In the realm of social media and reality TV, hospitality is a pivotal element. Reality TV, initially designed to provide unscripted insights into the lives of everyday individuals, broke new ground. It offered authenticity, welcoming viewers into genuine homes, family moments, and unique experiences. Shows such as Idols and Survivor captivated global audiences, setting the stage for later phenomena like the Kardashians.

Social media allowed anyone to create their own reality show with just a smartphone and basic software.

The advent of social media only heightened this trend. Unlike traditional reality TV, social media allowed anyone to create their own show with just a smartphone and basic software, fuelling the rise of influencers. Influencers thrived by maintaining authenticity, standing apart from scripted industry professionals, and inviting audiences into their personal spaces.

In essence, influencer culture’s emergence builds upon the reality TV foundation, connecting audiences with real people in a relatable and intriguing world. It’s a contemporary take on “show and tell,” transcending presentation to create a profound sense of hospitality.

How the West Was Won (by Influencers)

An aggregator’s top ten influencers list often comprises 50-70% of individuals who rose to fame through the reality TV model, essentially embracing the concept of digital hospitality. These influencers graciously invited the world into their homes and lives, sharing intimate moments against the backdrop of their personal spaces. Female influencers, for instance, provided glimpses into their daily routines, from dressing up to applying makeup, fostering a sense of closeness. Similarly, male influencers showcased their playful workshop environments, complete with candid moments and imperfections.

The willingness of influencers to let audiences into their lives created a powerful bond.

This approach cultivated a unique connection, convincing viewers that they were sharing intimate moments with these influencers. In contrast to actors known primarily for their professional roles, such as Leonardo DiCaprio or Denzel Washington, social media influencers often establish a more personal rapport with their audiences, recognised by their first names or nicknames—such as Casey (Neistat), Marques (MKBHD), (Andrew) Tate, and Charli (D’Amelio).

Through digital hospitality, influencers managed to win over the masses, even before they had substantial budgets and powerful production capacities. Their authenticity and willingness to let audiences into their lives created a powerful bond beyond the products they promoted.

Influencers have tapped into a profound human need, one that’s ingrained in our nature by God: the need for genuine connections with other humans. Over the course of history, hospitality has been the conduit through which we’ve provided solace to hungry and desperate souls, facilitated by authentic interactions with real people.

Thus for Christians it’s imperative that we recognise the remarkable opportunity offered by social media. Our mission isn’t necessarily to become influencers but to harness the influential avenue that they’ve embraced, carrying a message of even greater significance.

Digital Hospitality

This isn’t a mandate for incessant daily posting, although if that suits your style then go ahead. It’s a call to transcend the mere sharing of verses and sermon reflections. As Christians, our impact on the world amplifies when the broader audience witnesses who we truly are and what we stand for. Our aim is to replace the common caricature of Christians with the living reality of a Christian life, which they perceive through our actions.

Through the medium of digital hospitality, we unveil the intricacies of relationships—between parents and children, siblings, spouses, friends, neighbours, workmates and strangers. This isn’t about preaching at the world but about showcasing the authentic transformation that God has wrought in our lives.

All we need do is open the social media window into our lives and homes.

People yearn for authenticity, but what they often encounter from influencers and reality TV is more artifice, except this time it’s not skillfully crafted by trained professionals. They aren’t glimpsing the real world at all. It’s akin to believing you’re entering a home only to realise it’s an Airbnb. This explains why followers often grapple with the moral lapses of their favorite influencers—the house they once entered with awe turns out to be a facade.

Isn’t it time for those who grasp the essence of the genuine world to reveal it? Through digital hospitality, the viewer, who’s already glued to their phones, gets an unfiltered glimpse of reality, a stark contrast to the artificial narrative peddled elsewhere. Unlike some influencers who exploit intimate moments for instant connections, Christians needn’t resort to such tactics, like oversharing our daily routines. The truth we uphold is potent enough; all we need do is open the social media window into our lives and homes.

A Practical Example

Many students today grapple with the belief that others are handling life’s challenges far better than they are. This sentiment is often exacerbated when studying in crowded libraries, fostering a sense of inadequacy. Enter individuals like Merve, a YouTuber who specialises in study videos. Through a simple camera setup, Merve shares his study sessions, complete with papers, laptops, and stationery, all while taking timed breaks. Most of his viewers have never seen his face or heard his voice. Yet they feel a genuine connection because he invites them into his world.

True digital hospitality goes far beyond mere moralising.

Are Christian students using their social media platforms to share their real experiences? Are they revealing both their academic struggles and successes. Do they recount efforts to improve, both the highs and lows of their days? Or is it limited to scripture verses, sermon reviews, and sharing articles? True digital hospitality goes far beyond mere moralising. It offers glimpses into life’s ups and downs; victories and defeats. It allows people to witness personal growth, the impact of Christian friendships, and even reflections on time or money management.

Open a Digital Window into Your Faith

Digital hospitality allows people to witness personal growth.

By opening this window into their lives, Christians can showcase God’s transformative power authentically, saving them from the need to craft elaborate narratives. In a world where many grapple with isolation, practicing digital hospitality can provide a glimpse beyond their struggles. If executed effectively, it can spark real conversations and lead to profound impacts for Christ, surpassing all expectations.