Why do we feel the urge to be connected with everyone, everywhere, at all times? I think it’s because we have a “little g” god complex.
When the serpent tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden, his main pitch was, “You can be like God”. When you think about it, that’s about the only thing he could successfully tempt them with.
God had already given Adam and Eve everything they could ever possibly need. They walked in perfect fellowship with Him, they had dominion over all the garden, they could eat their fill of any of the trees except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and God had blessed them to be fruitful and multiply. They had it made!
And yet it wasn’t enough. They wanted more. They wanted to be like God. Having access to God and being stewards of God’s creation wasn’t enough.
So they listened to the serpent and defied God’s command not to eat of the forbidden fruit. They challenged God’s throne, and we human beings have been doing so ever since. We’ve inherited this sinful nature from our federal head, Adam, which has instilled in us a propensity to try to take God’s place.
And social media is one tool that can really feed into our god complex. Just think about it.
Omniscient and Omnipresent?
On social media, we can live with the illusion that we are omniscient and omnipresent. It used to be that we were limited to the people we could know and the events we could hear about by time and space.
But now, with the advent of the internet, cell phone technology, and social media, we are in some sense able to be “everywhere at once”.
We now feel an obligation to maintain relationships with people who live thousands of miles away but whom we barely know. We become “Facebook friends” with a guy we met one time at a conference and we become addicted with following each other’s lives.
As recently as a couple of decades ago, if you moved across the country or the world to be a missionary or plant a church, there were many relationships you would most likely lose forever, at least on this side of eternity. That was a serious sacrifice that had to be faced.
But now, we have the ability to maintain relationships from a distance through social media. In some ways, this is fantastic. It enables us to stay connected to loved ones even while we are far away, and for that we should be thankful!
Social media and cell phone technology is not all bad. There’s much good that can come from it. But I think the negative ramifications are much more far reaching than we realize.
An Inch Deep And A Mile Wide
First of all, we’ve been conditioned to think that we need to maintain relationships with far more people than we’re actually able to. We have hundreds of “friends” all over the country, but the reality is that it is virtually impossible to actually maintain any semblance of a meaningful relationship with that many people.
To borrow the old adage, our relationships span a mile wide but go an inch deep.
This results in the relationships that we actually do have becoming much more shallow. We spend so much time meeting the obligation to keep up with people who don’t live near us on social media that we neglect opportunities to build real face to face relationship with people on our street or in our own churches. While the number of connections may be greater, our relationships are more shallow.
Secondly, we’re taking in so much information all the time that it hurts our ability to focus. In our god-complex desire to be omniscient, we are afflicted with the deadly disease of FOMO – “Fear Of Missing Out”.
But God created us with limitations. We are confined within space and time. We were not meant to know everything, everywhere, right now. We are not, nor can we ever be, omniscient.
But in this new world of seemingly unlimited connectivity, we’ve given ourselves the illusion that we can and should know everything that is happening around the world. We even feel like we need to know everything that is happening, lest we be caught unawares.
Is it any wonder that anxiety levels have never been higher in our society? Could it be that this is because we are trying to shoulder a God-sized load we were never meant to bear? I’ll let you answer that question.
Consider Carefully What God Would Have You Do
There are many more reasons I could give for why I think social media feeds our god-complex. I personally have made the decision to disconnect because God has put my in a specific place at a specific time in history to steward the people and resources that are right before me.
I’m not responsible for changing the mind of a pastor drifting into heresy in Michigan or for correcting the political views of my distant cousin who lives in New Mexico. I’m responsible for the real, live human beings right in from of my in Washington, D.C. where I currently reside.
I’m not sharing all of this to bind your conscience. As I said earlier, there are some good things that can be done through social media. Social media is not inherently evil. After all, social media is a technology, not a moral agent.
But it is a dangerous technology that is specifically designed to be addictive and to feed the lusts of the flush – the lust to be like god. It’s designed to feed the desire to be “liked”, to feed the desire to know everything about everyone, and to feed the desire to feel like you are important and that you deserve a voice on the world stage.
So examine your motives on social media. I’ll close with an exhortation from Ephesians 5:15-17:
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Jared Huntley is a church planter and the teaching pastor at Pillar Church of Washington, D.C.
Check out this week’s podcast from In The Trenches as Jared and Logan talk about how to cultivate good partnerships between supporting churches and church planters.