Social Media | Worshipping False Idols

Photo courtesy of Milan Loiacono

Idolizing other people and their content. Obsessing over the perfect photos. Drawing self-worth from followers. Prioritizing apps over everything else.

These are only some examples of what it looks like to worship social media.

Social media has the power to become a false idol because it is everywhere and allows for instant gratification, said Klive Oh, a public relations professor who specializes in social media and digital culture.

“People long for some kind of merit that comes out of social media … It is a social need to be recognized and acknowledged,” Oh said.

A Currents poll of 141 students found that over 20 percent feel they worship social media as a false idol.

Senior Courtney Jobe said because Pepperdine is a small campus where everyone knows each other, students feel pressure to always be perfect and are often afraid of appearing vulnerable.

“When you prioritize social media, it leads to a tendency to prioritize the image over the individual.”

“Social media is the perfect place to promote perfection,” Jobe said.

Although social media can be a helpful tool for staying up-to-date with current events and remaining connected with others, several members of the Pepperdine community said idolizing it has consequences on the way one views oneself and others.

Oh said on an intrapersonal level, prioritizing social media can cause individuals to be less productive, waste time, be misinformed, expose themselves to criticism and lead an imbalanced life.

Students agreed that because social media is only a highlight reel with people portraying the best versions of themselves, it can lead to comparison and low self-esteem. Instagram profiles rarely reflect authenticity or vulnerability, Jobe said.

“In this age of social media being instant gratification, it’s hard for some people to believe in or understand a relationship with God, which is sometimes not instant gratification,” junior Emma Craven said.

Craven said many Pepperdine students post Bible verses or share how strong their faith is, which can make others feel guilty.

At an interpersonal level, idolizing social media can lead individuals to judge others before knowing them and to not be fully present in their relationships with friends and family, Oh said. A reliance on platforms such as Instagram and Twitter can cause one’s sense of community to become distorted.

“When you prioritize social media, it leads to a tendency to prioritize the image over the individual,” Jobe said.

Students are aware of the addictive nature of social media but still choose to use it, Oh said. He encouraged everyone to find balance and use social media to help achieve – rather than contradict – their goals.

“[Social media] is food for the mind and therefore you want to think about balancing all of that and treating social media from afar sometimes,” Oh said.