Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Right Perspective on Social Media

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Dannah Gresh: Kelly Needham knows that when she’s using social media, there are a lot of pitfalls to avoid!

Kelly Needham: If I think through the lens of discipleship, that really has helped me filter, “Why am I doing this?” I sometimes think, What is the woman on the other side of this phone feeling right now on social media? What can I say that would speak life, encouragement or just point her back to Christ?

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe And the Truth That Sets Them Free, for April 2, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Dannah, I think it’s safe to assume that most of the people who are listening to this program use social media. I know you’ve done a lot of study on social media; it’s an area of great interest to you. You’ve studied about how there have been some negative effects of social media. That’s something that really concerns you.

Dannah: It does, especially for the younger generations—the teens and tweens and college students. I think these days when a lot of us are home more than usual trying to flatten the curve, it’s a safe bet that we’re spending even more time on social media. But in general, social media use among young people really concerns me!

Probably the scariest thing is that there are some social media platforms that are just more prone to be used by predators. One of them is Snapchat. Recently I discovered that 23.5 million users of that app are under the age of eleven. 

Nancy: Wow!

Dannah: That terrifies me, because their brains are not ready to handle the decisions that need to be made if someone is predatory on an app like that. It’s like putting our children in the darkest alleyways of New York City and expecting that they could navigate through anyone that approaches them in a predatory way there. 

That’s what we’re doing when we allow children that age to be on apps that they’re not ready to handle.

Nancy: So there are some real serious cautions that need to be given about use of social media, not just for children but for adults as well. Yet the other side of that coin, there are some wise ways to use these platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest. 

But it takes discernment, it takes intentionality, and it takes establishing guardrails and boundaries. That’s what we’re going to be talking about today and tomorrow.

Dannah: Yes, because recently, Nancy, we joined together here in the studio with a number of young women—we call it the next generation of women. They are younger leaders who are very, very comfortable with social media. We had a panel discussion that really was fascinating and made us think about some different angles when it comes to using social media.

Nancy: So over the next couple of days, we’re going to hear that discussion. You and I participated in it. We’ll also be hearing from Laura Wifler, who is one of the founders of Risen Motherhood. She’s an author and a blogger, and I know many of our younger listeners enjoy listening to her podcast.

And we’ll be hearing from Erin Davis, who serves on the staff of Revive Our Hearts. She’s a longtime friend of both of ours; she’s also an author. And then were a couple others who joined us.

Dannah: Yes, Bethany Beal from GirlDefined joined us, and they really have a very strong social media following with a lot of younger followers. And we’re joined by Kelly Needham, who is also an author, a blogger and a teacher.

Nancy: So, yes, today and tomorrow we’re going to listen to that conversation. But first we want to hear today a bit of an opener that you gave to prime the pump, to set the table for this discussion that followed on using social media wisely. So let’s listen. Here’s Dannah.

Dannah: This is the Scripture we’re looking to base our social media new philosophy on: Philippians 4:4–9. We know this passage. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable . . .” (v. 8). But do we understand the bookends on both sides of it?

Because at the beginning: 

Rejoice in the Lord always . . . Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (vv. 4–7).

We need something to guard our hearts and minds right now from this anxiety and this depression. And then it says, 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me . . . (vv. 8–9).

This is a very significant thing for me! Paul says, “See how I live?!” He’s so confident. I have to look at this and say, the way people see me using social media, the way my children see me using social media, the way my readers see me using social media, can I look at that and say, “Watch me! Do it this way!” 

. . . practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (v. 9).

So the pair of bookends to this “whatsoever is lovely” stuff is peace. As one of the users in charge of the True Girl message, how am I paying attention to my own spiritual and emotional health, so I can remain a good servant of God’s kingdom?

Because if I’m saying, “Look at me! Walk like me! Act like me!”—that matters! And I have to tell you that a lot of the times, I do find myself looking at my feed and thinking, Did I get approval today? Did I get encouragement today? Did I get a lot of followers today? Did I have impact today? Right? Anyone want to confess that? That’s not good for me! That doesn’t keep me in the heart of being a servant of God’s kingdom.

