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Facebook is Vanity

January 11, 2012

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity

In the old days, pride, the deadliest sin, had few ways to market itself. A habitually proud person could talk about himself constantly, but sooner or later everyone would get sick of him and go away, leaving him to fester in his own pride. There was no way for pride to spread itself virally. This led to a serious dearth of pride.

The self-esteem generation needed a way for pride to be spread over large spaces and groups of people. It found that way. It is called Facebook.

Yes, Facebook is truly a way for people to be more proud and more self-absorbed than they had ever been in the history of the world, while simultaneously thinking that they are less proud and self-absorbed than anyone in the history of the world.

Facebook at it truly is.

Facebook markets itself as a “social networking” site, when in fact what it does is encourage the opposite of social interaction. In social interaction, you see everyone’s dark side. People don’t agree with you. They make awkward comments. They say things that rub you wrong. They have bad hair days, or act stupid, or look ugly, or are thoughtless.

On Facebook, it is exactly the opposite. No one is uncool on Facebook. In real life I’m an obnoxious yet shy person who is obsessed with music. On Facebook I am a sensitive intellectual audiophile. On Facebook, every detail of your profile can be elaborately planned so that you can present a facade image of yourself to the world. No one ever puts their doubts and fears on Facebook. No one ever has a bad day on Facebook. It is a world made up entirely of superficial appearances. Brad Paisley had a hilarious song called “Online,” based on the premise that in real life he’s a nerd, but on Facebook he presents himself as a really cool person. The song is funny, but true. Facebook doesn’t show people as they are, only as they want to be perceived.

And Facebook is primarily about stroking your own ego. One’s Facebook wall or profile is a place entirely dedicated to oneself. It’s a shrine to self-worship. Here you can look at pictures of yourself, pictures that make you look good. You can pick out the best of these pictures and make it your profile, so the world will see you not as you are, but as you want to be seen. The entire idea of “status updates” is profoundly egotistical: you write stuff about yourself in hopes that other people will see it and like it. The status update is a way to draw attention to yourself. In a way, Facebook is a lot like a community of little kids, all of whom are screaming “look at me.” There is no real thought involved, only superficial banalities designed to impress other people.

And the time spent on this pride machine is enormous. Imagine if all the time you spent on Facebook in the last year had been spent praying instead. Now, instead of feeling vaguely guilty and still getting on Facebook, why don’t you pray instead. (This means you, Nick House.) Facebook takes up time that could be used for real social interaction or for solitude and reflection and uses it for gratuitous narcissism instead. Facebook takes time, but gives us nothing in return. “But I talk to my friends.” Do you really have meaningful conversations? Is talking to your friends on Facebook anything like talking to them in real life? In The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape tells Wormwood that the ideal state for a demon to have a person in is for the person to continue sinning but get no enjoyment out of it. With Facebook, we fritter our time away exercising our pride, but get nothing in return. It is nothing but a colorful drudgery.

People ask “What would Jesus do?” and then blithely assume that he would do whatever they do. Would Jesus have a Facebook. Jesus was not averse to using the technology of his day to reach people. But would Jesus have wasted his precious time updating his status, posting photos of himself, reading pointless notifications (“St. Peter tagged you in a post”). I find it hard to believe.

“Father Mackenzie, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear.”

Vanity of vanity, all is vanity.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Toni permalink
    January 12, 2012 3:11 am

    Thought provoking, NIck. If (we) I were honest, I would have to say I have spent too much time reading irrelevant information when I could have spent time with my Lord. Thanks for the reminder. I sincerely needed that.

  2. Katy permalink
    January 17, 2012 2:50 am

    You have expressed (in an excellent way, I might add!) my sentiments of Facebook, exactly. In fact, from now on, anyone who gives me a hard time about my decision NOT to join will be getting referred to this post for the reason why! 🙂 Thanks, Nick!

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