Christians and Social Media – How are we perceived?

Photo credit: Audio X

For many people in this country and abroad, the general consensus is that being a Christian is synonymous with being a shallow-minded bigot, who has no concept of science and no sense of reality in the world.

If the first thing I put on my profile is ‘Christian’, I immediately put off or scare away a whole host of individuals who may have otherwise had the chance to get to know me and possibly see their preconceived ideas busted.

What would Jesus do?

Yes – that old adage which used to be thrown around left, right and centre just a few years ago. But it’s a good question. If Jesus were on Twitter, what would his profile say?…

Jesus, Son of God, Saviour of the World? Jesus – your free ticket to heaven? Jesus – the most holy, awesome One?

Or would it likely be – Jesus. Follow me and find out more?

Jesus didn’t walk around with a fish sewn into the back of his robes. He didn’t introduce himself as ‘King of Kings’ in the first interaction he had with everyone he met.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t call ourselves Christians or followers of Jesus – for that would be denying what we are. Rather that, just maybe, we don’t need to declare this first, at every opportunity.

Perhaps our actions and attitudes should precede our words.

When I interact with the man behind the counter in a supermarket, I don’t interject: “Hello – wave – you do realize that I’m a Christian, don’t you?!” as I hand over my store card. When I talk to parents at the school gates, I don’t say – “Hey, remember that I’m a Christian, won’t you? Did I tell you that last week?”

When I go to a party or event – same thing. Do I simply start a general conversation with a stranger or friend of a friend, or do I begin by saying, “Hi, my name’s Annie and I’m a Christian.”

That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Yet, in many ways, that is how we can come across on social media by declaring our religious affiliation in our brief profiles.

If we wouldn’t do that in real life, why do we do it in the virtual world of social engagement?

I’m aware of the other point of view, that we should not be ashamed of Jesus or our faith. I agree.

But wouldn’t it be great if people observed something positively unique in us before we barraged them with our spiritual status?

Should we proclaim our label of ‘Christian’ at every possible moment and opportunity, before someone has had the chance to process anything else about us?

I’m not saying that there is a right way or a wrong way. People should feel free to present themselves in any way they wish. Obviously churches and Christian organisations will always be blatant in their introductions and statements of who they are. But maybe others should rethink their position.

One of my finest moments came when I was teaching part-time in a school, and, during a casual lunchtime conversation with pupils, mentioned something about church. A year eight boy asked me if I was a Christian. When I answered affirmatively, he showed surprise. “But miss”, he said, “you don’t look like a Christian!”

I had shattered his pre-conceived ideas of what a Christian might look like. I was chuffed about that.

In the same way, I didn’t reveal that I was a Christian to colleagues until after I’d been in that school for over a year. (Not necessarily on purpose, it’s more that I was dashing around so much in class, there was little opportunity for chat, and being part-time I missed out on most social events).

Anyway, the teacher I worked most closely with was equally surprised when I revealed my Christian faith; I didn’t fit her stereotypical Christian caricature. In the time before that, when I went about incognito – or before I came out – I got the distinct impression that many colleagues were pretty anti-Christian.

I quietly got on with my work, trying to be a hard working teacher, trying to stay positive and friendly to all. I got on well with most of those around me, but I wonder how different it may have been if I’d declared my beliefs right from the start.

When I once met a new supply teacher in the staff room during a free lesson, I felt immediately uneasy when she started harping on about church within the first three minutes of conversation. It seemed forced and irrelevant in the context, even though we shared the same faith. Perhaps sometimes Christians talk too much? (Yep, including me.)

I’m open to others’ suggestions on how best to handle this modern day issue. What do you think? Should we always introduce ourselves as … [insert name], Christian? Or do you think that I’m some kind of heretic for being unwilling to declare the ‘C’ word in my profile or within the first five minutes of meeting someone?

I only hope to challenge readers to consider others’ perception of them, and how they might best reflect the kingdom of God to those around them in their daily lives – both online and offline.

And as for having a fish on my car… never (I’m not the best driver in the world!)

But, who knows? Maybe I’ll change my standpoint on these matters in future.

2 thoughts on “Christians and Social Media – How are we perceived?

  1. Jenny Rayner says:

    Lots of food for thought, Annie. I’m not sure how long it took for people at Axiom to learn that I’m a Christian, but they certainly are all aware of it now (9 yrs in!) I sometimes feel guilty that I find it easier to mention church than to mention Jesus. Somehow, however real He is to me, it seems as though I would come across as “weird” if I were to start talking about Him as though He were my best friend (which of course He is, but would they understand?) I do find that “church” comes up quite naturally though, as so much of my weekly activity revolves around church life, but am conscious of the fact that I am probably regarded as a “do-gooder” rather than someone who has a personal relationship with God. How to change this perspective? I’m not sure, but hopefully having seen me go through a bankruptcy without having to take any time off for “stress” as so many do for all sorts of reasons, will speak to them of His keeping power. Sometimes the very things we think of as being a “bad witness” can say far more than all the good works we may do.

    • writelightuk says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jenny. I don’t mean to put you off from doing what comes naturally to you. I’m sure you are a bright light in your workplace 🙂 I also talk about my church involvement when it seems appropriate in a conversation.

      When I was younger I used to wear a cross or fish or similar, and although I prefer not to now, I have nothing against those who choose to wear symbols of their faith, which can stimulate discussion or raise interest from those one meets.

      I think you’re right that the way we react to circumstances and the stresses of life probably speaks greatly to those observing us. People are always watching us, looking into our lives.

      When my colleague found out I was a Christian, she almost immediately stopped swearing around me, even though I had never uttered a complaint about it!

      Years ago, when I was at university, a lecturer commented that there was something different about me, and asked what it was. I used to smile a lot (lack of sleep over the years tends to diminish the smile!) I didn’t have the confidence to say that it was because of my faith.

      I have probably offended a few readers in this article, I don’t intentionally do so. Though I do like to stir up debate and get people thinking. Everyone should present themselves and their beliefs in whatever way they see fit. We are all individuals, with individual tastes and styles – it’s good if people come across a variety of Christians, as opposed to just a stereotypical version!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s