A few years ago, I acquired my very first social media account on Instagram. It was a big deal for me, because I’d never had anything like it. I’d grown up without social media. I mostly emailed and texted people back then, until I finally got an Instagram. In fact, at the same time, my little brother got one, and so did my mother. My dad had had a Facebook for a while at that point, but he didn’t do too much with it.
My posts started out innocently enough. Just normal, run of the mill everyday life. My handle (do people still use that term?) was @jaynelmusic. Soon, however, my posts starting taking on a much more overtly Christian flavor, as I shared memes and Bible quotes from a Calvinistic perspective (I had just become a Calvinist at that point). My handle changed to @reformed_jay. I often engaged in debates in the comments section, going back and forth with both my theological adversaries (those blasted Arminians) and even atheists. Direct messages also became a daily habit, where I would talk privately with people about different subjects.
I had gone full-blown cage-stage (if you don’t know what that is, see here), and my Instagram gained in popularity with some of the Reformed folks there. I started a blog soon after (my second attempt at such a thing, not this current blog), and changed my handle once again to @theologicallyminded (the name of my blog, which can still be found here). I eventually tired of Blogger and moved over to WordPress, beginning this blog in March of 2016. Around that same time, I deleted my Instagram account. Why?
On many occasions during my time as a “Reformed memes and quotes” page, my ego got in the way of productive conversation. I was not humble. I was not kind. The fruit of the Spirit did not seem to evidence themselves in my posts and interactions. I was argumentative and brash, often not stopping to think before replying, eager to prove myself right to my adversaries. I didn’t see my “adversaries” as real people; they were just online screen names, bots really, with no actual identities or feelings to hurt. This mindset plagued my days on Instagram for a long while.
Further, I had amassed over a thousand followers, yet my pictures only ever received (on average) 70 likes. People suddenly weren’t interested anymore, or so it seemed to me. How many likes I got became a measure of self-worth, in a sense. There is always a danger there, of letting trivial things like that get in the way of living a fulfilled and content life.
I had also begun to adopt some interesting views on origins. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you probably have read that I don’t consider myself a young earth creationist. My somewhat heterodox views on this subject caused division between myself and some of the people that I counted as friends and co-laborers in the work of the gospel. There were many heated conversations that took place, which often left me greatly discouraged and worked up at the same time. I made up my mind to leave around that time.
I must say, though, that not everything about my time on Instagram was bad. I met one of my best friends during that time period. Originally, he messaged me to debate about Calvinism and Traditionalism, which is basically the Southern Baptist Convention’s version of Arminian free-will theology (Leighton Flowers is the big guy promoting it). He was anonymous then, and we went back and forth for months. Then suddenly, he disappeared. I posted a picture asking if anyone knew where he’d gone, but no one knew. A few weeks (or maybe months, I can’t remember) later, he got in touch with me again, this time on his personal account. He told me how he had deleted his initial account because of some less-than-well-thought-out positions that he held to and tried to argue for. I was so glad to hear from him again, and we continued to dialogue, not just about Calvinism, but about all sorts of things that we had in common and that we mutually struggled with. We still talk to each other regularly and try to bear one another’s burdens. (I eventually turned him into a Calvinist, by the way.)
In June of 2016, after three months’ absence, I returned to Instagram. I post much less frequently now, and usually, it’s more personal stuff than before. I still write about theology and seek to dialogue about it with folks, but I am happy to say that I’ve mellowed out a bit.
I’ve also broadened my social media horizons. I’ve got a Twitter and a Facebook too. I do much more interacting theologically on Facebook than anywhere else, but I must always keep in mind that those with whom I am dialoguing are actual people with emotions and feelings (this, for some reason, is easier on Facebook because people’s profiles are rarely, if ever, anonymous). I have a tough time remembering that not everyone is a cold, logical, emotion-suppressing creature like myself (what else can you expect from an INTJ?). I also try to have conversations in real life, face to face with folks I disagree with on important issues. I want to be challenged to think; I want to challenge them to think. Iron sharpens iron, after all.
So that’s the story of how I failed at social media. I went in hard-headed and arrogant, and ended up hurting other people (and myself) along the way. Let this be a lesson: be careful. Always remember to be open to correction, to seek the good of the person you’re talking to, and never to put your sense of self-worth into something so trivial as “likes” and “shares.” I hope this is helpful to you all.