In the 1960’s, The Vogues recorded one of my favorite love songs. It was so good, that Glen Campbell, the Lettermen, the Bee Gees, and Johnny Mathis, also recorded it. It was a heartfelt and desperate plea of an overlooked admirer to his intended sweetheart -- Turn Around, Look at Me. Back then, the phrase was romantic, now it is narcissistic. “Look at Me” is no longer a loving invitation, but an emphatic demand born out of neurotic need.
The concepts of privacy, dignity and intimacy are rapidly changing in young America. Scripted reality TV, live streaming, blogging, Facebook, Youtube, Vine and countless other venues, have created an atmosphere in which young people are eager to reveal their most private (and often manufactured) moments to the world. An article in USA Today quoted one young man who said, I am constantly broadcasting who I am. The internet is just a way for me to reach more people with who I am. The article concluded that young people are placing themselves at the mercy of predators, stalkers, perverts and criminals without realizing it. That’s bad, but there is even a greater danger.
The practice of sharing personal updates with friends, acquaintances and faceless strangers can easily become an obsession. It is bad enough that many of us are giving and getting constant feedback on every mood, complaint and thought the moment we have them, but the real concern is that so many of us believe that others should be fascinated by the minutiae of our lives.
Today’s youth is not any more prone to focus on themselves than previous generations, but they have greater technical capacity to do so and a more willing culture in which to do it. Self-aggrandizement, promotion and preoccupation are no longer considered in poor taste. Children are growing up viewing themselves as worthy of attention and applause by those who do not know them. Some argue that this is good for self-esteem, but at least two negative things result; 1) being noticed becomes an entitlement, and 2) an inordinate amount of time is spent marketing oneself.
Past generations grew up going outside to play in the real world, but this generation stays inside to play in a virtual world. It is normal to be fascinated with self. We all are to some degree. We tend to like people who are interested in us. We feel loved and accepted when others want to hear our stories. But there is much more to life than our individual experiences and thoughts. Our culture’s meditation on self is a religion with roots that reach all the way back to Eden. Self-worship creeps into life with great subtlety.
Taking our eyes off of self and placing them squarely on God is one of the greatest challenges faced in the walk of faith. Isaiah professed to God, You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You. It is nearly impossible to effectively ponder God when we can’t stop thinking about ourselves.
In the embryonic stages of Christianity, John the Baptist assessed his importance in the light of Jesus and he said, He must increase and I must decrease. What would church look like if we fully embraced that profound profession of faith? Would we promote and market ourselves in the same way as we do today? It is unlikely that I will really see others if my primary concern is for them to look at me.
Look at Him, then out onto the fields white unto harvest,