The Greek myth of Narcissus is an interesting and poignant tale for our times. The simplified version of the myth finds Narcissus abruptly leaving the infatuated Echo with a broken heart in the forest. Upon hearing this, Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, decides to punish Narcissus for his treatment of Echo. Luring him to a brook, Nemesis shows Narcissus his image and he falls in love with his reflection, eventually drowning to death in his self-obsession. This simplified mythical story gives us several of the words commonly used in our vocabulary: nemesis as our archenemy and narcissism as the obsession of self. These two words, stemming from this story, pair well in the appetite of our culture.
In our social media world, we have increasingly become susceptible to the temptation of our cultural nemesis – narcissism. Much like Narcissus in the story, we have been lured to the water’s edge and have been transfixed by our reflection. Inspired by the work of Marshall McLuhan, the late Canadian media theorist, I would like to suggest that Narcissist didn’t fall in love with himself, but with a distorted reflection of himself. As with all reflections on water’s surface, water reflects an image slightly distorted from the original.
In our social media world, we have fallen in love with ourselves; but not just any version of ourselves – a distorted version. Love is blind and our love has made us blind to who we truly are, drowning in a pool of our collected distorted reflections, unable to recognize ourselves and blind to those, in ignorant solidarity, drowning around us.
In our social media world, our nemesis has tempted us to the waters edge with fame and self-promotion. Social media has provided equal opportunity to climb the platform of popularity. This is so much the case that it has consumed us and we have lost ourselves in our own distorted reflections, drowning as a result.
“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:16, NIV)
As we strive to faithfully walk the path along the coast of our social media world, the goal for us is to do so in a way that seeks to fulfill the Great Commandment:
“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’ And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:27-29, NIV)
As we seek to faithfully follow Jesus in our social media world, I want to suggest three practices to avoid the temptation of our nemesis – our distorted reflection:
- Look up, love others and pray for them. Use social media as a window rather than just a megaphone. As much has it allows us to project our voice, it also amplifies the voice of others. Use it love, pray and care for others in need.
- Be thankful. Regularly thank God for all you have and who God has uniquely created you to be. This will help you follow the teaching of Jesus and rejoice with others as they celebrate and mourn with others as they grieve. In addition, being thankful will help you to stay free of the snares of worry and envy in your life.
- Be humble, truthful and authentic with yourself and others. Try your best to present a true version of yourself and celebrate that version. Do not be tempted by the image of your distorted reflection.
In our social media world, let’s learn to live in it faithfully and embrace the Great Commandment together – loving God and loving others. As we do, we can rescue ourselves, others and society from drowning at the water’s edge, transfixed by our distorted reflections and, instead, faithfully walk in the way of Jesus with authenticity and humility.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4, NIV)