Movie producer David Cronenberg gave an interview one time where he talked about the messed-up world of Hollywood and explained why so many celebrities are out-of-touch with reality. He said,
If you’re always being observed, and your presence changes everyone’s behavior, you lose that wonderful ability to observe things in their natural state. That’s why huge stars, surrounded by sycophants and hangers-on, end up with a distorted worldview. They never see what’s real anymore.
I suppose when you think of it that way, celebrity is a hazardous state to live in. I mean, imagine how self-conscious you would feel if people always stared at you in public; how overinflated your ego would be if people always liked the stories you told, even when they weren’t that good; how confusing it would be to have so many people attracted to your carefully-constructed image, but not necessarily attracted to you.
Most of us don’t have to imagine what that’s like anymore, because we’re on Facebook.
We’re All Celebrities Now
When we first signed up for Facebook, it was innocent enough. We thought it might be nice to catch up with our old high school classmates; we wanted an easy way to see photos of our extended families. But then we figured out how the “like” button worked, and it was all downhill from there.
Naturally, we wanted to be “liked,” so we unconsciously began adjusting our behavior to highlight the parts of us that would draw the most positive attention from others. Soon we discovered that seeing that little red notification alert was better than Christmas. When we unwrapped it, it was exactly what we wanted (affirmation, usually), and even better than that, notifications came with much greater frequency than Christmas.
Finally — finally — all of us common folk got a taste of what it felt like to be a celebrity. All we had to do was log onto a website, do a little click-click-click, and we could be observed by hundreds of people at any given moment. We who had once been insignificant could carelessly draft a status update or Instagram a photo, and we would hear the applause of all our “friends,” people who liked what we projected, but knew very little about the real us.
We became wired for celebrity in a way that was impossible 10 years ago. And bit by bit, we became less capable of seeing what was real.
Jesus Likes Me, This I Know
A few months ago, my participation in the faux-celebrity culture of Facebook was bothering me a lot. I was concerned about my growing addiction to the instant feedback and affirmation offered by Facebook (and the Internet in general). So I talked to a group of thoughtful Christian friends about it.
Rather than immediately giving me advice, my friends stopped for a moment and prayed silently that God would speak to their hearts before they said anything. And after they finished praying, Diana, a soft-spoken, middle-aged lady looked up and said, “I have something to say to you.”
She began by quoting Galatians 2:20, which seemed odd at first.
“‘I have been crucified with Christ,'” she said. “‘And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.'”
After quoting the verse, she said, “Joshua, the Christ in me likes and loves you — and I’m hardly ever on Facebook. That is Him in me liking you.”
I was taken aback by her simple, child-like response.
“Diana, you are precious,” I said.
“You are precious,” she said, “and I think God wants you to know that.”
Diana’s words pierced my heart that night and helped me see what was really going on with me and the false reality of Facebook. Yes, in the shallowest part of my soul, I wanted a little taste of celebrity. But in the very deepest part of me, I really needed to know that Jesus still liked me.
He was willing. He was there. He was waiting to speak — in the silence, in real community, in vulnerability — without one click.