The Trouble With Social Media

I have a strained relationship with social media.  I’m old enough that I grew up without it, and remember being completely infatuated with it as it gained popularity.  On the one hand, it’s incredible to me that I have the ability to stay in contact with friends who live all over the world.  I love how easy it is to feel connected to people who are so far away.  


On the other, it frustrates me to no end that people can (and often do) share every whim that pops into their head.  


As I’ve talked about before, social media can often give you a warped sense of reality.  We occasionally forget that what is seen and heard on platforms like Facebook isn’t real life; it’s carefully planned and edited, with just the right filter.  And when we forget that, the interactions we have over social media can slip us further into fiction.


We get to seem like a better version of ourselves, with simple clicks of a mouse.   


Without putting in any real work.


Which often means that whenever there is something happening in the world that people feel strongly about, my newsfeed gets flooded with poorly written articles and posts that strongly oppose (or support) whatever issue is at hand.  


It’s easy to feel like you’re doing something by sharing a post on Facebook.  It’s easy to click a button and retweet the article you REALLY STRONGLY agree with.  These things are simple, and they make you feel like you’re somehow included in discourse or furthering a cause.


It gives you a sense that you’re helping.  And that can make you feel better about yourself.    


Don’t get me wrong.  There are times when this type of activism is really helpful.  But we can also get so caught up with digitally “sharing” new things that we lose sight of how we can actually do something concrete to help those in need, here in the analog world.


I appreciate that the opinions of others can be free flowing in a space like social media.  I appreciate that I can be exposed to so many ideas that I wouldn’t otherwise come into contact with.  But outrage for the sake of outrage isn’t helpful to anyone, including whatever cause one is trying to advance.  


The problem is that, while social media is frequently flooded with some new hot topic to be disgruntled about, I usually see very little follow through based on that.  When everyone seems thoroughly (and easily) annoyed that things aren’t going in a direction they support, there is often very little actual action as a result.  


And that always makes me wonder how much we actually care about the things we share on social media.  We take the time to post, so why not take the time to actively try to help?


Christian wrote a few weeks ago about the parable of the Good Samaritan and the difference between actually helping, and half-heartedly helping.  He wrote about how important it is to actually assess the need of a situation, rather than throw generic aid at it.  


And he’s right.  


Tweeting isn’t going to actually help me be a better person, even if I temporarily feel like one.  Maybe instead of that I need to start trying to live as a better person.


To not just tweet about what’s right but actually do what’s right. Starting with better tending to my neighbor.    


Instead of posting on Facebook about how annoying a particular something is, maybe it would be more beneficial to try to deepen my union with Christ.  At the end of the day there is only so much that I can control.  And the world around me is probably not going to be impacted by my social media presence.  My community can, however, be impacted by the little things I do on a daily basis as I try and live Orthodoxy.  


Maybe that doesn’t mean I express my outrage at everything that happens.  Instead, maybe this means that the next time I have the ability to help someone, I do.


Maybe it means that the next time someone asks me about my Faith, I’ll discuss it, instead of changing topics.  Or the next time I’m presented with a truly tragic piece of news, instead of simply reposting the article, I’ll donate to a relief cause.  


Because when I’m simply a Facebook activist, the only person I’m really helping is myself.  I may feel less guilty because I’ve shared a particular message, but I have done nothing to address the pain and injustice that still exists in the world.


I am never going to be able to stop all the suffering I see.  But I can offer help to those in my life that need it.  And while that’s much less interesting to discuss on social media, it is much more helpful to my community.  

And to me.  



Charissa is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM.  Charissa grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah where she studied political science at the University of Utah.  She enjoys sunshine, the mountains and snowcones.  Charissa currently lives in New York City.