the shape of leadership

Five Questions About Social Media for Gen Z

How to use digital platforms in a healthy manner

Kent Ingle on August 7, 2023

In recent years, social media has changed how we think about community, work, and even church.

The oldest members of Generation Z were born about the time the first social media platforms emerged. It’s not surprising, then, that social media is an integral part of daily life for this generation.

According to a 2022 survey from Morning Consult, 54% of U.S. respondents aged 13–25 reported spending four or more hours daily on social media, compared to 28% of all U.S. adults who do the same. The most popular platforms among Gen Zers were YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

Those who disciple teens and young adults should not neglect this topic. Following are five questions to ask young people as they navigate social media.

1. Does your social media brand affect your identity in Christ? Many young people tie their identity to their online presence. They use social media as a tool for promoting a personal brand, and they get to decide what versions of themselves they want the world to see.

While social media can be useful, too many young people (and older people, for that matter) measure their self-worth in terms of likes, shares and comments. When social media feedback becomes louder than the Holy Spirit’s voice, it is difficult to keep one’s identity rooted in Christ.

Challenge young people to reflect on Galatians 1:10 before making their next post: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

A Christian’s identity in Christ should shape his or her social media activity, rather than the other way around.

2. When was the last time you took a break from social media? Smartphones are smart for a reason. Technology companies learn our consumer patterns. Then they push content that appeals to our interests so we will keep coming back. This is one reason taking a break is difficult.

Social media can also create a fear of missing out because it’s always changing. However, a 2022 study suggested even a one-week respite from social media can improve mental health.

Disconnecting from digital spaces for a time to focus on God and others is a good practice. Help young people practice stepping away from social media to be fully present in what they are doing.

When social media feedback becomes louder than the Holy Spirit’s voice, it is difficult to keep
one’s identity rooted
in Christ.

Utilizing features such as the “do not disturb” function can help minimize distractions. This makes it easier to engage in devotions or conversations.

Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Encourage young people to eliminate the noises around them and practice being still in God’s presence.

3. Are you using social media for quality or quantity? Social media can fill in-between moments — such as sitting in a doctor’s waiting room or standing in line at a coffee shop. During such moments, people often pull out their phones to catch up on the news or watch an entertaining reel on Instagram. But when mindless usage regularly fills hours at a time, it is a problem.

Ask young people the “why” behind social media. Why do they engage in social media platforms? Is it for quality (relationships, education, etc.)? Or is it for quantity (consuming time)? Encourage them to use social media to add value to their lives rather than just filling large chunks of time.

Social media use isn’t all bad. In fact, it can be a tool for ministry. First Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Everything we do, even interacting with people online, can glorify God and point others to Him.

4. Is social media harming your mental health? Members of Gen Z are about twice as likely as Americans over 25 to struggle with depression and feelings of hopelessness, according to a recent study by the Walton Family Foundation. This is an issue church leaders must address, especially when it comes to social media.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of voices tell young people who they should be. This generation is overstimulated by the amount of input at their fingertips. Social media use can fuel insecurities, contributing to anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.

Encourage young people to filter out content that doesn’t add value to their lives. Discuss how the people they follow may positively or negatively impact their view of themselves. Self-reflection is vital for determining what enriches or diminishes one’s life.

Proverbs 16:24 says, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Words — even on social media — have the power to heal or destroy.

5. Does social media impact what God designed you to do? Young adults often struggle with comparing themselves to those around them. When they see influencers using their gifts in a certain way, they often want to mimic what that person is doing instead of forging their own path.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God uniquely designed each individual for His Kingdom purposes.

Counsel young people to stay on the path God has designed for their lives. When they focus on what God is calling them to do instead of imitating what others are doing, they will find greater fulfillment.

While there are negative aspects of social media, it can be a beneficial tool for advancing the gospel and building community. As we interact with young people, we must help them see the value of using social media in healthy ways as they pursue God’s plan for their lives.

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