When “following” matters

I’m rather intrigued by the concept of “followers” in social media.  I follow people; others follow me.  It’s the accepted protocol of online interaction.

But 21st-century “following” is a strange creature, a yin and yang of closeness and distance, superficiality and honesty.  As much as I love the online world, in many ways it can’t make up for the depth, range, and complexity of IRL (in real life) relationships.  

Those relationships are forged the old-fashioned way:  face to face, emotions clearly showing via verbal and nonverbal cues, thoughtful conversations, effervescent debate, and intense fellowship, pumice-like in their ability to rub us right–or wrong.

So, “following” should create genuine community.  And those who excel at it do exactly that.  They bring people together, forg
ing a online tribe.

There’s also the downside of “following”:  when it degenerates into gathering numbers (Follow me!  I’ll follow you!) and dumbing down the online discourse to the point of ridiculousness.  Plus, how do you correctly gauge sarcasm, irony, and the more subtle ways of getting one’s point across?

I can’t help but wonder how Jesus would fit into this new world of “following” were He still on earth.  Think about it:  here was a man who said “Follow me!” and men left their businesses, families, and life as they knew it.  That’s hard-core following!  For them, it meant:

  • A sea change in lifestyle;
  • Devotion to one person and His message;
  • Being challenged and discipled by one person;
  • Intimacy through one-on-one or small group interaction.

In other words, there was a cost attached to following Him.

And yes, Jesus had crowds “following” him everywhere.  He would be considered a celebrity by today’s standards, but His core group boiled down to the 12 disciples (including a fake one) and the 70 whom He sent out to evangelize.

So, what’s the cost (or benefit) of following for you?

  • Have the people you follow made a difference in your life story?
  • Does the size of their following influence your decision to follow them?
  • Do they replenish, encourage, and challenge you, or are they merely sources of entertainment?
  • Is there joy in the journey that you undertake when you step into their lives online?


  1. This is a very interesting post, Alison. I love how you discussed Christ's following and compared it to the following concept in social media. I follow for various reasons, such as being inspired or entertained by another. But after reading this, I'm inspired to really look at who or what group I'm "following" and how it enriches my life.

    Thanks for the share!

  2. Hey Miss Dre! Great to see you on here engaging in the debate.

    I've been giving thought to the "following" process for a while because it's so easy to get caught up in clicking so as to be part of a online community. It's far more challenging, as you noted, to really consider what folk are putting into the online atmosphere and make a conscious choice about what you're receiving from them, and its worth.

  3. This is an awesome post. To be a follower, someone has to be leading. It's amazing who we align ourselves with at times.It really makes you think.

  4. @Hope ReidHi Hope!It does make us think. sometimes I find myself following people without giving it much thought. It pays to consider who all we're allowing to influence our thinking online.

  5. Hey Alison,

    Never once has it even crossed my mind to think of how the two, following Christ, and following in blogging correlate.

    I've really grown not to like the "follow me follow you back" sort of thing because I have definitely seen where it ends up and that's not the community I want to forge on the internet.

    Yes, as Christians we should support each other but there is a line when it becomes a self righteous act. Thanks for bringing up these points because its definitely something I am going to ponder more:)

  6. @Latoya @ A Peaceful Crib I'm with you on the "self-righteous" act, Latoya. It becomes a business of selfish ambition after a certain point, to use a Biblical term. It all comes back to motive. The Holy Spirit will make it clear to us, if we listen, whether we are working from the right foundation.

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