I’m rather intrigued by the concept of “followers” in social media. I follow people; others follow me. It’s the accepted protocol of online interaction.
But 21st-century “following” is a strange creature, a yin and yang of closeness and distance, superficiality and honesty. As much as I love the online world, in many ways it can’t make up for the depth, range, and complexity of IRL (in real life) relationships.
Those relationships are forged the old-fashioned way: face to face, emotions clearly showing via verbal and nonverbal cues, thoughtful conversations, effervescent debate, and intense fellowship, pumice-like in their ability to rub us right–or wrong.
So, “following” should create genuine community. And those who excel at it do exactly that. They bring people together, forging a online tribe.
There’s also the downside of “following”: when it degenerates into gathering numbers (Follow me! I’ll follow you!) and dumbing down the online discourse to the point of ridiculousness. Plus, how do you correctly gauge sarcasm, irony, and the more subtle ways of getting one’s point across?
I can’t help but wonder how Jesus would fit into this new world of “following” were He still on earth. Think about it: here was a man who said “Follow me!” and men left their businesses, families, and life as they knew it. That’s hard-core following! For them, it meant:
- A sea change in lifestyle;
- Devotion to one person and His message;
- Being challenged and discipled by one person;
- Intimacy through one-on-one or small group interaction.
In other words, there was a cost attached to following Him.
And yes, Jesus had crowds “following” him everywhere. He would be considered a celebrity by today’s standards, but His core group boiled down to the 12 disciples (including a fake one) and the 70 whom He sent out to evangelize.
So, what’s the cost (or benefit) of following for you?
- Have the people you follow made a difference in your life story?
- Does the size of their following influence your decision to follow them?
- Do they replenish, encourage, and challenge you, or are they merely sources of entertainment?
- Is there joy in the journey that you undertake when you step into their lives online?