Social media/technology can be a tremendous blessing and a wonderful tool, but if social media has taught us anything, it’s that people desperately desire to be noticed by others. Nobody wants to be ignored! And in our day, many will go to extreme lengths to be noticed. I can tell you that narcissism is killing us. Why? Because every year there are more selfie-related deaths than shark attacks! Why on earth do people go to these dangerous efforts for a snap on socials? Underneath the façade, though, are the longing hearts that are crying out to the world “please notice that I exist”. We can conclude that behind all of the craziness, it’s really all about people who just want to be noticed by others.
How you go about getting noticed doesn’t seem to matter these days, so long as you … get noticed. The unfolding tragedy of this messed up world is that being ignored is equal to not existing or having no value. Every day people feel the onus to feed the machine of self-promotion and posture their lives in ways that make content that gets noticed. When people do this, for whom are they living? Or may I say, “For whom are they performing?”? The audience, of course! The audience of some that is, and it’s for the some who may or may not actually take any notice. Comedian Mary Walsh comments, “One in three people ends up being unhappier at the end of spending some time on social media … and I am that one person of the three,” she says. “You are judging your insides by other people’s outsides – by other people’s curated outsides”. In the attempt to be noticed, it appears that people are just getting depressed!
Despite all of these well noted and documented negative outcomes, people are still more than willing slaves in the pursuit of getting noticed at all costs, and it just keeps plunging them deeper and deeper into a lonely and very depressing existence. For to orient one’s life to perform for the applause on the horizontal is an unfulfilled life, and in many ways it has become technological bondage where people slave away to appease a social media master!
It’s very interesting that right before Jesus is about to mention anxiety in the sermon on the mount (Matthew’s gospel), He talks about serving two masters. He says,
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” – Matthew 6:24 ESV
Now money is of course the context, and we all know it can be something that is extremely alluring and ruling over people. But could the same master-like influence be made in reference to Social Media also in our day? Who is the master of your universe? Is it the crowd, or is it the Christ?
Jesus, on the other hand will go on in Matthew’s gospel to be recorded as saying that His burden is light and He invites people to come to Him and find rest (Matthew 11:28-30). It’s very interesting to read the gospels and observe Jesus’ interactions with people: Zacchaeus, the woman at the well, the blind man etc. Often, it’s the insignificant people in the culture that He noticed. They were the ones society chose to ignore or even chose to despise, but those were often the ones who got Jesus’ attention and ministry. Read further in the New Testament and you will be amazed when you think about the rag tag bunch of disciples that Jesus used to start the revolution of the early Church movement. Jesus deeply notices people! So if you feel ignored by the audience of some, then be encouraged; there is a greater audience to perform for! He notices you! Jesus notices you and gives you His attention and righteous applause (Matthew 25:23), if only you would perform for the audience of One. In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus encourages His disciples three times (6:4, 6:6 and 6:18) to be focused on God in our serving, for He is the One who sees what we do in secret and will reward us.
It’s hard not to want to play for the crowd! But Scripture speaks against living our lives this way. Paul knew people would sense the pressure to compromise and please man rather than God. He wrote to the believers at Galatia addressing this:
As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” – Galatians 1:9–10
Maybe you can identify with those who wrestled with this tension after Jesus had been teaching one day in the temple. John writes,
Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” – John 12:42–43
Many folks even in Christian churches have a posture of performance that is all about the crowd, rather than the Christ. Whose approval wins out in our lives at the end of the day?
Many are scrolling social media to find approval, but some have already found approval from the One who wrote the scrolls: the Bible. Paul says,
but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts” – 1 Thessalonians 2:4
Jesus notices you so what else do you need? May you seek the approval from the audience of One and find rest for your soul.