So we’re trying to figure out the answer to that, as a user. And then, as an influencer. This is looking at how I’m influencing those who are watching my social media feed. Knowing the risks, emotionally and spiritually, how do we set an example for others to consider Question # 1 in their own life? What are the limits?

I’ll end with this, so we can start our conversation. We’re really consumed with the numbers. We are really obsessed with the number of followers we have. Jesus did it with twelve! Am I concerned about the breadth—where I might get them to read my full blog, I might get them to listen to the full message. Or is my time concerned with the smaller number of people, with whom I can take deep?

That’s a big factor as we face this. I don’t know that that solves the problem, as we have a lot of practical questions we have to navigate, “Should my name, should my face be on social media; should it not?” That’s a question we still need to take time to answer. I hope you’ll consider it, too.

Nancy: Okay, I’m just going to open it up. There are so many different angles of this: 

  • What’s healthy for our own souls? 
  • What’s our responsibility to those who are following, whether they’re younger or older?

I just want to hear from each of you, just some initial reaction, response, questions you’re asking. We’re not trying to answer every question here.

We’re trying to put the questions on the table. In your own journey, in your own ministry—you represent different ministries—what’s on your heart? And you don’t have to unpack it all, but just get us started in some conversation here. Let me start with Laura.

Laura Wifler: Yes, I’m grateful we’re having this conversation. It’s one that Emily [co-founder of Risen Motherhood] and myself have all of the time. We’re really trying to also figure out a policy. I think that was a good word to use for planning ahead: to know what you will and won’t do on social media. It’s so, so important! We’ve also seen the numbers and the stats, and it’s something that we’re really thinking about.

How do we be a digital media organization and also personal users? We both have personal platforms. How do we love the women well? How do we set an example without running away from it and being terrified? I think that, for us, is such a big topic, I’m not sure where to begin!

I think with at least using it and how we feel like we can maybe help women who interact with our content, we have a policy for “no hot takes.” You know, we’re often getting asked, “Hey, what do you think about this topic?” I think it’s easy to want to hop up there and offer your opinion, and you may have really, really good ones.

But something that I often think to myself is, I have never regretted not posting something, but I have often regretted posting something. Even on stories, twenty-four hours is a long time! It really is! So to kick us off, I think that’s something that I always just think to myself often, “Is this a hot take? Is this just something I’m really passionate about? Am I able to put this up and not look at it for a week?” 

Like, could I just put it up and not even think about it (maybe think about it), but not look at it for a week, to care how it did or how people responded?

I always try to err on the side of: if I don’t have full peace and feel like this is something I can stand behind, and if it has not been thought out and I planned ahead for, then I typically do not post.

Nancy: Scripture comes to mind, Proverbs 18:13: “He that answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame unto him” (NKJV). It talks about how fools say just whatever comes into their minds, and social media has provided a huge opportunity for fools to say whatever they’re thinking. 

So, again, people are going to have different responses to all this, but this is one practical thing. They’re saying there’s no hot takes. Does anyone not know what that means?

Woman: I don’t.

Laura: “Hot takes” would be a response to a cultural issue that’s going on. 

Dannah: Or that’s exploding that day. 

Laura: Yes, like everything from a fire in California and they want you to offer prayers through an Instagram slide, to like a women-in-leadership controversy that’s hot on Twitter.

Dannah: Yeah. And I think, too, the Bible says, “Don’t confront a fool.” So when some of these issues flare up, there’s a lot of foolish conversation. I don’t think the heart, sometimes, of social media posts on those hot issues is: “I want to understand you, and I hope you’ll understand me. We can come together and learn and grow from each other.” 

It’s, “Let me slam my ‘I’m right, you’re wrong!’” So I, generally, when an issue flares up, my personal policy is, I’m going to be pretty quiet right then.

Nancy: And there may be a time to comment on that.

Dannah: Exactly.

