Monday, April 16, 2007

Bathing in a Sea of Technological Narcissism

Many people have already talked about today's topic, but I think it's worth chipping in my own two cents on the matter. The more I use the web and the various social sites it offers, the more disillusioned I become. I'm sure many of you out there have had a similar experience.

The Net used to be a tool for making friends, building odd sorts of artificial community, and researching one's interests. Today, the Net has taken a sharp turn away from community toward the self. This is especially prominent in the proliferation of sites like MySpace and Facebook, used predominantly by younger people, often without close parental supervision. Yet I'm not concerned in this particular blog about the issues of posting inappropriate photos and comments. I'm concerned with the sea of narcissism created by such sites, a sea in which countless young people bathe. It's a disgusting thing, really, when you consider it. Scores and scores of young adults showcasing themselves for all the world to see. Any sense of humility, modesty, and privacy is trampled by the self's lust for attention, and, if gilded fate would have it, fame. It's all very disheartening to see.

One of the most discouraging trends to me is the constant "profile updating" that goes on at sites like Facebook. I use Facebook, admittedly, but for the purpose of connecting with old friends. I thus have little occasion to "update my profile" and tell the world what I'm thinking, liking, crying over, and doing at any given moment. In addition, I have little need to change my profile picture on a daily or weekly basis, an action that seems based entirely on a desire to be seen and commented upon. It strikes me that Christians have yet to develop and apply a social networking ethic that might apply to such situations. There is a need to do so. Activities like Facebook updating--how hilarious that this could even be called an activity, but indeed it can--quickly leave a neutral state when one is constantly updating one's profile, constantly taking newer shots in more avant garde poses, constantly telling us what one had for supper. All of these activities done repeatedly and for the public constitute a serious form of narcissism that should necessitate repentance and spiritual action. We should not brush this off, but bring the gospel to bear on our Internet usage.

If you or fellow brothers and sisters fall into this category, repent before God and challenge yourself and them to change their Internet habits. Encourage one another not to be narcissistic and desperate for local celebrity as so much of the world is. We all have silly, fun, mindless, and even meaningful moments in life--but it's better for one's character to keep most of these to ourselves. Step out of the narcissistic sea and rediscover true community, true meaning, and others-first living. Live your life, and let Youtube and Facebook and all the others broadcast someone else's false celebrity to the world.


Anonymous Jed said...

I love You Tube. My favourite videos are Mohican Master 2000, Mountain Jumper by Rushad of Crooked Still, and the Philosophy Soccer match between German and Greek philosophers courtesy of Monty Python. I agree with owen that the 'net can contribute to antisocial behaviour, but I would perhaps question the health individuals who rely heavily on 'virtual communities' in the first place. As far as facebook goes, I think people can get a little carried away, but I'm having trouble seeing much narcissism in telling your friends that you are sleeping, eating, studying the Peripatos, or resting.

7:14 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

I love Mountain Jumper--the version at the Borderline in London is the best.

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that there is quite a bit of narcissism in thinking that people should care if I am "sleeping, eating, studying the Peripatos, or resting." When you update things like that, you assume that people want to know. I think that it is important to do those things which are meaningful; I fail often. However, I should not keep on doing it so that grace may abound, and I should do all things for the glory of God. By the way, how much time do we waste reading the vain ramblings of someone without reflecting on these things with a biblical worldview?

10:26 AM  
Blogger Me said...

I thank you for posting this. I too feel that Facebook and even blogging has resulted in more and more people focusing on themselves. But one thing I would add to that is social networking has in a lot of ways encouraged social laziness. I have friends who don't try as hard to meet in person or call now that they can just email or update their Facebook page. I wonder how young people who've grown up using things like Facebook and Twitter will turn out. What kind of social skills will they have? If you put them before a customer or patient, will they know how to interact or will they be so used to online forms of communication that being able to have a conversation will be too difficult for them. You can learn a lot about a person by reading their Facebook page or reading their blog. But you miss out on a lot when you can't talk to them face to face.

10:48 AM  

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