I figure since it’s a new year, I want to start it off right—by making a confession and some changes.
Here it goes: I am on social media too much.
One of the ways God has called me to serve the church today is by engaging the culture and helping churches and leaders think critically about the world around us. This is good.
What’s not good is what has happened as a result of my desire to be connected and up-to-date on current news and information. Simply put, I have found that my engagement in social media has caused me to become less effective as a leader and mentor to others.
This is not to say social media is bad. It’s not. But I am going to be making some changes, and my hope is that as you read this, if you sense God is calling you to tailor back on your social media usage, then you would heed that call as well.
Social media has changed, and we must change with it, especially if we are seeing that it has any negative implications in our lives.
We must begin with this simple assertion: social media can take over your life. It can become a distraction that takes the best out of you. In my book Christians in the Age of Outrage, I write about this. Social media is decreasing the leadership capacity of some leaders because it has become all-encompassing. It’s time all leaders look at their own usage and assess whether it’s healthy, life-giving, and Kingdom-building. For me, I’ve decided it’s not.
So I am going to be pulling back on social media so I can spend more time writing a new book on evangelicalism and spending more time with my leaders.
I want to quickly share some specific changes I’m going to make, and why.
For me, Twitter is a great tool to communicate and has been my primary space. But Twitter has interestingly become less of a community and more of a place of shouting. Indeed, sometimes people need to shout and we can listen to them. But with little community, that shouting can just be an echo chamber that leads to little to no resolution—only more disagreement. Most of us just don’t have time to do that all day.
I'm going to pull back a bit on Twitter. I used to reply all the time to comments on Twitter and I just can’t—nor do I want to—sustain that anymore. Sure, I’ll reply to some people, but less frequently. I will post on occasion, but my team will be doing most of the posting from here on out.
Most of my posts will likely be more informational—providing links to people and things I think are worth reading about.
I miss the community I used to have on Facebook. So much, in fact, that after talking with some Facebook staff members and understanding more of the algorithms they use, I am going to be create a public group page where I will post and we can have conversation. The benefit of this is that more people will be notified when I post and can interact with what I am sharing. I’ll be sharing a couple of times a day there. More to come on this in the days ahead, but you can connect to that page here.
I am a visual person and I actually really like Instagram. I just need to use it more. Stay tuned as I plan to take lots more photos and post those, along with links. You can connect here.
Why do I tell you this?
I don’t share this to push you to my social media. I also don’t share this to push you away from my (or others’) social media. What I do want you to do is consider how you are using social media, and why. Ask, How is it impacting my personal relationships? My character? My witness? My patience? My community? My marriage? My church?
Too many pastors and church leaders are spending an inordinate amount of time on social media debating, trolling, and not doing their best. When you have that little red notification in the corner that keeps taking you away from the sermon you're working on or the email you're writing, it causes you to be less than you can be—in relationships, in work, in leadership.
As you consider how you are using social media, let me offer four quick tips I will also be considering myself:
First, turn off notifications or make it so you can't see them.
Go to social media once or twice a day. This is my plan.
Second, regulate the amount of time you're spending on social media.
If you're a public person, pastor, church leader, I understand that social media and communication is part of your ministry. But that may be not the most efficient and effective use of your ministry time. I find that it's increasingly not the most effective and efficient use of my ministry time. I am going to regulate the amount of time I spend online.
Third, don't take part in some of the disembodied arguments on social media.
It's just not the place to get it done. I've learned that. Social media as a place of argument is just not the right way.
Finally, assume those on social media don’t know you.
I’ve learned that sometimes my sense of humor is lost on people. I simply have too many followers to have a personal relationship with the vast majority at this point and I’ve learned to tailor back my posts. It’s unfortunate, but it’s important to assume that people can and will misunderstand what you post. Communicate with love and communicate well, bearing in mind our mission of showing and sharing the love of Jesus.
May all of us use social media for God's glory and for the good of others as we start—and finish—2019.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.