It is, in one sense, an effort to be a good steward of these opportunities. But it was in another way quite selfish and insidious. I was guilty of trying to be global and influential, not personal and local—a dangerous thing for a pastor.
So I accepted my friends' advice and took a six-month break from blogging and social media. And it was good. It was healthy to step back and ask, Why am I using social media? What are my goals with it? How is it changing me?
When I re-engaged, I was able to accept its healthy aspects, the ways it can support personal and local ministry and help me think out loud and process ideas, while fleeing the temptations. Here's a bit of what I've learned.
Among social media's temptations:
1. Social media tempts me to get into heated debates with people I don't know.
Social media creates the illusion of intimacy. When you see leaders' thoughts pop up on Twitter every few hours, they feel like a part of your life. On Facebook you can read about their families, their history, even their favorite movies and music. But that doesn't mean you know them—or that you've earned the right to criticize them.
It's easy to see a megachurch pastor's Tweet and find something to disagree with. So with no context and with no prior relationship, I'd fire something back. Of course, I never got a response from them. Why should I have? It was an ideological drive-by. I was sticking my nose where it didn't belong.
In John 21, Jesus is talking to Peter about his future, and Peter says, "Lord, what about him?" referring to John. Jesus says, "What is that to you? You must follow me." I was too concerned about arguing theology with people I'd never met. Jesus was saying to me, "What is that to you? You must follow me." (Twitter pun intended.)
2. Social media removes nuance. It reduces people to words.
I used to read what certain people were tweeting and form unfavorable opinions about them. Then I'd meet them in person, and realize, I really like this guy! Their social media presence wasn't an accurate representation of who they really were.
This hit home when I found myself on the other end of these assumptions. When I was rethinking my understanding of congregational worship, I would tweet something about lights and smoke and rock 'n' roll. And some of my worship leader friends thought, Glenn hates what we do. But then we'd talk about it in person, and they'd say, "Oh, I get it, and frankly, I agree with you. I just thought you were attacking me." There was no context for my tweets, no nuance. It's too easy for tweets to be zingers.
3. Social media feeds narcissism.
My obsessive tendencies are difficult to control, especially when I have my smart phone. When I get home, I have to either turn my phone off, or consciously refuse to refresh my Twitter timeline—something I'm compelled to do several times an hour.
There were times when I would stand in the kitchen doing dishes, and my wife would try talking to me. But I'd be formulating a response to a tweet I'd just read. I wouldn't even hear her. Social media encourages you to be in two places at once. That's fine when I'm watching a ballgame, but my wife deserves my undivided attention.