I recently saw a nice little movie called Ron’s Gone Wrong, which was a parable about how technology and social media have created a deeper sense of depression and alienation in children. For those of us who were raised before the dawn of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, TikTok and the like, it can be very difficult to grasp the power that these platforms have on young minds. For many, their main interaction with the world is virtually.
They look at what other people post on social media and they think that this gives them a real insight into who these people are. The interactions they have with people sometimes substitute the genuine affections that come from authentic human relationships.
Very often, those who do not live and die by social media will challenge those who do to unplug and to live “in the real world.” The echo chamber of Twitter and Facebook, along with its vitriol, are not how most human beings interact. The lifestyle projected by Instagram and TikTok are often carefully constructed facades. They are digital illusions. To be sure, you can learn a great deal about a person from what they post online. But there is too much digital interference to get to know them in a truly real way.
To live in the “real world” means to live in the world as it actually is and not as we simply perceive it to be. We try to look beyond the social media likes and connect to someone we actually like. We look beyond the facade that is projected to see the the person underneath. Instead of the short hand of texting and emojiis, living in the real world means having human conversations where people actually say things to one another.
If I appear to be being overly negative on those who use social media, that is not my intent. I think it the internet can be a wonderful tool for evangelization. To deny its downsides, however, would be a serious mistake. To live in denial of the real world is a kind of insanity and it is one that should be avoided.
Unfortunately, that is how many of us are living.
And this time, I am not referring to social media.
Many of us live as if this world is all there is. Even those of us who are live lives of faith, we still act as if this material world is all there is.
But it is not.
As I am writing this, I am preparing to go back to teaching after Christmas vacation. One of my favorite parts about time off from school is that I get to spend almost all of my time with my wife. As this time is drawing to a close, I am filled with a sense of sadness. I know that time is ticking away and that I do not know how many days ahead we will have. One day, our time in this world will end. As a result I jealously desire more and more time with her and become quite melancholy when this time is over.
But that is because I am not living in the real world.
In the real world, the truly real world, our time on this earth is but a moment. It is a breath before the deep plunge of all eternity. If God is merciful to a sinner like me, then I do not have to worry about losing time with my wife. Any time we lose here will be found forever together in Heaven.
Jesus constantly called us to reorient out thinking to live in the real world. Like those who are trapped by social media, we have a tunnel vision when it comes to living in this world. Years ago when my family was going through financial hardship, I was gripped by horrible anxiety.
But Jesus says ” And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:28-31)
We live in the illusion that this material world is the end all be all in the same way that many today see social media as the end all be all. But Christ wants to give us light to see the big picture. If God really is in control, then we should not be afraid.
During that time, an image came to me in prayer. I imagined myself being dangled over a great abyss. God then asked me to choose how I should be held up. I could either choose the strongest chains forged by man or I could choose the slenderest thread held by God. In my meditation, I would tell the Lord that I would choose the slenderest thread because He was stronger than any human chain.
When I think about the worries and anxieties and depressions of daily life, do I think about them as someone who is caught up in only material concerns? Or do I open my mind and heart to the truth that the real world is much larger than the one I can see?
This new year, let us be open to His reality.
There is an old quote, whose origin I do not know. But it sums up what it means to truly live in the truly real world:
Faith gives us real eyes
to help us realize
where the real lies.
Copyright 2022, WL Grayson