Following Social Idols?

by Jay Deragon on 12/22/2010

An idol is a man-made object or person that is worshiped in some way.

Many of today’s high profiled social media idols are people whose persona and content have turned them into idols. They have become “man-made” objects worshiped by crowds of followers who bow down to the “idols” every post.

Crowds tend to idolize celebrities created by media. An idol can be  a politician, music artist, movie star, professional sports star or anyone who has now made a name for themselves from social media. Crowds create idols through an excessive admiration, devotion, envy or attachment to a person or thing.

Why Do We Create Idols?

First,  people correlate idols as that which gives them a sense of the sublime. Sublime means to elevate or exalt especially in dignity or honor and to convert (something inferior) into something of higher worth.

Ever met a name dropper? Some people believe that just because the engage with someone of high authority it elevates their authority. Some people think they “know” so and so and use that assumed affiliation to elevate their own self worth.

Social technology makes it fairly easy to reach anyone. Simply following someone doesn’t mean you really know that person or that you actually have a relationship. When you read someone’s post about something and it elevates your understanding of something it doesn’t necessarily mean you have transferred the knowledge of the author into your own. All it means is you are learning from another and maybe over time what you learn will in fact create your own knowledge domain. Our idol ought to be “learning” rather than the person we are learning from. Idolizing learning is a lot different than idolizing people. People are dangerous idols because they will always disappoint you and if your identity is attached to them you will never really learn to develop your own identity. If you idolize learning you will embark on a journey of never ending learning and that road should learn to knowledge which begets wisdom. That is the true path to self actualization.

People tend to  create an idol they hold as an object of worship; namely themselves. They believe their personal beliefs are supreme and have ultimate authority to them. Therefore, they are their own god. Ever met someone who thinks they know everything there is to know about a particular subject matter? Their sense of self worth is substantiated by the “crowds that follow” their words as if they were the gospel of the social ecosystem. They in fact become their own idol and are elevated by others who think they are indeed an idol.

Creating False Images

There is a common motive of people following social idols. Each person desires to shape their god into the image and likeness of themselves. Every idol represents a desire for self worship. When people  pick and choose  attributes of God that they like and then call it god, then, technically, they have become the creator, and they are then worshiping themselves.

In the biblical sense false gods were  people and things  exalted above the authority of God.  The Israelites made a golden calf and called it god. The scriptural narrative continues as “they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings.”  Can you see similar behavior within the social spheres?  “They rise up early each day and offer retweets and praise to their social idols”. The problem is we are creating false Gods and human nature loves attention, praise and offerings that makes us feel like god.

As we approach Christmas consider its purpose.“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1st John 5 20-21).

The Father of all wisdom and understanding is open to a relationship with all of us. In order to truly have a relationship one must put aside social idols and rest in him who is the author of our faith and not consider ourselves as the authors of what we learn and share.

{ 1 comment }

Mark Jones Jr December 22, 2010 at 6:23 am

Wow! Thanks, Jay, for a fantastic and timely reminder (and a little bit unexpected). #thingsIneverknewaboutaperson

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