For some Christian writers, the pressure to perform on social media feels like a burden we must bear instead of a delightful part of fulfilling our call to write for God’s glory. Some days, we dutifully publish content on our social platforms, grateful to be a light in the darkness. On other days, it feels more like a sacrifice. We waffle between social media addiction, enjoying our digital connection with friends and followers, and desperately longing for freedom from social media altogether.
After much prayer and deliberation, I quit social media years ago. As I navigated that decision and its implications, I found it helpful to read about other Christian writers’ experiences and thought processes. So, if you find yourself questioning the role of social media in your own life and writing platform, maybe my story can offer a unique perspective to help you determine what’s right for you.
To be clear, I’m not anti-social media, as you’ll soon see.
Also, this post does not address Substack, which many people consider social media. For my thoughts on Substack, see this post.
Social Media and Me
When I became a writer, I understood that a large social media following was necessary to succeed as a writer. So, I strategically set up Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter with my branding and tirelessly worked to maintain a consistent content calendar.
Admittedly, there were seasons when I loved social media. Who doesn’t enjoy the dopamine hit we get when someone “likes” or comments on a post? (Imposter syndrome is real, and every bit of affirmation is welcome!) I enjoyed designing graphics to fill my grid and develop a recognizable brand. That part was fun.
But things changed.
The Truth About Social Media
Like many social media users, I was shocked by how easily I lost track of time while scrolling my feeds—especially because I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I became increasingly aware of the effect social media had on my mental health. Even after strictly curating the accounts I followed and adjusting settings to minimize unwanted content, I frequently felt drained after spending time on social media. I began to wonder if investing time and energy into social media was worthwhile, even if it was necessary to succeed as a writer.
I think I’m slower than most people when it comes to writing a piece of content from start to finish. I take a long time to design graphics, too. And while I enjoy both of those things, keeping up with the recommended frequency of social media publishing felt unsustainable.
My freelance writing career provided for our family during the global pandemic, so naturally, serving my clients took priority over maintaining my social media presence. At this point, I seriously explored the possibility of finding other ways to build an online platform as a Christian writer.
Then, I came across an article claiming that authors don’t need social media to succeed in the publishing world. At first, this article brought sweet relief. But I doubted the credibility of its claims. How could this be? Is there any proof that this is true?
I desperately wanted it to be true, but I needed more evidence to be convinced.
Almost exactly a year later, I received an email from Sandy Cooper announcing her upcoming new podcast, Writing Off Social. Sandy shared three reasons why social media, though “once a viable platform for audience growth,” is now a losing game.
- The conversion rate and organic reach of social media are horrible, according to the 2022 Digital Trends Report from Hootsuite.
- Social media is a time sucker, taking up an average of two and a half hours each day for American users.
- Social media has a negative impact on our mental health.
Since I received Sandy’s email, her arguments have been repeatedly proven by various organizations and researchers. More importantly, I knew them to be true based on my own experience.
Platform-building is a topic we think the Bible is silent about at first glance, but we can gain a lot of wisdom from Jesus’ earthly ministry regarding spreading a message and connecting with an audience.
Faithfulness vs Followers
One of the key marks of Jesus’ ministry was a focus on fellowship with the Father instead of growing his follower count. Sometimes, when his popularity was at its peak, Jesus actually left his followers to take time away for prayer or rest (e.g. Mark 1:35; 6:30-32). He knew that popularity is fleeting because followers are fickle.
Purpose vs Platform
Jesus focused on doing the work God had sent him to do instead of growing a bigger platform. In Mark 1, we read about the growth of Jesus’ ministry. As he healed the sick, delivered the demon-possessed, and preached repentance, he “went viral” by today’s standards.
Peter and his crew noticed the rapidly growing platform and wanted Jesus to stick around to capitalize on the moment of peak popularity. But Jesus said in Mark 1:38, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth (emphasis mine).”
Jesus cared for and loved the people he had already ministered to, but his top priority was doing the work his Father had called him to do, and that work was to preach the gospel.
Jesus also exemplified servant leadership (Luke 22:27; Mark 9:35; 10:42–45), humbling himself to minister to the needs of the people. Sometimes, this meant doing what was unpopular. His words and actions generated plenty of controversy, but his concern was the hearts of his hearers, not his own reputation.
Why I Quit Social Media
I believe God has called me to write. He has gifted me to communicate through the written word, and when God gives us gifts, he intends for us to use them “for the building up of the body of Christ.” That means I write for an audience. But before I write for my readers, I write for God’s pleasure.
It seems counterintuitive to quit social media in this age of ultra-hustle and the emphasis on constant “connection,” but I’d rather follow Jesus’ example than anyone else’s. His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8–9). And God doesn’t need social media to accomplish his purposes in and through me.
Social media distracted me, shifting my focus off the Father and onto a number that signified followers. It tempted me to compare myself to others and strive to follow their example instead of seeking God’s will for me and faithfully following his lead.
God has called me to write—that’s part of his purpose for me. But keeping up with social media to build my platform prevented me from actually writing. Instead of using my valuable, limited time to write, I used it to attempt to grow my follower count.
I want to approach my writing like Jesus approached his ministry—humbly doing what’s best for my readers (Philippians 2:5–11). Part of that is placing my words where my readers will actually read them. Because of social media algorithms, it’s impossible to ensure my readers will always see my words, even if they follow me and spend time on the social platforms where I might publish.
Also, because of the negative impact of social media on our time and mental health (see above), I didn’t feel good about constantly encouraging my readers to connect with me there. I wanted to provide a better spot to connect.
And the truth is that I simply did not enjoy social media. Based on the results and how it made me feel, I couldn’t justify the time and energy it cost me. In other words, it produced a poor return on my investment.
So, I quit social media with no regrets. I can honestly say that not once in the past four years have I ever desired to return to social media. It has been incredibly freeing, resulting in greater productivity and deeper connections than I thought possible.
Should you quit social media?
Everyone must decide if social media is right for them and their readers based on their own convictions, calling, strengths, and weaknesses.
Are you reevaluating your own social media involvement? Consider the following:
- Who is your audience? How can you best serve them?
- What measurable benefits do your social media platforms produce?
- Are there less quantifiable benefits of social media in your life and ministry? If so, what are they?
- How do you feel after spending time on social media? Do you enjoy it?
- Are the time and energy you put into social media effectively using your unique gifts to serve your readers?
- Have you prayed about your social media involvement?
To aid in your decision-making process, I recommend the following articles from others who quit social media. I found it helpful to read about their reasons and how they came to their conclusions. It’s also encouraging to read about their experience after leaving.
Why I Left Social Media—and Won’t Go Back | Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra
I also recommend you read Katie Blackburn’s thoughts on platform growth, which deeply impacted my own approach to building my writing platform.
Let me reiterate: I am not against social media. Some writers serve their readers best on those platforms for various reasons. If that’s you, I wholeheartedly support you. In fact, I highly recommend you follow Endeavor, a resource that “explores the intersection of faith, technology, digital media, discipleship, and evangelism.” Ian Harber, co-founder of Endeavor, wrote an excellent piece about reasons not to delete social media, and I agree with him.
Ultimately, the question of social media is a question of stewardship. For some of us, faithfully stewarding our gifts includes social media, but for some of us, it doesn’t. When we finally meet Jesus face to face, we won’t expect him to comment on our social media platforms, right? Instead, we all hope to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). Let’s strive to faithfully steward our writing platforms, whether on or off social media.