For our OneDiocese blog this month, we asked 14-year-old Isaac Irvine, from Dursley Tabernacle Church, about the impact that social media has on the lives of the young people he knows, and how his faith leads him to see things differently.
“Social media has a big impact on how young people view themselves in my school. I know a lot of people who have self-harmed – more than I can count on my fingers. If school, church, family, friends, don’t address it, it gets worse. There are a few people that I’ve been able to have chats with about self-harming, using my perspective as a Christian to explain things, and they have actually stopped doing it.
“When I put a post on social media, I am doing it with the idea of posting to a specific person, hopefully to make them feel happier and make their lives a little better. I find that lots of other people my age can be quite extreme in what they post – they want to put big messages out to a lot of people, to get more followers and be seen as more popular.”
Isaac’s preference is for a low-key social media profile, mostly focused on posting pictures of animals or origami dragons, a hobby of his.
“I think the way I post on social media reflects my character – I don’t ask people for anything, I put something out there and people can choose whether they want to be involved.
“I think for me personally on social media, I get off pretty lightly. Everyone knows me as quite a nice guy, and even if you post about me, I don’t care. I shrug my shoulders and move on. If someone posts something negative about me, either they didn’t mean it, or they did mean it, but I know God has forgiven them, so I try to do the same.”
Isaac’s faith gives him a calm and quiet confidence, based in the certainty that God is looking out for him.
“I see my faith as very contemporary. It’s not a ‘hardcore faith’, more relaxed and laid-back. Sometimes I feel like everything is going great, but actually, I am drifting away from God. But when that happens, I know God will always pull me back to him. There’s a lot of reassurance in that – even if I feel I’m doing great, it’s not necessarily what is great in God’s eyes and he brings me back on track.
“I would say I’m open with my faith at school. I try to break the stereotypes that my friends might have about Christians. It can be an interesting talking point with some of my friends though. Lots of my friends are part of the LGBT+ community and they often have a stereotype of what churches are like. They think of church being full of older people and people who might not accept them for who they are. To some extent I agree with them – if they went to church, they would be welcomed … but there’s a world of difference between a welcome and being truly loved and accepted with open arms.
“I don’t think it matters too much whether people know I’m a Christian or not, I just like to think that when someone’s having a hard time, and I offer them a hug, that they can get to know a little of God through me.
“I believe that every single one of us is created in God’s image and God wants us all to be who we were created to be – to boss it yourself! Because of that, we have no reason to aspire to be like anyone else, except God. I believe that if everyone truly knew that, there wouldn’t be as many problems.”
Isaac says that his church, Dursley Tabernacle, is very open and willing to accept different demographics and to do things differently. It’s a model that he hopes more and more churches will feel challenged to adopt.