Some sage advice regarding television in the 1980s can also apply to social media today.

From Bonnie Kristian in Christianity Today: 

Facebook—and other social media sites—are not simply the next evolution of the cassette ministry or a convenient online centralization of logistics and worship. Their formative power isn’t neutral.

The medium will meaningfully reframe or outright change the message—chiefly, I suspect, by trivializing it and pulling our attention away.

Culture critic Neil Postman wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death in 1985, when TV was the medium under scrutiny. Postman wasn’t a Christian, nor could he know about social media. Still, his chapter on televised church offers three prescient warnings Christians need as we consider a new medium for worship.

The first is the simplest: It is “gross technological naivete,” Postman wrote, to imagine the message of the church will be unchanged by television, because “not all forms of discourse can be converted from one medium to another.” We realize this in other contexts, recognizing, for example, that singing in your car alone is not the same as singing with a congregation.

This is also true of social media. The exact same worship service, if presented as a Facebook Live video, is substantively different than it would be if experienced in person. The words may be identical, but the message is transformed by its context. That brings me to the second warning:

Putting church services on social media is inherently disorienting, and we may forget that true worship of the triune God, maker of the universe, shouldn’t have to compete for our attention with the inane memes, political screeds, and endless scroll of frivolity we encounter at the same time and place on Facebook. We’d never decorate our sanctuaries with Amazon ads and crude cartoons, but that’s what worship services are surrounded with on Facebook.

If we proclaim “Jesus is Lord” on Facebook, rather than in person, the words won’t change, but the meaning will. The medium puts that declaration of faith on a level with “Vote for this candidate” and “Buy this shirt” and “Get likes for sharing this meme.”

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