Social media is part of everyday life for many people, but its impact can be as negative as positive. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok are but a few of the applications that people of all ages can access at a moment’s notice, but their usage can come with some uncertainty.
That will be the focus of a talk at St. Thomas More Oratory by one of the biggest social-media influencers in the Catholic sphere. Amber Rose Schneider, also known as the Religious Hippie, will be in Newark on Nov. 10 to address “Anxiety and the Rise of Social Media.” Her presentation is sponsored by the campus ministry office at the University of Delaware as part of its Catholic Conversations series. It is free and open to the public.
Schneider, 23, is an online student at Liberty University in Virginia, but she lives in the Chicago area. She has grown her profile online over the past few years telling her story about growing up Catholic, falling away from the faith, then rediscovering it a few years ago. She blogs under the moniker “Religious Hippie,” but is more active on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, and she hosts a biweekly podcast.
“We can use it to spread Christ to thousands and thousands of people throughout the world,” she said in a telephone interview.
There are negatives, however. Schneider will tell her own story about getting into social media at a young age and how that impacted her mental and physical health. She said her talk will be useful for people of all ages.
“I know a lot of my stuff pertains to high school and college students, but I get a lot of parents who contact me about their kids,” she said.
Schneider was a cradle Catholic who drifted away from the faith for eight years. Inspired by St. John Paul II, a few years ago she came back to the church, but, she said, she had forgotten everything she had learned. She went online to find other young adults who could talk about their experiences, but she mainly found resources produced by older men. She appreciated what they offered, but they didn’t really speak to her. Schneider wanted to know what other young people thought. She couldn’t find too much. The Religious Hippie was born.
“I became that for other people,” she said.
Since then, she has amassed followers, now well over 100,000 across all of her platforms. She has nearly 25,000 subscribers on YouTube, and 53,000 follow her on Instagram. She gets feedback on a regular basis about people who have returned to Catholicism at least in part because of her ministry, which Schneider sees as a vocation.
Despite the success and the way she feels when she hears from someone who has benefited from her work, Schneider said she felt lonely when she first started. She is still finding Catholic friends.
“I felt very alone,” she said. “I didn’t want to let anybody down. Obviously, it was all through God’s grace.”
“It’s definitely been a roller coaster of a ride. When I first came back to my faith, I was on fire. It was such a wonderful time.”
Schneider said she went through “a dark time” when even praying felt like a lot of work, “even though we don’t really need anything to pray.” She found a spiritual director who has been a great help.
Through Liberty University’s online program, she is studying graphic design, which she said will play a role in her ministry. She wants to keep the evangelization going as a full-time vocation.
“It’s clear that he wanted me to make this into a ministry,” she said.