Neglecting our own flesh and blood

Part II of a series: The virtual and social media worlds and our church’s ministry

By Rev. Rick King

I’ve been on the fence about staying on Facebook for over a year now, ever since my wife decided to get off of all social media, reporting that her life has improved greatly.

But Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter this week for $40 million has renewed my struggle.

It’s very easy for me to justify staying on Twitter because I see it as a tool for the part of my calling that engages me politically, amplifying others’ voices who reflect my values of equity, equal opportunity, integrity in public service, and anti-racist work.

Currently, I’m in a wait-and-see mood, depending on what Mr. Musk’s decisions are regarding free speech and content moderation. And I’m not alone.

My renewed struggle has given me a chance to reflect on something Carey Nieuwhof, the Canadian pastor/blogger/podcaster, raised recently: How much time we end up spending with people we don’t actually know when we spend a lot of time online—often to the neglect of the people we DO know.

One of the reasons I got into pastoral ministry over thirty years ago was that I love people: I love getting to know them, spending time with them, eating meals or having coffee and having great conversations with them about things that matter, and being a bridge so that others can sense where God is showing up in everyday life. And when you’re a pastor, people immediately invite you into the most significant, personal, intimate moments in their lives: birth, marriage and family, illness, death and dying and grief, and many others.

We’re part of a church community, you and I, not because society expects it anymore, but because we need and choose to live our lives in the context of a congregation that gathers regularly to pray, eat, serve, learn, and share life—or a portion of it—together. Over years, we come to know one another, through milestones, crises, celebrations, decision-making, and in all kinds of social upheaval and political seasons.

And through it all, we come to know one another on a level far surpassing that which we experience with our often-wide circle of friends on social media. The thing about social media is that it can often give us the illusion of constant connection with a large group of people, but the depth and extent of those relationships can’t hold a candle to that which we come to count on in the flesh-and-blood relationships of our lives.

So, if you’re like me and can’t give up Facebook or Twitter or Instagram yet, but don’t want to fall prey to their downsides—OR if you don’t spend much time on social media but wonder if you’re missing out—consider this an invitation to keep this aspect of life in proper perspective: rooted in flesh and blood, and never supplanting them.

That way, we’ll all be able to use, or choose, or ditch social media when it inevitably fails to fulfill its promises.