The Gospel according to Social Media Pt. 1

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This past September, The Onion, my favorite satirical news source reported some very startling news. But I wonder if, on this occasion, their report was actually true.

They reported that the “Number of Users Who Actually Enjoy Facebook Down to 4.”

The report continues…

“A comprehensive and groundbreaking new report released Monday by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project has found that only four users of Facebook derive pleasure of any kind from the popular social networking website.

According to the report, the remainder of the 950 million people registered with Facebook, despite using the site on a regular basis, take no joy in doing so, and in fact feel a profound sense of hopelessness and despair immediately upon logging in.

Indeed, the Pew report found that 99 percent of Facebook members could not recall having enjoyed any of the social network’s features at any time since 2009. Of that subset, 74 percent said they had asked themselves “How has my life come to this?” while checking the website multiple times per day, 67 percent said they were “inevitably plunged into an alternating cycle of vanity and self-disgust” when reviewing tagged pictures of themselves, and 52 percent said they had questioned the whole point of life itself after spending half an hour on the site only to realize the most interesting thing they had seen the entire time was a photo of what someone had for dinner.”

This is a humorous, but perhaps honest glimpse into our conflicted relationship with social media. Social media is something that we are compulsive about but ultimately brings us very little joy. Nevertheless, we spend an enormous amount of time online, some spend their entire lives this way, constantly creating and curating their identities via a keyboard.

— 750 million photos are uploaded each weekend on Facebook.
— 1 of every 13 people on earth are users that log on every day.
— Among 20 & 30-somethings, nearly half check facebook minutes after waking up and 28% do so before they even get out of bed.

An identity revolution is taking place, the likes of which humanity has never seen. We’ve always been able to project our identities and put up facades but rarely have we ever been able to do so in such a public and non-stop manner.

Online we see the projection of identity, the maintenance of identity, and even the fragmentation of identity.

Identity being the sum of the things you associate with yourself often times in order to justify your existence.

These can be positive things: where you grew up, where you went to school, what you studied, where you work, or who you date.

They can also be negative things: you come from a broken home, you’ve been victimized in some way, or you’ve lost someone very close to you.

But today we associate more with our facebook profiles, our twitter feeds, and our instagram streams. Social media now mediates our experience in the world.

This projection of identity and self justification is both a matter of distinction and in-distinction. We want to stand out so that we can stand in. We want to individuate and differentiate but we do so that we might be seen, accepted and loved by a community.

But often times the identities that we work so hard to create and curate online are not accurate. That is, they do no represent who we are. Ever so slowly we buy into the lie that we are the people we think we are.

We think we are our political views.
We think we are our values.

But the identities we project online are nothing more than idealized projections of ourselves. It’s the books you want people to know you’ve read and not the ones you actually have. It’s the photographs that put you in just the right light.

LET THIS SINK IN…

Your status updates are who you want people to think you are.
Your web browser history is who you actually are.

While you are trying to figure out how to say something profound, beautiful, or witty in 140 characters or less, you have another window pulled up in which you are googling your ex-boyfriend. In another window, you’re looking up a word that you want to use but don’t know how to spell, and in another window you’re searching Web MD for the disease you think you might have.

Your status updates are who you want people to think you are.
Your web browser history is who you actually are.

This gap that exists between who you think you should be and who you actually are represents your need for a savior.

We compulsively, tirelessly, and falsely construct identities of ourselves so that someone might affirm the idealized identity we have created.

Perhaps we need to hear these words from Paul.

Galatians 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This is a deconstruction of identity if there ever was one.

Ethnic and religious boundaries fall away.
Occupational and academic boundaries fall away.
Socio-economic and even biological boundaries fall away.

All of these things become subordinated to the identity we have in Christ.

As we continually seek to justify our own existence, perhaps we need, above all else, to hear that beautiful word that the only thing that justifies us is the grace that comes through faith in Christ.

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