How does social media shape us?

Hi friends,

How does social media shape us?

For instance, whether we use social media or not, social media is part of the broader social reality in which we experience life. And within its context, social media offers an audience that’s always there - at least potentially. We now live in a world where, hypothetically, anyone can be famous.

By the standards of this environment, either you’re famous - you have an audience - or there’s shame - because you don’t, or because you’re excluded.

I get this from Andy Crouch, who’s argued that Western culture is emerging to become a fame-shame culture:

So instead of evolving into a traditional honor–shame culture, large parts of our culture are starting to look something like a postmodern fame–shame culture. Like honor, fame is a public estimation of worth, a powerful currency of status. But fame is bestowed by a broad audience, with only the loosest of bonds to those they acclaim.

I thought of this dynamic as I researched the spread of the early church. Here’s what Edward Smither writes in his book Missionary Monks:

While some operated as vocational evangelists, one remarkable element of early Christianity was its anonymous missionary element. It is intriguing that the two largest church communities in the Roman Empire—those in Rome and Carthage—had anonymous origins. Adolph von Harnack affirms, “the great mission of Christianity was in reality accomplished by means of informal missionaries,” while Stephen Neill adds that “every Christian was a witness . . . nothing is more notable than the anonymity of these early missionaries.”

It seems to me that the monks, and the communities they formed, were more interested in the name of Jesus than their own names.

Crouch continues his thought on fame-shame culture, offering a uniquely Christian remedy:

The remedy for shame is not becoming famous. It is not even being affirmed. It is being incorporated into a community with new, different, and better standards for honor. It’s a community where weakness is not excluded but valued; where honor-seeking and “boasting” of all kinds are repudiated; where servants are raised up to sit at the table with those they once served; where even the ultimate dishonor of the cross is transformed into glory, the ultimate participation in honor. To use the powerful biblical metaphor, the gospel offers adoption—a new status as “sons,” to use the intentionally gendered, high-status word of Romans 8—to both men and women, now members of the family of the firstborn Son.

What an opportunity we have in Uncommon Pursuit! Instead of building a community of celebrities and fans, we can curate a space that values mutual service. Instead of being know-it-alls, we can acknowledge our need for the encouragement and wisdom of other participants. And we are all “sons” - both the men and women of the UP community are high status members of God’s family.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you live in a cultural context that operates by a fame-shame dynamic?

  2. What habits would build a different kind of social environment in UP?

  3. How does the high status that we have because of God’s love enable a different community experience?