How Social Media has Become a Sad Substitute for True Community

Leah Hickman | Contributor to | Monday, March 26, 2018

How Social Media has Become a Sad Substitute for True Community

This week, I came across an article at USA Today about what appears to be a mass exodus from Facebook. Recently, the exodus has been spurred by the discoveries surrounding Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data to help along Donald Trump’s presidential race. But plenty of other factors have contributed to Facebook users’ increasing irritation with the social network.

According to some social media fans interviewed for the article, Facebook just isn’t a nice place to be anymore. “Everything feels like an advertisement or an argument,” explained Katie Clark, a 28-year-old blogger from Colorado. Plus, the article explains, the network has become a place for “judgmental friends” and “political conflicts.”

The new social media outlet of choice seems to be Instagram. And the reasons are interesting. “I just think it’s a nicer place to be,” explained Clark. 35-year-old digital marketer Jamie King thinks of Instagram as a network where she can feel free to be “raw and unfiltered.” During a rough time in her life, she shared her feelings on Instagram, and the responses she received on that network were so positive and supportive that they “blew her away.” Meanwhile, King avoided sharing much on Facebook. She explained, “I didn’t want people placing judgments about the decisions I was making or how I was feeling,” and that was the type of response she had come to expect from Facebook users.

But apparently even Instagram isn’t perfect. As the article explains, it’s becoming too much like its big brother, Facebook. Some users are annoyed by the fact that “Facebook-like problems” are popping up more and more frequently on Instagram, including more conflict, more ads, and more spam. Another problem is that it’s becoming all-around “fake.” One user complains, “It is so over-curated from every angle.” Another says, “It’s as fake as fake gets.”

Considering these comments about the two networks, it appears as if people are looking for a specific sort of service—an online hangout spot that’s both “nice” and “real.” They want a platform where they can share their true selves without fear of judgment and without starting arguments. In a way, what they really want is community—a group of people with whom they can share their struggles and receive support without also receiving condemnation.

In my mind, the type of community they’re looking for sounds a lot like what God intended for the Church to be. As one body with many members, the Church is a place for Christ-followers to come together in unity, flourishing in love and generosity toward one another and toward those outside of the Church. Here, they can be real with each other and experience forgiveness and restoration rather than face judgement, thanks to the grace of Christ.

This is how the Church should be. Sometimes, however, individual churches end up sounding too much like one of those social media networks. Attendees often leave churches, complaining that they’re too “judgmental” or “fake.” In the absence of the Church community, they turn to the apps on their phones. Rather than making themselves vulnerable to a different group of potentially judgmental and fake people, they pick and choose pieces of their lives to highlight on an online platform. They avoid the inconvenience of building real relationships in doing so.

As even Instagram users are discovering, though, the shallow community offered by social media isn’t enough. It can’t conceal the fundamentally hostile tendencies of humans. It also can’t satisfy that innate human longing for community. For that matter, no church building and no group of nice people is capable of bringing such satisfaction either.

This is because the ideal community only exists in Christ. He’s the only one who knows us fully, flaws and all, and who can accept us despite those flaws. Because he has accepted judgment on our behalf, we need not fear judgment when we are in him. Rather, his grace gives us the liberty to pursue new and abundant lives, free from the bondage of sin. Without him, no community can flourish, much less survive. Too bad for Facebook and Instagram.


Leah Hickman is a 2017 graduate of Hillsdale College’s English program. She freelances for and has written pieces for multiple Hillsdale College campus publications as well as for and the Discover Laura Blog. Read more by Leah at

Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/zaozzaa09

Publication date: March 26, 2018

How Social Media has Become a Sad Substitute for True Community