A few days ago I read a story about a man with 100,000 Twitter followers who took his own life. I know nothing about his history or the reasons behind the suicide. But I am struck by sadness that none of the 100,000 “friends” was close enough to prevent this tragedy.
I often hear that social media is intended to build a sense of community. I suppose it does to a limited extent. I read certain blogs and have some knowledge of the writers. We can comment on each other’s blogs. In a very limited fashion, we could call that community.
Yet isn’t a real community supposed to prevent tragedies like suicide? Shouldn’t a following of 100,000 people have at least a few that would be close enough to know when something is terribly wrong?
Because of my interest in blogging and the church, I find articles which present social media as a platform for church growth. But as this tragedy illustrates, social media connection may not equate to real growth.
The church is a community and fellowship of the redeemed. We are a bunch of imperfect people who are brought into relationship with each other because of our individual relationships with Jesus Christ. We bring dysfunction and ignorance and God uses the community to work these problems out of us.
Social media can be a tool to build community, but let’s not think that a large on-line following is a real community. We still need to worship together, break bread together, study together, perhaps even argue with each other if we want to be a real community. Real community can be a messy business because there are times when each of us is a mess.
The church should be a place where flawed people feel accepted and air their struggles. Each member should feel valued and have a sense that the community suffers when one member is suffering. We should know each other well enough to know when something is wrong.
This type of community may not prevent tragedies like the suicide mentioned above, but it should minimize their occurrence. Real community provides real help to those who seek it.
Let’s focus on being a real community and not be satisfied with a sham based on follower counts.