Thursday, October 18, 2012

ramblings and confessions of a jesus lover wresting with social media and the way(s) we idolize

Talent is God given. Be humble. 
Fame is man-given. Be grateful. 
Conceit is self-given. Be careful. 
-John Wooden

Internet marketing & social media, they are the way of the world. Ten years ago Facebook hadn't yet been launched and 'tweet' was a sound that birds made outside of our windows.  Today Facebook has over one billion active users and Twitter is one of the ten most visited websites on the Internet. Multitudes care a lot about it and pay attention to who is following and who is being followed.

I understand sharing our visions, dreams, day to day lives, and stories of those that need and deserve justice. I do. I love connecting to new like-minded friends via social media.  Even so, I question: Where does God fit in to our habits? How much of my trust is placed in His ability to provide for our family and for the work of Heartline and how much of my trust is placed in my ability to promote it. I bristle a bit as I force myself to honestly examine what part of this might be self-promotion. Was I more trusting in His provision before the dawn of social networking? Before all of this became a part of our every day communication, was I more at peace? Can I see and distinguish the line between healthy and unhealthy promotion? Is there one?

This dialogue isn't meant to put anyone on the defensive. Hear this first: It's not about judging anyone but myself. That's what I'm doing here. I don't want to fall into the trap of self importance and loving the idol of self or the idol of social media. Does social media create false gods and false celebrity and are we, as Christians, considering who we want to make famous? Should any one of us be concerned with our "Klout" score. Doesn't that idea smack of something really icky?

In an email exchange with a friend I recently shared some of things that have been bothering me.

A portion of the email:

I so dislike when people treat other more visible Christians like famous people.  I am uncomfortable when people do that to Troy and I and I don't ever want to get sucked into thinking that we are a big deal because someone says we are -- I don't know how to explain it well but I don't love the human and sinful pull of wanting man's approval and when man gives so much approval I feel so squirmy and unsure of how to stay in the right place in my head and heart. I don't want to become confused by man's approval.  So, when I watch social media and I see the way people idolize missionaries and/or big time Christian writers, speakers, bloggers and such it makes me very uncomfortable and I admit I get mad at how we Christians have imported our own little Hollywood and we play these games of "who's who" in the Christian circles. One time I heard Francis Chan say that it totally messes him up to have so many people telling him how great he is. Obviously Francis Chan hears this a dozen times a day but even on a tiny scale I think this is used by the devil to make us put our eyes on ourselves and not our Jesus.

From time to time someone will gush about this blog or elevate us to hero status based on something they made up about us. Usually those perceptions are formed from nothing more than social media interaction or seeing Troy's thousands of robot Twitter followers or something equally fake and unimportant.

Social media has a place and a purpose. I know this. I want to keep the baby from flying across the room as I throw out this bathwater.

I am cognizant that it must be used with caution. For myself, I'd like it to be about bringing honor to the One that gifted us in the first place. I'd like my words to reflect His love and my respect for the Haitian people and I'd like to keep myself in check. I recognize how much I need to look to Jesus and His example and avoid the easy trap of elevating one another and/or ourselves.

It seems to me like Christian culture just mimics regular culture but re-labels it and calls it holy and acceptable. I expect there is already a  repackaged 'Klout for Jesus' scoring system in development with which to legitimize our narcissism as unto the Lord.

We're all excited about various Christian figures that we admire or respect. In and of itself it's not all bad  -- but we're taking it to new levels. Thanking or recognizing someone for the way God has used them to speak to our hearts and souls is one thing, swooning over someone and deciding they are better, more important, deserving of fame and even glory is quite another. We're labeling people as "A list" Christians and "most influential" and we're categorizing people according to their on-line influence. That makes me uncomfortable. While we are building up the influential, we are trampling on the faceless faithful that daily go about their life and work without pining for recognition. Worse than that though, I feel like we're getting tripped up and sucked in and often times forgetting that Jesus is supposed to be the Famous One. 

photo credit: dks systems