A network society, social media, migration and mission

Cornelius J.P. (Nelus) Niemandt


Human mobility and migration are closely associated with and reciprocally influenced by globalisation. Add the relentless connectivity facilitated by the proliferation of mobile communication and the emergence of social media to this mixture, and an emerging new glocal culture is evident. People are not only migrating to new localities and territories, but simultaneously into a new culture. We are witnessing the greatest mass migration in the history of humanity from the real to the virtual world. It is a shift from shared space to shared interest.

The metaphor of a river in flood has been used to describe the fact that migrant communities are a point of convergence of some of the biggest challenges facing the church and society at large: globalisation, hyperdiversity, interconnectedness, a Google culture and postmodern tribalism. Culture flows like a river and the church functions as a bridge connecting humans striving to make sense of life and Scripture as well as the tradition transmitted over the centuries. Some of the missional challenges will be to incarnate the gospel in this emerging culture. This study was positioned at the convergence of two important processes the rise of the network society (especially social media) and migration. It took up two of the challenges posed at Edinburgh 2010, namely to fruitfully integrate the role of media in modern society into overall missiological thinking, and to think about the call for a structural reform of the church to grapple with the challenges of migration.

The network society represents a profound social transformation. New technologies deliver connectedness in the palms of our hands and social media serve as an expression of the passion for connection, community and knowing others and being known by others.

This research is a theoretical and missiological reflection on the role and importance of social media such as Facebook in migrant communities. It investigated issues such as:

contextualisation and inculturation in a Google culture;

the foundational role of relationships in a network society and migrant culture;

the ability of social media to facilitate connection to the multiple cultural and religious belongings of migrants;

the role of social media to help migrants to find meaning through shared, self generated experiences;

the role of social media in facilitating hospitality to the stranger.


Migration; Mobile communication; Social media; Google culture; Network society; Contextualisation; Inculturation; Theology of dialogue

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7832/41-1-19


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