true, we’ve acquired a new set of issues.

As Professor Smith points out, we now know what we can no longer think that technology will change without it changing us. I think social media falls into that category and it’s changing us in ways that we need to examine.  Now, not all these changes are bad.  I think some of these changes require us to be more transparent and authentic, which is a good thing.  But, regardless of if they are good or bad, we do need to to make note of them.

1. We Are More Distracted

As Boston College researchers have pointed out, our attempt to juggle multiple devices is not working out. In fact, we seem to be getting very little done and we’re losing track of what were doing. So, if a person is sitting in your worship service and they have their phone in one hand checking Facebook, and you’re on stage preaching, do you think they’re really listening? They’re probably not.

2. We’re Becoming Addicted to Our Devices

I really like my new iPhone, but I don’t need it.  If you took it away from me for about 24 hours, I might just a go a little crazy. Well, research is showing that I’m not that only one that feels this way. We’re learning that the more people spend time with their devices, the harder it is to let these devices go.

We’re dealing with an addiction problem. We don’t want to call it that, but it is. We have to find ways to encourage our church members to take a step back and take inventory on the way technology is effecting their lives. Digital sabbatical, anyone?

3. We’re Becoming Depressed

So if we’re to take away people’s cell phones, what would the result be? Obviously people would be dealing with withdrawal, but we’re also learning that lack of access to social networks may lead to depression as well.

It’s not just the lack of access that causes depression, but it’s also the fact that social networks are designed to manipulate our emotions. Social media is designed to be quick for rapid response. What’s in your Facebook newsfeed is designed to sway your emotions one way or the other. Is this really what we want social media to do?

4. We’re Becoming More Connected

I like being connected and making connections. My network of who’s in my profession is probably 4x as large as it was when I first started out in social media. The amount of people who serve as resources and mentors for me via social media is astounding.

However, being connected to a large network also means that issues or events that used to be outside my group of peers are now in front of me. It used to be that if there was an issue that was in another part of the country, I never had to deal with it. For example, ten years ago an event like Ferguson would have been something that I would have read about in the newspaper and seen on TV. Now, since my network has grown, I have a greater chance of knowing people who are effected by it. So when, I see a headline or tweet about Ferguson, it becomes more real to me. Being connected means you can’t ignore certain issues any more.

This is the same for the church as well. Pastor’s used to be able to sweep over certain events without having to give them much attention from the pulpit. Now if you ignore this issues that are being discussed on social media, you’re seen as irrelevant. Why? Because, those issues or events that seem so far away from your church have been brought to your front doorstep thanks to social media.

I think this is a good thing, because it gives the church an opportunity to speak into situations rather than just sit on the sidelines. We can no longer insulate ourselves and communities from the world around us.  Instead we’re being forced to speak up.

Let me be clear, I don’t have a negative outlook on the church’s future and social media. Instead, I see a future with possibilities.  We have the opportunity to model Christ online and how to deal with technology and social media.  This opportunity can’t be wasted by chasing after the latest trend or device.  Instead, it will require being deliberate about our actions, being clear with our message and being truthful about intentions.

darrellg_headshotDARREL GIRARDIER is the Digital Strategy Director for Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, TN. He’s married to the wonderful Amy-Jo Giardier and blogs about digital strategy, resources, and more at DARRELGIRARDIER.COM.

Youth Specialties

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.