Twitter is a cesspool of hatred. No one’s on Facebook, but it’s all fake news and scams anyway. Instagram is creating a vanity crisis in young girls who can’t get self-validation anywhere else. There’s nothing social about social media.
These are extremes of commonly-held feelings about social media — and they’re all ones I’ve heard from friends and acquaintances. I’m here to say that they’re wrong.
I have to admit, I might be a little biased. I’m a digital content specialist, which means my job is to manage social media profiles and keep websites updated. And when people hear that’s what I do, they tend to have a few similar reactions. Either they think my job is really cool — which it is — or they are quite skeptical.
“Wait — that’s a job?,” they ask. “You went to school for Facebook?” Or they question my sanity: “Why would you want to spend all day on social media, reading the comments?”
Some days, it feels like they’re right. When commenters are particularly vile, or there’s no good news, or I can’t turn off the switch between my personal and professional social media when I get home from work, I find it exhausting. Sometimes, quite frankly, I need a break.
But I entered this line of work — and I got my master’s degree in it — because I believe fundamentally that there is good in social media. And I believe that I’m called to be part of that good.
Here’s the thing: social media certainly has its flaws, but so does every aspect of human connection. It’s also becoming pretty clear that social media — and digital technology in general — isn’t going away. So if we aren’t engaging with people, talking about our faith, and showing up as people of prayer, who will?
I wrote my master’s thesis on Catholic prayer discourse on social media. I surveyed and interviewed Catholic young adults about how they pray — and talk about prayer — online. One young woman put it best when she said, “We are called to be where people are. And people are on social media.”
Evangelization is messy. It’s not meant to be simple, and it doesn’t happen where we’re comfortable. Pope Francis called us to go to the margins — and for me, Facebook is one of those margins.
Social media is not the place for long, in-depth conversations about faith and God and the meaning of life. I don’t waste my time getting into theological discussions in comments, and I try my best not to preach or create a version of myself that’s holier than the truth.
However, social media is an excellent place for introductions — for exposure, for normalizing prayer. That’s what I heard time and time again during my thesis research, and I think there’s real truth to it. For many young adults, their only exposure to faith may have come from an eccentric grandparent, a lukewarm church, or that preachy and judgmental friend of a friend.
So when I introduce myself online as a person of faith — but also as a genuine human with my own interests like crafting and running — I start to introduce the people around me to the concept of true faith. I show them that being Catholic is about being who you are, embracing and loving yourself — and for some, those small demonstrations are revolutionary.
I may never see the seeds of what I’ve planted on social media grow and blossom, but I trust that someone will see and find consolation in my experience.
I have to admit, my motivations for using social media in faith aren’t selfless. In fact, God speaks to me through social media communities often. Some of this is intentional — like the Facebook groups I’m part of for Catholic women, from FemCatholic to Blessed is She. These groups allow me to connect with women near and far and share deep, authentic insights. They let me engage and have honest conversations that break the barriers of space, distance, and vulnerability.
Other times, I’m surprised by joy and grace on social media — experiencing everyday beauty and finding grace in the community I’ve curated for myself. When I’m motivated, self-reflective, and determined to choose joy, I’m better for it — and so are my friends and followers.
So, is social media a trash heap? Sure, sometimes. But I’m not leaving it any time soon.