April 1, 2021

​“Gramming” God

Can God be found on social media?

Wilona Karimabadi

Don’t tell your God how big your storm is; tell your storm how big your God is.”

“Remember who you are. Don’t compromise for anyone, for any reason. You are a child of the Almighty God. Live that truth.”

#Bible Verse 1

#Bible Verse 2

#verseoftheday

What do these types of posts and hashtags accomplish? Whom are they for? Is this the most authentic way to live out faith on Instagram, as a Facebook post, a tweet, or on TikTok?

Branding

Your social media platforms project your brand, regardless of whether you believe you have one. Like it or not, the content you post on your various accounts represents you—accurately or not. Photos are usually carefully curated to show subjects in their best possible light and angles. Captions for photos, tweets, and copy, how ideas/thoughts/jokes are captured in a 60-second video, are rarely conceived on the fly. It’s mostly carefully thought out and easily deleted if the post lands wrong.

Likes, comments, shares, retweets, and direct messages affirm us or ruin our days. We build followings that can lead to monetization, or our pages stay safely in the realm of content for family and close friends. The key to all of it lies in what you put out.

If  you’re a follower of Christ, your social media content can certainly reflect that, or not. Keep in mind, on the Web everything has a long shelf life. If your life’s brand is truly focused on your walk with Christ, your content will often be perceived that way. Be  certain that your social media posts tell that story. Life and “art” truly should imitate each other. If there is a cognitive dissonance between the two (because many  people cannot keep the various “sides” of a person compartmentalized), you aren’t doing God any favors in your imagined representation of Him.

ARE YOUR “GOD POSTS” DRIVING PEOPLE TO HIM OR AWAY?

While I’m not aware of any substantial studies on this topic, I conducted some informal research. Where did I go? Social media. Debbie* is a former Seventh-day Adventist. Her posts, outlining  her deep disappointment in the judgment and behavior of many of the Christians she’s known and grown up with, would likely resonate with a lot of people. What does she get out of Christian-themed memes? “Nothing,” she says. “I scroll on by and often feel the person posting is lacking something in their life.” An interesting perspective considering that people who post religious content are often doing so because that’s exactly what is filling their lives; certainly not something they are desperately seeking. People share this information because it fills them and brings them meaning they want to share.

“I scroll on by and often feel the person posting is lacking something in their life.”

Jim, a friend from graduate school, doesn’t identify as a religious person. “I am not a big fan of serious memes in general,” he says. “But as a nonreligious person, if most of what I’m seeing from someone are religious memes, that sort of doubles up on things that are outside of my chosen experience. So I “unfollow.” To each their own, but I’d rather be seeing posts that aren’t memes and/or provide insight that I can appreciate.”

Most of us raised within Christianity are familiar with the concept of “planting seeds.” It’s when you leave someone a morsel of your faith in hopes that it will germinate and become a mighty oak tree of belief in Jesus. Blessedly, this sometimes happens. But how effective is that notion on social media? Clearly Debbie and Jim, who are not believers, say “seed posts” aren’t appreciated. It could be argued that they would naturally feel that way because they aren’t interested in the content. It makes sense they would scroll on by or unfollow altogether. Did the Holy Spirit not have enough time to reach them before they scrolled away?

Believing Christians don’t always get a lot out of spiritual posts either. “I think they tell me more about the person posting than making me feel like I learned something. Every once in a while I read something meaningful to me, but not that often,” says Colin. Phil concurs. “I feel nothing,” he says. “Sometimes when I feel guilty I read them and try to make sense of them. Maybe there’s a message for that moment. But I forget about it after a few seconds.”

Intention Matters

Social media is deeply influential. Just look at what has happened during election seasons worldwide. Social media delivers news and opinion, and can certainly be powerful enough to affect values and thinking. In that light, if social media posts carry that kind of power, surely that power can be harnessed for good. Enter in the rays of sunlight and positivity in the form of a God-honoring post. Guess what? There are a lot of people who need and appreciate that type of content.

“It’s a good way to remind myself of God’s love when it’s been too busy,” says Vinciya. “I also use those memes to lift up friends in need.” Harold finds them enjoyable and inspiring, and he engages further by reposting or commenting to the original post author. Posts that provoke deeper thought on various topics are often appreciated for personal growth.

“For Bible verses, I generally scroll on by. Usually, the verses chosen are ones that I know so well they start to feel overused,” Sari says. “I’m usually engaged by progressive Christianity posts that help me think deeper on a topic, or to think about a topic in a new way.”

Intention is often a benchmark of whether a “God post” is well received or not. What is the person posting really like? If you know them, do these posts match up with their behavior? Do you know if there are things going on in their lives where making a spiritual post might be more about encouraging themselves than in spreading a good word? All such things matter to increasingly sophisticated social media consumers.

“I try to look at the intention behind a post and find the good,” says Jamie. “But sometimes I feel these posts are not inclusive of other worldviews and can feel like they are excluding people of other backgrounds and cultures.”

Does posting about God on social media need to be a marker for the Christian creator? Maybe. Perhaps the greater question to answer is whether the time taken in posting spiritual content is truly worth the time it takes to create the post. Could it be that Christ is better exemplified in real human connection rather than words in a square?

It’s something to think about before you hit that share button.


*All names used in this article are pseudonyms.


Wilona Karimabadi is an assistant editor for Adventist Review Ministries.

Wilona Karimabadi
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