One of the books I’m currently reading is God, Freedom, and Human Dignity, by Ron Highfield,* who was kind enough to have InterVarsity Press send me a free copy of the book. I have promised to write a review of the book which I will do when I finish reading but I want to share what I believe is a very astute observation about human culture in the age of social-media.
The fourth chapter of the book discusses ways in which humans can live indifferent to God. One of those ways is when we come to view ourselves as celebrities, which turns our focus inward. As the author notes, “Fame demands to be admired for its own sake” (p. 70). Consequently, when we see ourselves as a celebrity of some sort, we begin seeking admiration for ourselves.
I believe most people, including myself, struggle with the desire for a certain amount of fame. Besides the desire to be liked by others and appreciated by others, we want recognition for our accomplishments — especially from our vocational peers. And while a certain amount of praise and admiration is necessary to our emotional health, we seem to live in an age that some might say has become very narcissistic.
Although the author never uses the term narcissism, he does speak about this celebrity problem saying:
The culture of celebrity so pervades our lives and the means of placing our words and images in front of the world are so available that we are tempted to aspire to something like celebrity status for ourselves. We rent space in the virtual world where we can display our pictures, our curriculum, vitae and our contact information. We report to our “friends” what we had for breakfast this morning or what we are thinking this moment. We tell the world about our family vacations and even post our home movies. …we are seduced by the celebrity view of existence; that is we do not feel that we exist unless someone is viewing our image, reading our words and thinking about us. Our value is measured by the number of people who know our names, and who we are depends on what people think about us (p. 73).
Of course, measuring our intrinsic value by what other people think of us creates a world of problems. We begin to view the world as revolving around us, where we become the god of our world, and… Well, were right back to the original sin and we know the fall out of that.
This raises questions for all of us who love blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc… When is it too much? How do we use social-media for its incredible merits without developing and practicing a “celebrity view of existence”?
* Ron Highfield serves as the Blanche E. Seaver Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University.