Our culture is obsessed with crafting its own narrative through social media, what some have described a our own carefully edited realty show. How do Kyle and Daniel tell their stories on social media? How has this shaped their identities?
Daniel quotes from the chapter "Honey Boo Boo and the Weight of Glory" in Mike Cosper's book Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth. We discussed this book in our first episode and we borrowed from its title to name our season. Daniel recommends reading the whole chapter if you can, but here are some relevant quotes from it:
"One way to understand social media is as a vehicle for self-broadcasting. When we post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we’re projecting an image of ourselves to the world. Just as Keeping Up with the Kardashians is carefully planned and edited to shape the family’s image and brand, so is our social media presence. Your Facebook timeline is your version of a reality show.
Our presence on social media is a story we’re telling about who we are, and like the production of a reality TV show, it’s all about the editing. What we share and don’t share on social media is shaped by how we want the world to see us. With the click of a button, we can open and close doors of connectivity. No awkward conversations. Rare repercussions. Easily managed, easily edited lives.
Social media also provides a profound illusion; our mobile devices are designed to make us feel like the whole digital world is all about us. Our tailored choices about who we want to hear from (and who we don’t) are in place already. We open an app and feel “connected,” when in fact we haven’t connected at all; we’ve actually disconnected from the people immediately around us.
At any moment, we can escape into a private world that’s tailored to us and that is eager for our next picture, our next status update, our next link—a world complete with a built-in system of rewards for worthy content: retweets, likes, and so on. On the web, we all star in our own show. We glory in ourselves.
Reality TV follows a trajectory to the glory of the red carpet and the Neilsen ratings. The forward motion of social media involves accumulating fans, friends, and followers. They both aim at a kind of glory that scratches a deeply human itch, but in a way that is ultimately unsatisfying.
The gospel tells us that life, indeed, is heading somewhere. There’s an end to the story, and it’s an end that by God’s grace can be an experience of the greatest good and the most satisfying glorification that we’ll ever know.
Only that embrace will truly satisfy us, in that moment when sin’s stain is removed and, as Lewis puts it, “The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.”
Daniel also describes C. S. Lewis's classic essay "The Weight of Glory". It is well worth reading and can be found online here. Here is the except that Daniel fumblingly tried to quote:
"Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
Daniel mentioned talking to experienced Christian creators about the ongoing challenges of wanting to create for your own glory instead of God's. That conversation was with rapper and hip-hop label head Thomas "Odd Thomas" Terry. When Daniel asked him how he stays humble in his art, Thomas responded with:
"In all transparency, anytime you’re doing art that is indigenous to the individual and putting it on display for the world to listen to and critique, you always have to fight your pride and perception, the way people perceive you, your affirmation, you always have to…so I don’t think it’s something that you can avoid. The pride and all that stuff and trying, sometimes slipping, into finding your self-worth, and dignity, and value in the artistry is something that I think every artist has to wrestle with—I don’t know many people who have kinda conquered that.
It’s a constant day by day thing, like man, where am I at? How is this impacting me? So for the artist who's figured that out, I would like to talk with that person. But I think that there is a responsibility to constantly approach God with your art and with your talents and say, “God, search me and expose the areas of my life where new areas of pride because of artistry has popped up, or I’ve believed things that are untrue, or I've believed things that are exaggerated about myself.” You know those kind of things. I don’t think its special, I think everyone has to wrestle with those things, but art just tends to put it on display more.
You can read the whole interview here.
The Parson Red Heads, who provide our podcast's soundtrack, have released their long awaited new album, Blurred Harmony. It's getting terrific reviews, including an 8.9/10 review from Paste Magazine. The album is available on all music services.
Assumptions is written and produced by Daniel Melvill Jones and Kyle Marshall.
This episode edited by Kyle Marshall.
Our soundtrack comes from The Parson Red Heads, whose new acclaimed album, Blurred Harmony, is available everywhere.
Podcast artwork designed by Chris Taniguchi
Photography by Jen Hall
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