I don’t know about you, but I get way too overwhelmed with Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Clubhouse, Linked In, and all of the different social media platforms out there. Part of me thinks they are wonderful because we have this incredible opportunity to share our ideas, our art, and to reach out to clients and friends while building community.
The other part is that it can sometimes feel gross, overwhelming, and even demeaning when the comments start rolling in. So as Kingdom artists, how do we find the balance between the real community we create online versus those random unhinged comments that pop up on your social media feeds?
What is Real Community?
There are several characteristics of authentic community. Number one, is real intimacy. Being vulnerable, transparent, and knowing each other’s heart is a huge part of the ground that real relationship is built upon. While this is best built face to face, this isn’t always possible or feasible. But given the technology we have available, real relational intimacy with people online is possible.
Secondly, real community is marked by an opportunity and openness to give and receive. We have all been in a one-sided relationship before where either it was us receiving something that somebody was trying to give that we didn’t necessarily want to hear, or vice versa. A healthy relationship needs a balance of both giving and receiving, sharing and taking equally so that one person isn’t being dominated by the other.
Thirdly, in a real community, people are invested in each other for the long term. These are people that you want to walk with and have chosen to share your time, energy, attention, and resources. These are the people you have chosen to focus on in your life because they are important to you, and hopefully, they feel the same way about you.
The real question is, how does real community differ from the comment driven “relationships” we all have on social media?
Who Are These People?
First of all, you really don’t know WHO most of those people are. We all have Facebook “friends” we barely know or have never even met in real life. When you think about it, you don’t know that much about them at all. You only see the happy high-points of their life and the stuff they choose to share in their posts.
These are not people you’re invested in. So many of your online interactions are based on algorithms and not on authentic connection. These are people that are like leaves; they blow in and out of your life, they are here for a moment, here for only a short season. For the most part, these are not the folks you have chosen to invest your time and energy into.
When you look at the Biblical concept of community, we are called into relationship with others so that we can complete one another. I am here to sharpen you, and you are here to do the same for me. Just like in a healthy body, a healthy community supports the members, supplying them with the support, comfort, and care they need. Again, this is a very different concept than the reality we face in our social media post-driven world.
A Healthy Community Supports Your Godly Identity
Diving in a little deeper, take a moment to answer these questions honestly. How do you define yourself, and who are you allowing to shape your identity? Of course, you can be defined by anything you want to be defined by, but from a Kingdom perspective, God’s best for us is that our identity comes from who Jesus says we are. Our identity is meant to come from the Word of God.
That’s the gold standard God intended for each of us. A healthy identity that comes from the Lord is designed to be reinforced and encouraged through a healthy community. The relationships you build inside a safe, supporting, and caring community are there to build you up in the Lord and equip you to be all that God has created you to be.
But those relationships, just like everything good in the Kingdom, have to be cultivated. It’s yet another case of reaping back what you’ve sowed. As you walk together with others in a life-giving community, your healthy, godly identity matures when you’re helping others do the same.
So, take a moment and ask yourself these questions?
As you continue to travel through this social media-driven landscape, it’s vital that you learn to temper your reactions to posts and comments based on the level of authentic connection you have with the commentator. When the relationship isn’t genuine, then take the feedback, whether good or bad, with a grain of salt.
I hope this has been an encouragement to you. I, for one, am glad that you are a part of my community.
Matt Tommey is an artist, author and mentor who is passionate about empowering artists to thrive spiritually, artistically and in business.