The Fear of Man in The Age of Facebook
If you’re anything like me, the moment you log onto Facebook your eye is drawn to the little red notifications symbol in the top left-hand corner. Most of the notifications we regard as useless information: 22 people commented on the same wall post as you, your second-cousin’s niece’s brother wants to be your friend, you’ve been tagged in a photo that has your shoulder is in it, and so on. They’re useless to us because what we’re really looking for are the ones that tell us how popular and adored and liked we are. “Joe Bloggs likes your status.” “Joe Bloggs likes your photo album.” “Jane Smith likes your profile picture” – not only that but “Jane Smith commented on your profile picture” and, oh yes, she said “You are sooo HOT!!”. Let’s hope that shows up in the News Feed for the whole world to see…
We’ve become obsessed with what people think of us: do people like us? Do they value our opinions? Do they think we’re beautiful/attractive – or at least look beautiful/attractive in the photos we put online? But why do we care so much? I’m not just talking about social media here – I’m talking about why we are all too prone to find our happiness and identity in what people think of us and how much we are liked. We may live in a self-centred, narcissistic culture, but the fact is that the real problem lies in our fleshly hearts – and it’s called the fear of man.
The fear of man is to reverence or prize what other people think of us – doing anything we can to look good in their eyes – and allowing our happiness and our identity to be dictated by that. We know this is wrong though; so how do we break out of it? Many well-meaning people might tell us that we just need to feel better about ourselves and learn to love ourselves more – to get more “self-esteem”. This, however, will only further the underlying problem.
Not meaning to sound insensitive here, but our real problem is not that we have a “low self-esteem” issue – it is because we have a worship issue. Ultimately, we want other people to worship us and give us praise, instead of giving ourselves to worship God, because we sinfully believe that this will give us true life (as with any kind of idolatry). According to Proverbs 29:25, ‘The fear of man lays a snare’ – but the way to get out of this trap is not to worship ourselves even more. The verse goes onto reveal the answer: ‘whoever trusts in the LORD is safe’.
Thanks be to God who, through the finished work of the cross, has set us free from all kinds of idolatry – including the self-worship at the core of the fear of man – so that we can worship only Him, trusting that He is what fulfils us. We no longer have to be enslaved by the need for praise from other people because we are caught up in living for the praise of the only One who deserves it, and the only One who can truly satisfy us in doing so. And with this mindset, social media ceases to be used as a channel for serving our own self-idolatry, and instead becomes a tool for glorifying Jesus, loving other people and furthering His mission.
(For more, see the article ‘Justification by Twitter’ on TheResurgence.com.)