Bethany Beal: So, our experience on social media has been very interesting, especially over the past few years. We have three younger sisters as well, so watching our own sisters up close and personal walk that journey, and having parents who raised the first half of their kids without social media . . . We got Facebook when we like were nineteen.

And seeing, “Wow! A lot of parents really have no idea what the next generation is going through!” We love my parents to death, but they’re like: “We don’t know! You help them!” Then we realize, that’s where a lot of our girls are. But personally, with our ministry, we’ve worked a lot on, “Okay, why are we posting this? The numbers?” all of that.

But something that’s been even more insightful is realizing where a lot of this anxiety and hardship for young people—and even older people—can come from. We have experienced, I think, the kind of brutal side of social media in a way that we were never anticipating. So our battle with social media, and what we’re supposed to do with it isn’t so much now “Okay, are we getting ‘likes’ on this post or not?” It’s more like, “Okay, is this video or something going to be turned and used against us for all of eternity, and are we going to get, literally, death threats and hate emails?” That’s kind of the level we’re at, mainly because of YouTube.

So we are questioned with what are we going to do with social media? Should we stay on a platform like YouTube? Should we not? It’s a little scary, even! Sometimes we feel like, “Oh, we’re even fearing for our lives!” The world is so much broader, and I think that’s a lot of younger people’s experience.

People are so cruel on social media, so mean, particularly on YouTube. There are a bunch of statistics on SmartSocial.com that are really helpful. One says that 96 percent of online American teens watch YouTube videos. So that’s our biggest platform. But we see the dark side of it, and just how absolutely cruel people can be.

But then, we also see the amazing work that God can do on social media. We hear from girls who are in Muslim countries who have no access to truth. They find our videos and are even becoming Christians. These are girls who are bed-bound finding our YouTube videos, because that’s where they are. 

A lot of atheists are finding our videos and saying, “I hated you at first! But you have this joy, and I wanted to hate you, but you just had this joy and kept sticking to the message.” So we are wrestling with a lot of stuff with social media, so I’m glad we’re having this conversation. But our side is definitely geared toward teen to college-age girls, eighteen to thirty, and they are predominantly on YouTube right now.

So that’s a little bit about us and what we’re wrestling with.

Kelly: If you haven’t read Tony Reinke’s book Ten Ways Your Phone is Changing You, I think that’s super helpful. In that book he says, “Some of you need to go offline.” Like, there needs to be that prophetic voice. One of our mentors used to tell us, “Legalism is, ‘This is wrong and this is right.’”

But wisdom is, “This is not good for me, or this isn’t right for me.” And so we all have to come to that conclusion. If you come to the conclusion, “This is not right for me,” then you should do that.

I took about a year break from social media, every form of it, and it was wonderful! It was before Instagram, I think, or maybe it had just started. I felt like the Lord really opened up between my husband’s and my conversations, a season of, “Okay, maybe let’s step back into that.” 

So every season right now, we’re just making that decision together and asking each other about it. For me, purpose is huge. “Why am I doing this? Why am I here?” And the word that I’m using for my own use . . . I don’t have a ministry; I’m just a person. I’m a Bible teacher in my own church; I’ve been a blogger. But my word is “discipleship.” I have seen the Lord use it that way.

I know there’s a lot of downside. But I think about this, “This is why this could be worth it.” I think I did like one of those question things when they first did that on Instagram; you could do questions.

I had just written about the importance of studying the Word with other women, and you have to be desperate enough sometimes to just reach out and ask somebody. You can’t wait for that to happen. And so several women asked, “Well, what does that look like?”

I just told them my own story. I just kept asking, and somebody said, “no.” I asked the next person; I asked the next person, and then finally someone said “Yes, but I can’t do it unless it’s at four in the morning, because I go to work at five.” 

I said, “Let’s do it!” So we met at IHOP for like two years and studied Scripture together, and it was so life-giving! I told that story on Instagram.

