We’re All Entertainers In a Social Media World
The wires of the oven rack screeched out a song, while a wave of heat engulfed my face. My bright blue silicone oven mitts carefully pulled the cast iron pan out of its cocoon and onto the cooled stovetop above. A crusty loaf of golden sourdough bread sat still as I leaned forward to smell the delicious aroma. As I stared at the curling edges and the deep golden hue I felt a weight of urgency come over me. I started to search for my phone before stopping for a moment.
Wait–I didn’t have to show anyone. The realization instantly relaxed my body, yet left my head a little confused. I really didn’t have to snap a picture and get out my apps, and add it to my stories? I could just–move on?
This might sound ridiculous. Maybe you’ll shrug me off as another social-media obsessed millennial. I probably would have too–yet here I was. Even though I’ve been a little weirded out by the constant documentation on social media –its influence still shaped my way of thinking in ways I didn’t realize until I finally removed myself from it.
Chris Martin talks about these subtle influences of social media in his new book, The Wolf in Their Pockets: 13 Way the Social Internet Threatens the People You Lead. I signed up to be on Chris’s launch team, not realizing the book was targeted towards church leaders. Once I got notified I was included, I’ll be honest I was disappointed and figured I probably wouldn’t benefit much. This was not the case, however, and the book held a lot of great insights over social media, as well as helpful ideas (for any church member) on how to encourage others towards truth.
Chris does this by methodically going through thirteen different topics: Entertainment, purpose, friendships, priorities, discernment, humility, peaceful living, cynicism, authority, sex, anxiety, conspiracy theories, and worship. Each chapter follows the same formula. First he defines the problem, then he notes what the Bible says about it, then he goes into how social media fuels the problem, and finally he ends with how we can counteract this in our churches. This kind of formula may grow tiring or a little boring for some, but overall I thought it made the book an easier read, as you know what to expect in each chapter, and can skim if needed.
While some of the thirteen issues were less convicting for me, there were some that really stood out in my mind, and made me think not only about my media consumption, but also the content I put out as a writer on social media.(Incidentally, shortly after reading, I did decide to pull away from Instagram and Facebook, not solely because of this book, but because I felt it was the best decision for me in my current season.)
One chapter that hooked me, was actually the very first one on entertainment. Chris does an excellent job at showing how our culture has shifted to crave entertainment at every moment. A society that used to have to drive to a local theater sporadically to find some laughs has morphed into one that can at any second pull the phone from their pocket and instantly be entertained.
He goes on to say that social media itself has transformed us not only into a 24/7 audience, but what’s more, “we’re all entertainers now.” Everybody is a performer.
The afternoon I felt the urgency to display my bread to a watching world proved that this way of thinking had engulfed my own mind. I think it’s easy to see how this kind of perspective can also wreak havoc in the church. Though mankind has always struggled with the sin of approval-seeking (Gal. 1:10), social media heightens this reality even more, as we begin to see our entire lives in an entertainment/performance mindset. Yet our small group isn’t a performance. Our church gatherings are not entertainment we consume only to share with another on our feeds. As Martin notes, church and all of its sacraments are something we don’t consume, “but something we complete.”
Of course there is nothing wrong with posting pictures of our loaves of bread (food Instagram remains one of my favorite things!)- yet we should investigate the subtle perspectives these repeated actions form in our minds, and how they might be bearing bad fruit in our lives.
Several other chapters stood out to me, especially the ones on purpose, discernment, cynicism, and conspiracy theories. While some of the applications didn’t apply to me–as I clearly don’t pastor a church–some of the other calls to action made me think about how I could redirect a conversation with a friend or my own children as they grow.
As much as the revelations about Facebook from the last few years have caused a stir, I don’t think the social internet is going anywhere. In many ways these communities have been an opportunity for good and the gospel to go forth. We need not necessarily leave them all behind, yet we also can’t deny the very real dangers. We would do well to pause and look at some of the ways it might be influencing both our own minds, and the minds of those we love and disciple. Chris is one writer who helps us do just that.
**Chris has also written a previous book solely on the effects of social media, called Terms of Service. Other notable books I know of on the subject are Social Sanity in an Insta World edited by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, or Tony Reinke’s books on technology in general. I actually haven’t read any of those books, so I can’t comment on how they stack up or compare!**
Also, below you can enter in and win a free copy of the book (I’ve got an extra!).
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