Yes, by all means, let us talk about social media.
This is one of my favorite jokes. “Social media,” they call it, the perfect title for an institution that has singlehandedly driven more human beings into isolation than anything we could have come up with ourselves.
I spoke once before of the vanity we tease out online, in which the average women can imagine herself to have some kind of following, to have “fans” who wait with bated breath to see what she is thinking about, eating, wearing, and doing. This strange insulation from reality is, yes, on of the great uses of the internet. We have a world of Narcissuses to snack on these days, and it’s been great fun. None of them is gazing into a pool; instead it’s as if the entire world carries a mirror in its pocket.
The humans pull the mirror out and gaze into it for (Research Dept. gives me this number; I’m not making it up) about four hours a day. The humor of it is that none of these people think of themselves as vain. If it was a simple glass mirror, they couldn’t be brought to spend so much time looking into it. It would be too boring, not to mention embarrassing to be seen doing this in public.
But it’s not a simple glass mirror. It’s a mirror of the soul; it feeds them what they love. It shows them what they love to read—opinions that mirror theirs. It shows them what they love to shop for—possessions that reflect their tastes in housewares, clothing, and books. It shows them what their friends think of them, in quantifiable measurements of activity or silence. It shows them the entertaining content most calculated to delight their individual tastes, to make them feel happy, discerning, or funny.
The junior tempters get so excited about this vanity stuff (and the sex stuff—obviously the Department of Pornography has had its heyday and continues to celebrate like the unhinged idiots they are).
But it’s very clear to me what the greatest advantage of the internet has been and will continue to be. It’s the question of time.
Better than Vanity or Lust (?!)
The mirrors in their pockets now fill more of their time than any other single thing besides sleep. And the mirrors sitting on their desktops and hanging on the wall in their living rooms take care of much of the time that might be left over.
And this is truly the best thing about the mirrors. We weren’t sure about it all when they first brought it out—I remember many panicky memos from headquarters around that time about Bad News getting out faster (about the Enemy’s first and second invasions). I remember they were also quite concerned about human news getting around too. They were alarmed about how outposts of enemy activity would exchange resources with calls for help or real-time prayer—and I know it sounds disastrous, put like that. All kinds of light pouring into all kinds of places we had kept safely in shadow for thousands of years. And in the end, some disaster has occurred through the internet. But I believe it has done us more good than harm.
The best thing about the internet is that while online, the humans experience an existence that has much in common with our own. Disembodied, they are disconnected from the physical world they inhabit, and enjoy something of our relationship to time and space.
They become avatars of themselves, wandering around in an aphysical world, occasionally bumping into the avatars of other people to enjoy muted versions of fellowship, discussion, or conflict. They whirl through the ether, stupefied and mostly unguarded.
It’s not even that they’re living in a heightened state of temptation on the internet—although again, many of them are quite addicted to things that could never be fed to them apart from the technology. Of course this is marvelous. I will never fail to give credit to any system that continually sneaks human beings into on-ramps of sin before they hardly know where they are.
But to me, the real value of the internet is the way it disembodies and removes them from Time. Time, as the Enemy created them to inhabit it, is like a road stretching out in front of them. They can only pass through it on the ground, one foot in front of the other. Sometimes their pace feels quick to them, and sometimes slow, but they can only pass through a moment one at a time.
At least, that is how it was until now. If they were working hard, or in pain, their pace used to feel burdensome and slow. They would count every inch, every moment. But when they were in a joyful moment or season, the time practically skipped for them. Then they would look up and say things like, “What, ten o’clock already?” And we knew, with a cringy feeling of loss, that they had actually experienced every one of those moments, and yet enjoyed the feel of them, swum through them as it were, with joy. They wouldn’t have traded them, you see. This, even though they were trapped in a place and time of HIS choosing! There was no hitchhiking, no skipping. And yet, such low, creaturesome enjoyment of it they would sometimes get!
But the mirrors in their pockets and on their walls do something with time that only mind-altering substances could do before.
It doesn’t make time go slowly or quickly. It simply removes the humans from time altogether.