Well, I got a direct message later from a group of women. They sent a picture of them and their Bible study. They said, “This gave us the courage to go. We don’t have an excuse anymore. Like, let’s study the Word together!” And they were meeting together to study a book of the Bible.

I got a chance to pray for them, and I was like, “You know, this is why this could be good.”If I think through the lens of discipleship, that really helps me filter, “Why am I doing this?” 

I sometimes think, What is the woman on the other side of this phone feeling right now on social media? What can I say that would speak life, encouragement, or just point her back to Christ? “Follow me as I follow Christ.” And then, after I get off, to pray: “Lord, whoever is seeing that, would You plant that seed and further it?” I try to get my mind off of who’s saying what about it or reposting it . . . because we’re all tempted to do that.

And so, getting my discipleship lens on that I use every day with my kids and with my church has been a really good filter for, “How do I use this?” And, when is the time for me to say in widom, “Not anymore,” or “Not right now.”

Erin Davis: Well, I got on the social media panel by accident. I’m not sure who Nancy intended to have in this seat, but it was not me! Because I’m barely on social media!

Nancy: That’s why I put you on there.

Erin: Several of you have sweetly said to me this week, “Oh, I never heard of you in my life!” (laughter) That’s by design. And I say that not because I’m more righteous than you; it’s because I’m a worse sinner, and my spirit can’t handle it. I really can handle very, very little of that.

So I’ll give you some thoughts. Take ’em for what they’re worth—from the girl who’s not been on Facebook in twelve years. Fame is not the fruit, so it’s not really even evidence of fruit. In my sinful brokenness, I can’t control the compulsion to see it as fruit, so I don’t use it much.

I will say, though, that it’s very Pauline to go where the meeting of the minds are meeting. So why I have Instagram is because my four sons are beautiful! And if you have beautiful, God-fearing daughters, I want you to see my sons and arrange them! (laughter) So I really like to brag on my kids, and you’ll see a lot of them. I mean, they’re really . . . have you seen them? They’re cute!

So I really like to show them, but also I like to go to “Mars Hill.” I like to teach the Bible where people are not teaching the Bible. And so, Instagram does that for me. Here’s the question that I haven’t heard us say here, and it intrigues me: How are our social media choices impacting the local church?

So here’s my great fear: that I’m siphoning women away from the local church with online Bible studies. I did this funny thing when I was on staff at my church. I had so many women come to me and say, “I will never be in a women’s Bible study. I’m too anxious; other women stress me out (we could all ‘amen’ to that, right?),” or “It’s a season of life.” And so I thought, I’ll try something new. We started Bible Study for Introverts. On Monday nights, I would teach Bible study via Facebook Live.

My goal was to capture those women whom I could never get in a church or a home. But what happened was, the women who were coming to Bible study in churches or homes left and watched via Facebook Live. And so, I worry about that. I worry about if I disciple women online, am I giving them opportunity to not be in church?

So I try to be intentional on Sunday mornings if I think of it, to encourage them to be in a church. That’s the only answer I have for now. But, I don’t think the equation is just soul health and ministry health; I also think it’s church health. 

Bethany: Can I say something on top of that, kind of going along with what you’re saying? Leslie Ludy was kind of like Step 1 for Kris and I both. Then it was Revive Our Hearts once wegot a little bit older. But Kris and I both grew up in church, great Christian families, you know.

We were in AWANA; we were doing all the things, but we didn’t necessarily have a godly older woman to mentor us. Leslie Ludy’s books, first of all, were absolutely huge, and then Revive Our Hearts was huge. We didn’t have social media, and so seeing the impact that people I didn’t know—godly women—and us saying, “Wow! They’re doing relationships differently. They’re viewing femininity differently!”

For me, that was almost like an outlet, a social media of sorts. I was saying, “Wow, I can read these books, I can get the little online website or the magazines.” That’s one of the goals for Kristen and I. There are a lot of young women out there who may be in churches where there are not godly, older women reaching out to them, and they don’t really know how to ask for help.

