If we were asked if we desire the world’s attention, most of us would probably say, “no.” However, there are often little things we do to betray that answer. There is a hunger for notoriety that seems to plague us all from time to time. Even as Christians, who know God and enjoy him, we still often think the world’s honor can offer us fulfillment. If that is not bad enough, we often look for it in the most absurd places. Here are a couple of examples from my life. Why do I feel the need to regularly check social media to see how many likes or shares my posts are getting? Do I think this will bring me significance? Why do I let this concern about social media response influence what I post, and if I crack the code and go viral, do I think I will have accomplished something meaningful?
It does not end there. All these concerns try to influence what I write about on this blog. It is as if I believe that if many people read what I write, then what I wrote is good and contributes to the world. If no one reads it, then what I wrote lacks merit, and it was another failed attempt. Neither is necessarily true. The one post on this blog that did go viral (by my standards) lacked any real insight. In fact, looking at it now, it feels melodramatic, and it has already become irrelevant. It merely tapped into a cultural moment and hit all the markers for social media success—it offended no one, it signaled virtue, and the general population was emotional about the topic at the time.
Knowing that the quality of writing or its truthfulness is not determined by blog traffic, why do I feel the need to check the stats so frequently? Do I still believe that is where I will find my validation? The sad part is, everything I am lamenting here, even if I know it is wrong, is still influencing me as I write this article. I will check the stats on this post more often than I should to see how it is doing because there is something still nagging within me that hopes this post about the futility of trying to appeal to the masses will appeal to the masses. It is insidious.
None of this is even why I started a blog in the first place. I knew the heyday of blogging had already passed. I simply enjoy the process of writing. It helps me think through issues and articulate my thoughts. The desire to post them publicly on a blog stemmed from the need to combat my tendency to laziness. I knew if I wrote something that would never see the light of day, I would be less articulate and sloppy in my reasoning. Yes, it can get worse than my public writing. I also knew I would not write as much as I should if I had no outlet.
There were two other reasons I wanted to start a blog. One was because I thought, maybe, just maybe, someone would read something I wrote, and the Holy Spirit would use it to minister to them. That is still a prayer of mine every time I post. The last reason I wanted to start a blog is I wanted to have a repository of writings to leave behind for my kids and future grandkids.
Though my initial aspirations in blogging were simple, here I sit tapping away at a keyboard, feeling the squeeze of all these other pressures, most of which are transient to the online world of clickbait culture and our society’s desire for internet fame. These pressures will not stand the test of time, neither will most of the writing they influence. Instead, they will distort the truth to stand out in a culture of noise, or they will push us to write about trends that are so fleeting they will be unimportant tomorrow.
Here is the heart of the issue. It is more than simply wanting to do a good job; it is more corrupt than that. What drives me to care so much about these things? Why do I feel the need to bow to these pressures? The answer is pride. Instead of seeking to glorify God, I often want some of the glory for myself. Though the Spirit dwells within me, there is still a remnant of sin that haunts me and tells me without the world’s recognition, my life will be insignificant. It tells me the only way to find fulfillment is to be ambitious for the things of the world.
William Plummer once warned that those ambitious in this way would never be satisfied. Each worldly success will only widen our horizons and give us a view of something else we think we need to be happy. We will be tossed from vanity to vanity, always a stranger to solid peace. Plummer then went on to say, “Are you ambitious for the things of the world? Then you are your own tormentor!” If we are desperate for the world’s recognition, including the Christian world’s honor, even if we get it, it will fail to satisfy. We are desperate for nothing.
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! – Rom. 7:24-25