Remove Them from Time to Remove Time from Them
The Enemy, of course, is outside of time in a different way; he flies overhead with a full range of vision to be in every place at any time. To him, a thousand years is as a moment because he is simply taking advantage. He plays nasty tricks on us all, working through time to work out his will when none of us has such powers! Let me tell you, if I had a tenth of his abilities, what I could do with them! But he will never share, and this is what tells us what he truly is. Some humans have called him the Lord of Time, but we know that he is actually the Despot of Time. You see, he takes what he wants at every turn.
The humans live in his Time. But some of them find ways to escape it, and in this, they have the opportunity to become more like us.
We, of course, experience time without that limiting tether of physical world. We are proud to have rejected the reality of time, with all its crushing limitations. And so, as you may have noticed, we always seem to be losing our clear sense of WHEN we are, where we are; a pleasant haze thickens our sense of time’s passing. You know, Hemlock, how you can never quite tell how long it’s been since you last experienced a victory, a meal? How you can never quite see how long it’s been since we took our first Great Stand by the side of our Father below? How sometimes you feel an unbearable eagerness for time to move forward, because of your hunger? But you don’t know WHEN you want it to move to?
Some have ventured to say this dimness of sight is a retaliation from the Enemy. (There was the one heretic writer you may have learned about in school; he was rightly removed from the reading lists after he said something about “the naturally resulting obscurities of rebellion”). But for me, I have always seen it as an advantage, a blessing in disguise, a natural result of our freedom from Him. Do we really WANT to know how much time is passing, in this war? Do we really WANT to know how long we wait, from one meal to the next? Do we really WANT to have our senses sharpened and tuned to the awful anxieties of each defeat, the ear-rattling sounds that now escape our notice because we are floating in a relief of cool, dark ignorance about time?
And this is what the screen gives the humans: the same escape from the curse of time. They, too, know not when or how they came to be on their phones. They, too, need not experience the plodding, repetitive step of moment after moment. The joys and sorrows of life are muted for them, as their feet leave the pavement of reality and they are carried down the road of time without knowing or caring.
Give your girl plenty of encouragement to spend her days with a mirror in her pocket. It will only do her good—as much good, I’d say, as a good old fashioned drug addiction. They work the same way—pleasure, the pleasure of escape from the curse of time. All she must give is chunks of her mind, chunks of her relational capacity, and in the end, chunks of her life.
Her life is, after all, the road she is walking. And her road will end, somewhere. She doesn’t know where the end is, and neither do we. But it’s there, and every time she gives another day away, she has pleasantly floated past another stretch of life. Her back and neck contract into a hunched position, her mind relaxes, and her feet leave the pavement. She arrives in another place on the road, much further on, bloated in soul, legs atrophied. See? You tell her. You need not deal with the pain and toil of time.
Her legs will, indeed, atrophy. The strength it takes to travel through time will leave her. In the end, she’ll be sitting at a table with friends and the burden of having her legs touch the road of time will be too much, even at such an easy and pleasant part of the road! She’ll have a phone out of her pocket, and it’s not even WORK she’s avoiding; it’s pleasure. This is what it means to pull people out of the stream of time so often; it’s the greatest triumph of the Internet Project. They have more free time than any group of humans in history, and are less rested, less connected to each other, and more clamorous of the free time that gets away.
And the advantage for us is that many of our patients can be brought to the end of a life wasted more gently and easily than ever before in history. As one of our great contemporaries has said, the best state for man is to be “fuddled,” doing neither what he ought nor what he likes. And with that little attention grabber in her pocket, she is slowly learning to “like” fewer and fewer things.
And that will include the Enemy, never forget, not just the Enemy’s world!
How about that for a treat! You get to invite her, whenever possible, to live life on the other side with us: outside of the oppression that is time. And believe me, it won’t agree with her as well is it does you…
Catch up on the Hemlock Letters:
Letter 1: On Women
Letter 2: On Marrying Up
Letter 3: On Stopping Prayer
Letter 4: On Confessing Her Sin
Letter 5: On Female Friendship