It is no longer uncommon to see people posting that they are giving up social media for Lent, for a time of spiritual renewal or simply to get their life back. Impact chats with some Christians about their relationship with social media.
How often are you on social media each day and who are in your media circles?
Isabel: Very often, because social media management is a part of my day job. My circle's mostly made up of my church friends, school mates and colleagues.
Glen: Whenever I have the chance (especially now that I am in National Service, when there are days I will be unable to access due to training). Church, school and army mates are in my circle, sometimes people I may not know personally− they are usually friends of friends on Facebook, not Instagram. My posts are generally viewable by the public, and they are allowed to send me friend requests on Facebook and I usually accept unless they look suspicious.
Melissa: I’d like to convince myself that I’m only on social media for a few hours a day, but realistically, I think I’m online for over six hours a day on average. Social media has always been a huge part of my life, and so, it somehow always makes its way in the background whenever I’m doing things.
What do you do with social media? What social media apps do you usually use?
Glen: Catch up with the life of my friends, post reflections usually accompanied by pictures on Facebook and Instagram.
Melissa: I normally use Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. I generally use these apps to communicate with my friends. However, I also use apps such as Instagram and YouTube as platforms to post my own content such as photos and videos.
Isabel: I use it to catch up on news, de-stress by watching funny dog videos, and also check out interesting new trends. I usually use Facebook and Instagram.
How much of your faith life is on social media?
Melissa: Not overly much. However, I do share posts regarding my faith on Facebook at times, and I’m not ashamed of expressing my belief in God if I’m ever asked.
Isabel: Hmm… in terms of how much I say about my faith, I wouldn't say it's extensive. In terms of what I read about Christianity, I follow websites like Relevant magazine on Facebook and Instagram accounts like Pocketfuel so I get sources of spiritual feeding on social media too.
Glen: A lot. The bulk of my posts are thanksgiving and yes, reflections from sermons, Bible studies, devotions, even worship songs that has God has used to speak to me. Some can be sharing of good articles from websites like Desiring God or The Gospel Coalition that have spoken to me.
They say not all social media are created equal; which is your favourite and why? In what ways has it made your life and faith better?
Isabel: Instagram, because I love seeing beautiful travel snaps and getting insights into people's lives, challenges and triumphs.
Glen: Hmm... this is tough. If I have to really choose, then I guess it'll be Facebook. It allows me to share more stuff pertaining to my faith, such as articles and MVs (music videos), beyond my usual picture-accompanied reflections. When I am faced with tough or challenging times, these posts are things I can look back on and be encouraged to continue on my faith journey with God.
Melissa: My favourite social media website would have to be YouTube, hands down. Videos are probably one of the most influential tools that one could use to raise awareness, spread a message, or simply to entertain. Fame could also be developed through YouTube, and if in the right hands, this fame could be used to reach out to people regarding Christ. Talking to a camera is very personal, and the fact that people are willing to share their opinions and beliefs to the world is an amazing thing. Viewers can sense if someone is being genuine or not, and by watching someone talk about their experience with God could inspire people to want to experience the same thing.
What do you dislike most about social media? In what ways has it made your life worse?
Glen: I guess it's how open it is. I may have just posted an article or an MV that is faith-related. But sometimes, in the spur of a moment, I can use social media as a platform to vent anger, frustration and complaints 20 minutes later. As such, it may seem quite contradictory to what I have posted.
Isabel: I dislike how I inevitably will compare how my life seems so boring compared to the accounts I follow. And it has shortened my attention span because I've become accustomed to consuming snappy, bite-sized content. It may also have made life worse because I think we're becoming caught up in presenting a "nice" and "perfect" image of ourselves on social media.
Melissa: What I dislike the most about social media is how it distracts me from getting things done. Everyone procrastinates to some extent but social media makes it even easier for someone to lose track of time and put important tasks off. It might not be the case for everyone but it certainly is the case for me, and being a student studying under the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in Singapore, there are consequences for delaying work, as I’m constantly piled with it.
Do you find what you do on social media effective and/or beneficial?
Glen: Yes, both beneficial and effective. Many of my friends on social media are not Christian. The posts I come up with almost always bring God into the picture and this, I feel, is an excellent way to get my non-Christian friends to know more about the God, the King of my life! :)
Melissa: I think social media can be a very powerful tool – one which can and should be used to do good. I have had friends in the past who have been cyberbullied, and I myself have had my fair share of cyberbullying in the past. Thus, ever since I realised how influential social media could be, I have definitely used it to spread positivity and to raise awareness whenever given the opportunity to. I’ve made videos on cyberbullying, as well as videos on other issues that I believe need to be made more aware to people across the globe, and posted them on YouTube. Although my following isn’t as large as other YouTubers, I’m happy as long as my videos have been able to help at least one person.
Isabel: I think it's not always beneficial because it does breed anti-social behaviour and limit face-to-face communication but I find it an effective way to stay updated on what's happening in the world.
What do you think makes your use of social media effective or would make it more effective or better?
Isabel: I don't see how there is an effective way to use social media as yet. But what would make it better for me is if I could reach a stage where I can go for days without checking my social media accounts out of sheer habit – a digital detox is definitely in order.
Melissa: Like most people, I also tend to use social media for my own enjoyment, aside from using it to share my own content, and to raise awareness for certain issues. So, I think I could benefit from spending a little less time refreshing my Instagram feed every five minutes, and spend a little more time doing something more productive!
Glen: God has called us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mk 16:15). I believe that includes social media, in the cyber-world as well. But we should be wise and careful with what we post online. It is not necessary for us to always have a say about major issues affecting our world today. As Christians, we need to always be mindful that God called us to be salt and light and to let it shine before men, that they may see our good works and glorify Him. (Mt 5:13-16).
(From left to right)
Glen Chua (left) wears green and serves his nation now. He likes singing, playing the guitar and sports such as swimming. He also enjoys eating all kinds of food, as long as they are not bitter.
Isabel Ong (middle) enjoys burying her nose in a good Kindle book, travels vicariously through Instagram and thinks phubbing isn't as awful as it seems to be.
Melissa Lam (right) is currently a student at one of Singapore’s International Schools. Behind her seemingly shy and introverted demeanour, is an outspoken and humorous individual - as she is the Student Body President of her school. She enjoys film-making, photography, and is also related to Olympic Gold Medalist, Joseph Schooling.