We live in a technological age. There are always new technologies emerging; new ways to connect with the world and with people. The latest apps and smartphones. These things promise us the next big thing but do they actually deliver? Or is the next big thing just another thing to drive our endless endeavor to keep up with the Joneses?
French historian and philosopher Rene Girard is the progenitor of a system of thought called Mimetic Theory that analyzes the nature of human desire. This theory is based on observable behaviors within people groups and concludes that we inherently desire that which others desire. In other words, we mimic the desires of others. When we see that someone else wants something our natural instinct is to want that thing as well.
This is essentially how all major advertising works. Take reality TV as an example: 8 or 9 years ago were you really hoping that MTV would create a show about the shenanigans of a spray tanned bunch of party animals at the Jersey Shore? Were you just hoping that someone else’s mantra was “Gym, Tan, Laundry” besides your own?
Probably not, but you likely watched the show (you can admit it, we won’t judge you). What made this show popular? It started with constant advertising which convinced people that this was something they wanted to watch, then people tuned in and told their friends who in turn also tuned in. Some may have blown it off as a goof or nonsense but then they heard the radio DJ talking about it, and then their friends at work. Before they knew it they couldn't wait for the next episode. They had given into the pressure of their desire for acceptance.
Let’s shift this thought to social media. Who doesn’t have Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and whatever new platforms have come out while I’m writing this? We all do! For all intents and purposes these are great tools to help us connect with people across the globe in a matter of seconds. There are some drawbacks as well. If we allow it, our social media feeds can do great damage to our sense of purpose as well as our self worth.
We tend to forget that what we see on social media is just a snippet of someone’s life, a “highlight reel” if you will. People aren’t quick to post pictures of past due bills or fights with a spouse (although some do only that). When we just went through a breakup and we see Joe and Sally looking so in love we become envious and begin to fantasize about what life could be like if only we had what they appear to have. What we don’t know is that Joe and Sally are on the verge of a breakup themselves and post pictures of themselves looking happy as a way to convince themselves that everything is okay. We see the girl who posts selfies of herself all the time and we assume that she must be so confident in herself when really she’s just hoping someone will post a compliment and boost her low self-esteem.
Social media is only a fraction of reality. If we aren’t careful we can start to gauge our success, our status, and even our relationships by comparing ourselves to others without knowing the whole story. If Rene Girard’s theory is correct—which I think we can agree that he’s onto something—we may always have this inherent desire for that which belongs to someone else. Technology isn’t slowing down either so there will always be Joneses with whom we need to keep up. We must remember that these things do not define our value as a person.
I’d like to offer a profound solution, but I don’t have one. This is an area in my life that I try to be very conscious about, even temporarily limiting my engagement on social media for periods of time. However, here’s what I can offer: when we are lost in our news feeds we are disconnected from our present reality and investing in something, without substance, and we will not see a return. When we are present in the moment, we are making an investment in our own here and an investment into our families and loved ones. We are building our own highlight reels and desires that nobody can mimic because they’re personal and meaningful to us. I’d like to suggest that if we learn how to be here in our present moment we will find our value not based on someone else’s perceived reality, but in our own unique desires, experiences, and relationships.
Anthony currently serves as a co-host on The Alliance Podcast at boldcupofcoffee.com and founding pastor at Thrive Church as well as a public speaker and author.
Anthony had a 15 year love affair with heroin addiction and spent time in prison. An encounter with God, one night, radically changed his life. Since that evening Anthony has had a desire and passion to serve the LORD and spread the message of the goodness of God wherever he goes. Using Biblical insight, his experience, and street knowledge, his heart to reach people in all areas of society. Anthony’s desire is to see those in bondage set free from anything that holds them back from all that God has for them and to build people up into the fullness of that purpose, while manifesting the Kingdom of God in their everyday lives.
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