Before you blame social media for rotting the minds of young people everywhere, causing traffic accidents, inciting bizarre and useless flash mobs and pretty much ruining the future of all humanity, consider the fact that social media is a tool.
Its usefulness is completely dependent on the user. Let’s start with the basics.
Social media is vicarious technology. You get to visually experience what’s happening in your friends’ lives with platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Vine and Instagram.
It’s rather like a choose-your-own-ending book: You create your experience based on who your friends are.
It can be positive and personal or just a complete waste of time. Don’t get me started on “twitpics” of people’s lunches.
Social media also has infinite potential to be used as a tool for meaningful communication.
When I was interviewing to work at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, one of the search team members asked me what kind of role I thought social media would play in the life of the church.
I explained that social media is not a silver bullet, but it’s a free and easy way to turn people’s attention toward what you want them to see—volunteer opportunities, a need for donated books, a not-to-be-missed series on happy marriage.
During my eight-year career as a local TV news producer, social media was one of the quickest and most effective ways to drive the audience to our broadcast.
It didn’t subtract any worth from the product, like so many people had feared. Social media was the perfect “teaser” for our content.
That’s exactly how I use it here at First Baptist. I’ll tweet the link to our live webcast along with a sentence like: “You don’t need to get out of bed to be at #FBCRichmond.” A hashtag (#) is basically used to indicate a thread of related tweets.
Our social media content is meant to encourage personal interaction with the church and its congregation.
The ultimate goal for the ministry of communication is to use Facebook, Twitter and any future social media to invite people to be part of our community. Just like using a tool.
And I’m pretty sure Jesus is OK with tools; he was a carpenter after all.
Jess Ward is the director of communication at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. A version of this article first appeared on First Things First, the online magazine of FBC Richmond, and is used with permission. You can follow FBC Richmond on Twitter: @FBCRichmond.