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Print & pod – the real “social” media?

I’m typing these words on my laptop, in a not-so-comfortable seat of an airplane, somewhere between Vancouver and my hometown in northern BC. But I’m guessing that you are reading these words in ink and paper, seated in a comfortable chair, ready to relax.

If I’m right, congratulations. You made a good choice! You could have been staring at a screen, filling your time with content that’s more likely than not to leave you feeling empty. Instead, you are engaging with a publication that, I am confident, by the last page will leave you feeling like you finished a nourishing and tasty meal.

I’m on my way back from Reformed Perspective’s annual in-person board meetings, where we took a good hard look at why this organization exists, and what’s most important for us to focus on. We concluded that RP exists not just to apply God’s truth to the issues of our day, but also to celebrate His truth. And we concluded that our time and resources are best spent producing content that goes deep (rooted in God’s Word) and goes wide (for all His people).

In particular, we want to invest even more in “print and pod” – this magazine and our Real Talk podcast. These two mediums allow us to deliver solid content directly to you, without it being watered down, or interrupted by big-tech and government gate-keepers, or getting lost in a sea of other messages.

Can we even be deep on social media?

This world has no shortage of shallow content competing for our attention. We’re all becoming more aware of the negative consequences that social media in particular can have on hearts and minds, literally re-wiring our brains and making us feel like we are alone in a scary world. Yet, like an addiction, we keep going back for our fix. And this isn’t just a struggle for youth and young adults. Many adults and seniors are no less attached to their devices. The irony of “social” media is that we have never been lonelier and more fragmented.

RP publishes on Instagram, Facebook, and X (Twitter), and has also used smaller outlets like MeWe and Gab. In the past we could justify this quite easily – it drove people to good content on our website and reached people who would never have seen this content otherwise. It even allowed for some discussion. It has been encouraging to see RP’s resources seen by hundreds of thousands of people online.

But things have changed.

Today, people rarely share posts and links, or engage with what is shared. And platforms like Instagram make it difficult to connect our followers to our website. That means most posts there are limited to the few hundred words that Instagram allows, so our posts are necessarily simpler and shallower than you’ll find in this magazine.

Also, people who “like” or “follow” us often don’t see our content in their feed, even if they want it. And if they do, we are one message among thousands, including a lot of ads. We can’t compete with the flashy eye-candy that fills these feeds. Even if we invested tens of thousands of dollars to compete, would even that get us seen? In fact, a good argument could be made that by being on all sorts of social media platforms, RP is encouraging others to spend their time there too.

And when we consider that there are no shortage of dangers lurking – users are just a couple clicks away from pornography – is that something we want to encourage?

Bringing “social” back to media

Now the supposed benefit of social media is the “social” – the many family members, friends, and past acquaintances that we can reconnect with. But how deep does that reconnection go?

So what if RP could facilitate reconnection on a deeper level?

Because we are a charity that provides the magazine (and podcast) at no cost, not only does it go to you, it also goes to thousands of others, including those who sit next to you in the pew. You have no idea what they are scrolling through on their phone, but you do know that they received a copy of RP and had an opportunity to read these very words.

Why does that matter? If we have something in common, it can provide us with an opportunity to talk about an issue that needs attention. In recent years it has become common for church members to shape their opinions on cultural matters by following personalities that they respect or admire. Social media companies notice what we’ve clicked on, and then serve more content that aligns with what we already like, making us all-the-more convinced. At the same time, other Christian brothers and sisters have been carried in a different direction.

And then we wonder why there is such division!

We sure don’t claim to have figured out all the topics we write about or speak on. Far from it. We have a lot to learn. Sometimes we are wrong. But mediums like this can start a discussion with brothers and sisters in the LORD so that we can sharpen each other in our walk with the LORD. If you know that others have access to the same content, it makes a discussion all the easier.

So could it be then, that print could be the basis of a new, actually social media? We believe so.

Seeking your advice

So what should we do about the digital sort of social media? Is it time to flick the switch, cold turkey?

There’s good reason to at least consider that option. The small choices we make in the moment become habits which shape our character and lives. Few of us spend hours straight scrolling through our feed. But we do spend 10 minutes here, and then another 5 there, again and again and again. It adds up. And it is time taken away from our family, our friends, and from the worship of our God, doing the tasks He has set before us. So if your life ended today, how might you be described in your obituary? How would your children and friends describe your life? As grounded in God’s Word, relationships, and nurtured by resources with substance? Or addicted to whatever was sent to your device?

As you can read in the ED update at the end of this magazine, we are investing in print and pod by making this magazine available to even more churches (beyond the nine or so denominations who get it today) and increasing the collaboration with the podcast.

We haven’t yet decided what to do with RP’s social media presence. Just because it doesn’t have the same advantages as print and pod doesn’t mean it has no value. Knowing that there is wisdom in the counsel of many advisers (Prov. 15:22), we respectfully ask that you weigh in. If you have a few moments, please share your thoughts with us. Here are three ways to do so:

  • Write a letter to the editor for publication at [email protected]
  • If you prefer to just send us a note, email: [email protected] and we will share it with the team and take it into consideration.
  • Or you  can fill in the form below.

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