Narcissus liked Narcissus. Seeing his reflection in a pool of water, Narcissus couldn’t look away from his personal magnificence. Narcissus additionally liked media. He liked that this reflective pool of water mediated and allowed him to gaze upon his personal picture.
Have been he to dwell immediately, Narcissus would’ve discovered a deluge of instruments for self-admiration: telephones with a digital camera on each side and gigabytes of selfie storage; Fb, Twitter, and Instagram with thumbs-up or heart-shaped buttons to show likability to others. LinkedIn would enable Narcissus to show his splendid accomplishments like a digital trophy case. YouTube may even let him be the star of his personal tv channel.
Narcissus could be happy to seek out that almost everybody immediately has assumed his posture. He would really feel proper at residence in a world the place folks spend a lot of their day with heads down, backs bent, and eyes gazing at a glowing display screen.
We’re all Narcissus now—which after all is an issue Christians referred to as to humility.
Media and Self-Amputation
Digital media, like a reflective pool, permits us to gaze upon an extension of ourselves. Our bodily profiles are mirrored via digital profiles; our faces may be considered from afar via Fb; our voices and our bodies lengthen throughout time and area via dwell video feeds.
Media theorist Marshall McLuhan acknowledged how media is an extension of ourselves. In Understanding Media: The Extension of Man, McLuhan wrote that people are liable to changing into “fascinated by any extension of themselves in any material other than themselves.” A medium comparable to a mirrory pond just isn’t altogether completely different from fashionable types of mass media; swimming pools of water, polaroid photos, and Fb profiles are all “an extension or self-amputation of our physical bodies.”
This “self-amputation,” because the violent picture suggests, comes at a value. As digital media extends our bodily our bodies, we are able to turn out to be each fragmented and numb. And this fragmentation takes many shapes: being bodily current in a single area however specializing in a distant Twitter dialog; seeing a picture-perfect sundown and compulsively grabbing your telephone like a well-trained Pavlovian canine; listening to a notification ping and experiencing an involuntary dopamine rush.
Relatively than opening up the world, digital know-how can regularly shut off our senses. The aromatic scent of flowers in bloom are as a substitute seen as potential Instagram posts. A melodious birdsong is deafened by earbuds blasting a Spotify playlist. The style of meals is overpowered by the impulse to Snapchat the second.
Whom Is Our Media Extending?
McLuhan, a Roman Catholic, additionally warned of the religious penalties of media. He noticed a connection between fashionable know-how and Psalm 115: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. . . . Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them” (Ps. 115:4, 8). In line with McLuhan, “the psalmist insists that the beholding of idols, or the use of technology, conforms men to them.” We turn out to be what we behold.
Obsessively gazing at our personal images, posting reward for ourselves, and constructing a platform for private elevation are all types of self-idolatry. Utilizing digital media primarily to increase ourselves stifles its usefulness. And but it doesn’t need to be this manner. Profiles and platforms can be utilized to increase others, too.
Profiles and platforms can be utilized to increase others.
At its greatest, social media extends others as a lot or greater than it extends the self. I can assume of some individuals who stand out as successfully utilizing social media this manner. Trevin Wax is fast to reward others and beneficiant with sharing accomplishments not his personal. John Nunes, president of Concordia Faculty in Bronxville, New York, makes use of his platform to raise others moderately than merely elevating himself. Jon Acuff makes use of his platform as a New York Occasions–bestselling writer to advertise others, routinely providing reward moderately than boasting solely of his personal accomplishments.
At its worst, social media is a fastidiously crafted spotlight reel of non-public awesomeness. I may also consider no less than one one who stewards this software moderately poorly: me. I’m inclined to make use of my social-media channels to brag, boast, and bombard others with extra of me. I worry that elevating others on social media will come at a private price—so I curate what I publish and contemplate the way it will form the way in which folks understand me. Sorting all this out is why I write on the subject; I discover digital media not as one who has figured it out, however as one who desperately desires to determine how these applied sciences could be used nicely.
Extending the Gospel
Digital media may be greater than an extension of ourselves. It could possibly even be greater than an extension of others. Digital media can—and may—lengthen the gospel of Christ. Whereas Psalm 115 warns of idolatry, it additionally gives a constructive different: “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name be the glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” (Ps. 115:1).
Relating to digital media, right here’s a key query: How may this assist the gospel to advance on the planet? No, this doesn’t imply each snap, publish, and tweet have to be a Bible verse. But it does imply we contemplate commonly and intentionally how our media utilization may trigger Christ to extend and ourselves to lower (John 3:30).
Close to the top of his life, the apostle Paul instructed Timothy: “If you come, deliver the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, additionally the books, and above all of the parchments” (2 Tim. 4:13). Paul used media. Paul wished media. Paul might have even liked media. And but his eager for media wasn’t predicated on narcissism. Paul wished media—books and parchments—in order that he might lengthen the excellent news of Jesus Christ.
Alternatives for narcissism abound as we stock custom-designed reflective swimming pools in our pockets and baggage. As a substitute of chucking these units into the water, although, a easy shift in mindset may do the trick: from reflecting ourselves to reflecting our wonderful Creator to the world.