Dear reader, I want you to imagine a desolate, desert landscape that is dotted with tall, lonesome towers as far as the eye can see. In each tower there is locked a single person inside – miserable, afraid, and completely and terribly alone. That is what I imagine when I think of many of the respondents to an anonymous confessions collections I conducted last year, as part of a launch event for a new song I released, entitled “Like”. “Like” is about how social media addiction leads to isolation, loneliness and in severe cases, mental illness. As part of the launch event, I collected anonymous confessions from voluntary participants aged 10 and above, asking them to share honestly about how engaging heavily with social media made them feel.
Here are some excerpts:
“Social media is so fake. Everyone posts happy pictures but how can people’s lives always be happy? It’s so unreal!”
“Insecure, less than, inferior, jealous.”
“It shortens the distance between those far apart, but furthers the distance between those nearby. It’s also much easier to communicate superficially on social media than to communicate on a deeper level face to face.”
From the “Like” Confessions, I learned that many participants felt resentful of other people’s perfect lives presented on social media, yet they themselves felt the need to only present perfection on their own accounts, perpetuating the cycle of inauthenticity. Not surprisingly, this cycle made them feel more depressed, inauthentic and lonely. When we are not true to ourselves and our communities, we form walls and barriers, locking ourselves inside towers of loneliness.
This is a far cry from the freedom Jesus promises in Him (John 8:36). Freedom experienced in Christ comes from, amongst other things, being able to be fully open with our weaknesses and knowing that we will still be loved unconditionally in spite of them. Very often we choose to sequester ourselves because we feel ashamed of our wrongdoings and imperfections, and this self-flagellating shame comes into head-on conflict with an inability to understand how or why Jesus, or anyone in the family of God, would love us. We simply can’t wrap our minds around it, and the resulting self-loathing pushes us deeper into our isolation cells. To a degree, accepting that Jesus DOES INDEED love us in spite of our deepest sins takes a leap of faith.
To believe that an uncompromising holy God would love incurable sinners would be to admit that the impossible can indeed be possible. Once we have leapt across this seemingly illogical chasm, we can begin to show the same love, forgiveness and understanding towards our fellow sinners, even those who have wronged us, in the same manner that we have received from Christ.
A line from a song I like goes “no need to be showy, no need to be spotlessly clean, just be the best that I can’t find within me”. This to me reflects what authentic community could look like – a community of sinners, none better or worse than the other, “spurring one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb 10:24), with the freedom to come as we are but the desire to not stay as we are. It’s a second picture that’s completely different from the first. No longer individual, isolated silos of loneliness and shame, but a family of redeemed sinners, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, encased in the warm embrace of a God who has gone to death and back to include us in His family.
By Ethel Yap (YCKC Bulletin 19 May 2019)