Mankind has always been, at least in part, an imaginary people. Modern man: more so. The proliferation of social media makes this easy.
To the degree that each of us manages an image, we are imaginary people. If you have a gazillion “friends” or “followers” on social media but those people follow because of a persona you made up and maintain; you are (mostly) an imaginary person. If no one knows what you are really like, then they don’t like you, they like a persona you created.
Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram make it easy for us to build up a particular image. We can forward or re-post funny, encouraging, upbeat things even if we are not funny, encouraging, or up-beat people. On social media we can be what others expect us to be or what we wish we were. But when we put on that mask, we become imaginary people, for we are not representing who we really are inside.
Fake it Till You Make It
There was a saying going around among self-improvement gurus: fake it till you make it. The idea is that if you want to be a happy, upbeat person: pretend to be a happy, upbeat person until you become one. The idea is that by pretending you can take on or ingrain those tendencies so they eventually become real. This may have some merit – if it is applied consistently. If you are happy and upbeat on social media but become grumpy again as soon as you put down your phone of log off your computer; you are imaginary. Or at least a phony.
Is Everyone on Social Media Imaginary People?
Is everyone on these social platforms imaginary, self-created people? No. I see a lot of folks who spill onto the Internet all the drama and strife that is in them. I doubt they’re making that up. They’re just using that media to include a wider circle of people in their daily drama. If they only show the bad stuff, then they are using that to get sympathy, and that becomes their mask.
Some use media as a substitute for a counselor or therapist: allowing their “following” to offer advice on how to deal with their life. A dangerous practice indeed.
Where Not To Be Imaginary
Church is where we should be most real, but alas; we often misrepresent ourselves to our church friends. Some will spill their pain and sorrow on Facebook, but then go to church, put on a smile and say “I’m doing great.”
James 5:16, “Confess your trespasses[a] to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (NKJV) This does not mean we are to air our dirty laundry to the entire body, but that we are to form close relationships within the body: small support groups or join in with another person who will act as a mentor to hold us accountable and offer Godly encouragement. This is especially important for new Christians so they don’t become discouraged and fall away.
Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (NKJV) As the world grows more evil it becomes harder to remain a positive force in it, representing Jesus to a society that more and more hates Him, and us for speaking of him. By gathering with like-minded believers, we support and encourage each other so we all don’t lose heart and hide ourselves away.
Galatians 6: 1-2, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.“ (NKJV) As fallible human beings, we occasionally stumble in our walk with Christ. Temptations assail us from all sides. When we mess up, it is the appointed duty of our brethren to point out our error and lead us back to the path of righteousness. They can’t do that if we are being imaginary people, hiding away our lives from them.
Romans 15:7, “Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us,[b] to the glory of God.” (NKJV) Jesus never said, “I want nothing to do with you: you disgust me”. Instead He dined with those the Jewish leaders considered the scummiest of scum, he healed lepers – people who were not allowed to enter any populated area because they were “unclean”, He forgave an adulteress and shared His message with a Samaritan woman. We should not ostracize our fellow believers for making a mistake, but stand with them and restore them.
Christianity is Transformation
Jesus calls us out of a sinful world to walk a different path, the path He Himself walked while on the earth. When we apply his principles to our lives, we are transformed. He does not require us to transform ourselves before He will accept us: if we accept Him, He will transform us.
The assembly of the brethren helps because we are transformed by being in close contact with people who are being transformed. This does not happen by sitting in a worship service. This happens when believers get together in small groups and drop the pretenses. When we accept one another with a view to improvement.
Christianity is not a religion; Christianity is a relationship. We cannot have a genuine relationship until we become genuine. If we are not genuine, we are imaginary people.