Spectacle over substance, quirk over quality

Author and entrepreneur Seth Godin has a fascinating post up, entitled “Driveby culture and the endless search for wow.” In it, he critiques how our culture feeds into and perpetuates our already-consumeristic (thanks to modernism) mentality, creating a shallower and more easily distracted society.

We’re creating a culture of clickers, stumblers and jaded spectators who decide in the space of a moment whether to watch and participate (or not).

Imagine if people went to the theatre or the movies and stood up and walked out after the first six seconds. Imagine if people went to the senior prom and bailed on their date three seconds after the car pulled away from the curb.

The majority of people who sign up for a new online service rarely or never use it. The majority of YouTube videos are watched for just a few seconds. Chatroulette institutionalizes the glance and click mentality. I’m guessing that more than half the people who started reading this post never finished it.

This is all easy to measure. And it drives people with something to accomplish crazy, because they want visits to go up, clicks to go up, eyeballs to go up.

Should I write blog posts that increase my traffic or that help change the way (a few) people think?

Should a charity focus on instant donations by texting from a million people or is it better to seek dedicated attention and support from a few who understand the mission and are there for the long haul?

It bears thinking about, especially for us as Christians. Do we seek to draw and engage people, online or otherwise, with substance or spectacle, with quality or quirk? With spectacle, with quirk, with cheap entertainment, we may draw more, and more immediately; we might have numbers to point to or more easily-categorizable statistics; and we might look, at least in the short-term, like we have found success.

But those we attract with such an approach are not, and will not be, the ones who will dig deep, who are genuinely interested, genuinely seeking, genuinely wanting to know more, and who are willing to sacrifice and work on the journey on which we are inviting them to join us, and more importantly, God. It is with substance, with quality, with genuine depth, that true change comes about and true disciples are made.

And that, going against the grain of culture, will be a challenge. But, as Seth concludes–and obviously, I’ve appropriated what I learned from him into my own framework of theology and life:

In the race between ‘who’ and ‘how many’, who usually wins–if action is your goal. Find the right people, those that are willing to listen to what you have to say, and ignore the masses that are just going to race on, unchanged.

We do the best we can with what we have and with what we know, and trust that God will do the rest.

It is his story after all.

Justin

Hong Kong | London | California | Washington, DC Christian | Theologian | Musician | Activist | Sojourner

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