Social media has taken over the world. Whether you’re a pastor, parent, teacher, youth group volunteer, or sixty-year member of your congregation, chances are you’ve been impacted by social media. Billions of people have signed up for Facebook and millions for Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. What once was a novelty has now become a social necessity, and we’re only just coming to grips with what that means for us as individuals and as a collective society. Over the past few days, we (Danny Quanstrom and Michael Palmer) have been walking through our experience fasting from social media, pondering the pastoral and scientific impacts, and thinking about what it looks like to move forward in our socially connected world.
Social Media and Us: We share our personal stories of stepping away from social media. From experiences of withdrawal, anxiety, and fear of missing out to newly renewed peace and clarity of mind, our journey away from the crowd pushed each of us into places we didn’t expect to go.
Social Media and the Pastor: We take a moment to explore what pastoral ministry looks like in the age of social media. From the ever-present temptation to build a brand or to find validation through likes and comments, the pastor is constantly torn between pastoring their church and entering into the social-media fray. Using Henri Nouwen’s book In the Name of Jesus as a guide, we attempt to wrestle with the question “What does it look like to pastor well in this social-media-drenched world?”
Social Media and the Brain: It is important to understand the impact of social media not just on our schedules but also on the mind. From dopamine to feelings of anxiety and insecurity, social media is actively feeding the darker parts of ourselves. As researches discover more connections between social media and our biological selves, what are we to do? Should we cut ourselves off? Should we throw our hands up in despair, knowing we cannot stem the tide of technology? Or is there another way?
Social Media and an Unknown Frontier: This larger conversation about how we use social media in healthy ways can leave us feeling as though we’re too small to solve the problem. How can we change the course of human creativity? How can we stop the relentless advance of technology? But what if we aren’t supposed to stop it? What if we’re not called to isolate ourselves completely? What if we’re called to something different, something more ancient? What if we’re called to a practice that’s been time-tested and formative in the lives of countless generations? And what if, as a result, we find our way into a healthier future?
We’re only just beginning to scratch the surface regarding the impact of social media in our lives. We recognize that this blog series is far from complete, its scope far too narrow. However, while we do not expect these words to be the final ones, our hope and prayer are that they become a launching point—to spark conversations in your life, around dinner tables, in youth group outings, in small groups, and at your various social events. We hope this conversation will generate ideas that spawn new ideas, research that breeds curiosity, and talking points that prompt the input of those who have yet to speak. May we find our way, together, into a better future.
Michael R. Palmer is a husband, father, ordained elder, and writer who serves as pastor, along with his wife, Elizabeth, of Living Vine Church of the Nazarene in Napa, California. He is an avid Cardinals fan, lover of blues and jazz, conversation instigator, and deeply passionate about issues of justice and spiritual formation. You can follow him on Twitter at @michaelrpalmer and Facebook at @mryanpalmer85.
Danny Quanstrom, husband of Kayla, is the lead pastor of Hastings Church of the Nazarene in Hastings, Michigan, and president and co-founder of A Plain Account, a free, online, Wesleyan Lectionary commentary resource (www.aplainaccount.org). Danny is an unashamed gamer, lover of eclectic music, and extremely passionate about the local church. You can follow him on Twitter at @