And so, in some ways, they’re not really reading books, but they might watch a video. They might read a blog. And knowing that I, outside of God’s grace and these amazing women that He used, I probably wouldn’t be here . . . and we for sure wouldn’t be doing GirlDefined. And so I just wonder . . . It’s so hard. It’s like, “Okay, God used that mightily in my life, hugely, but then there are also the downsides.

Laura: I think we’ve wrestled with this question because we never want to replace the local church! I would cry if I found that someone was getting their solid food from our ministry or my personal platform or anything. And so something that we consistently strive to do is, of course, as we talk and we share, we point women back to their local church.

But, practically, how that looks is . . . When we receive DMs (direct messages) about questions, like even things like, “Hey, how do I study my Bible? How do I find a Bible study?” 

We say, “Go ask a woman in your local church!” 

And sometimes the answer is, “Well, I don’t know anyone to ask?” 

Of course there are some issues with that, but I don’t want our ministry to be the answer for all the women to have all of the answers. I want to encourage them to go back and find real people who know them in real life and can see their sin, see their tendencies, see the ways that they can flourish. Women to ask them what book they should be reading, and to ask them how they should structure their day or their morning routine or whatever it may be that they’re asking. 

Another thing, we try to not answer in the content, in the way we present ourselves as well. We hopefully come at it in a more humble posture. We even say that, “It’s okay if something’s a little unanswered,” or “It’s okay if there’s some tension there.” 

I’m okay if somebody interacts with our content and feels like, “Man, that was not sufficient!” or “Man, that did not meet my need today!” That is okay, because we can’t. Only Christ can do that, and what He does is, He uses His local church. He uses real people and real places to do that. And so, for us so often, a gut check for me is, “Are we pointing people to the local church?” 

But practically, how are we doing that when they come to us with questions? What presence do we give off? Is it, “I know everything, and I’ve got your answer!” And, “Don’t worry, if you ask me a question I’m going to pop out the answer!” Or is it a posture of saying, “Hey, let me think on that,” or “I’d encourage you to go find someone else.”

And your followers won’t like it; they won’t! And so, if we really are loving the women who follow us, we’re encouraging them to be brave and courageous and to invest in their local community.

Nancy: One thing is clear as you listen to this conversation, and that is that, just like everything else in life, using social media well requires wisdom. It requires discernment, having a plan, being intentional and proactive.

That applies whether you’ve ever posted something that went viral or not, whether you have fifty-thousand followers or fifty, or five. 

We’ve been listening to the first part of a panel discussion on using social media wisely. The voices you’ve heard are women who came together for a gathering that we did some months ago with younger women authors and speakers and women who have ministries that are using social media. 

One of the biggest things they wanted to discuss is how to use it wisely. I’m so thankful we were able to have that dialogue so we that could share it with you. We’ll hear the rest of that conversation tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Dannah: Have you ever thought about what the Bible says about social media? Of course there were no smartphones in Solomon’s day or when the New Testament was being written. But God’s Word actually has a lot to say about how we use our words, and it’s very important to apply that to what we say and do on social media.

We want to let you know about the Words Matter bundle from Revive Our Hearts. It includes a four-week devotional by Nancy called The Power of Words, and Nancy’s going to take you through many of the passages of the book of Proverbs that address the words we use.

And along with that devotional, we’re including a new set of Scripture memory cards. They’re verses you can memorize that remind you that our words really do matter! This month, the Words Matter bundle is yours as a thank-you gift from us for your donation of any amount in support of the Revive Our Hearts ministry. 

We’d love for you to contact us with your gift. You can do that by calling us at 1–800–569–5959, or you can do that by making your gift at ReviveOurHearts.com. When you contact us with your gift, make sure you ask for the Words Matter Bundle.

Nancy: Sometimes you hear about somebody taking a “social media fast.” Is there ever a good time to do that, just to take a break from social media? That’s something that the panel you heard from today will address tomorrow. I’m Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. 

Dannah: And I’m Dannah Gresh, saying, please be back for Revive Our Hearts. Encouraging intentionality with your words, Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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