Actor George Clooney observed a number of years ago in an interview that his fans at red carpet events focused more on getting pictures with their phones than merely enjoying the experience of being up close to one of their favorite actors. He talked about his childhood when he was enthralled by the experience of being in the presence of famous people due to his father’s job as a well-known local celebrity. He lamented the loss of focus on the actual experience as opposed to getting a picture or video of it.
With the dominance of social media in our lives, it seems our focus has shifted dramatically from merely appreciating and enjoying an experience to making sure we capture it on our phones, and not just to capture memories, but to be able to post on our various platforms what we’re doing. And, sadly, often we don’t even focus on our surroundings but rather on US being in the surroundings. It is so common now for people to take selfies in famous places (e.g., the Lincoln Memorial, Grand Canyon, etc.) or just a beautiful spot in nature with their faces mainly filling the frame.
This all brings to mind a question: How does this trend affect our ability to focus our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2) and all that he has created (Colossians 1:15-17)? To focus on something means we zero in on it and minimize distractions in doing so. Yet, that seems to be so difficult to do in our social media age, even if we want to do that.
My wife and I are about to embark on a trip where lots of pictures will be warranted just for the uniqueness of where we are going, the beauty of it, and the memories we will make. In other words, the trip is ripe for posting a lot of pictures on our social media while we are there. Yet, I have begun to doubt the wisdom of that. My fear is our focus will be turned toward taking pictures to post rather than just enjoying the various moments in beautiful and unique spaces. The last time I took a trip like this, I was diligent in texting a picture each day of my cappuccino to my staff. It was fun and I thought it quite funny, but now I think it took a bit away from just enjoying my drink and surroundings because my focus was to first get that shot and send the picture.
As a result, I’ve made the decision (I can’t speak for my wife) that I will not post any pictures until we return and likely not many then. I want my sole focus to be on the beauty I encounter, rest and refreshment, and on the Lord who is the source of all of it. I don’t want to get in the way of that. I don’t want ideas of what will look good in a post to distract me from truly appreciating what is right in front of me, or allow the desire to show my social media friends what I am doing to be a distraction and an impediment to my full enjoyment of each moment.
I see this as implementing spiritual discipline in my life. I do not believe it is healthy for any follower of Jesus to become self-absorbed, but, by its innate nature, social media encourages that very thing. Recently, I have had a heightened awareness of just how much this has crept into my own life. I want to say “No” to the desire to make known to people all that I am doing, or what I am accomplishing. Rather, I want it known what the Lord is doing and what he is accomplishing.
Often, that is a very difficult line to walk, but walk it I must. Given my ministry amidst college students, unplugging from all social media is not a viable option, so I have to figure it out with the help of the Lord. This means I will not be posting anything for the next several weeks, including on this blog. Rather, I will be seeking to focus on the Lord, his creation, and what he wants to teach me. The more I am out of the picture, the more I will be able to focus on him and the experiences he is allowing me to have. In doing so, I hope to become more enlightened in how to make use of a tool that invites self-worship and use it to encourage a shift from ourselves to the One through whom all things are created and in whom all things are held together—Jesus Christ, our Lord.
© Jim Musser 2019