Job’s Digital Footprint

Some 2,500 years ago an ancient Hebrew sage wrote one of the world’s classic treatises on ‘The Meaning of Life.’ We call it the Book of Job and Job 19:23-27 is our Weekly Dig. What the author never could have imagined is that in the future the following words would be true of much of the world’s population:

“O that my words were written down!

O that they were inscribed in a book!

O that with an iron pen and with lead

they were engraved on a rock forever! (Job 19:23-24)

In 2019, worldwide there are an estimated 2.4 billion monthly active users on Facebook. North America had the highest active Facebook usage rate with 72.4 percent of the population accessing the social network. Next in line is Instagram with 1 billion monthly active users.  

Each of these personal accounts becomes a kind of digital diary of daily activities we share with the world. We’re voluntarily inscribing the details of our lives in a book for the whole world to read. We’re leaving digital footprints in the social media sand that will someday, when we’re gone, reveal a lot about who we were and the kind of life we led. 

Dead Facebook Users will soon outnumber the living.

Speaking of “when we’re gone,” did you know 30 million Facebook users died in the first eight years of its existence? In fact, according to Michael Hiscock at TheLoop, “428 of them die every hour. And every day, these dormant accounts receive friend requests, get tagged in photos, and sometimes, they’re even wished a happy birthday.” Creepy? A bit.

But I think this is a healthy reminder of our mortality in a death-denying culture where people live for the next momentary thrill rather than living to leave an inspiring legacy.

Each day our words—for good and ill—are being inscribed in a book—a Facebook. As with an iron pen and lead, Tweets and blog posts, photos and “likes,” are being engraved on our walls and social media accounts forever. You can make a good living nowadays helping others try to scrape the mess of their past life off their public profile. I saw one today appropriately called “The Recovery Book: How To Clean Up Your Online Reputation.”

But I’m not here to help us erase frat party photos or squeegy our online reputation to land that next job. Neither is that Job’s main concern. I want us all to live to leave a legacy for future generations to emulate. Does my online activity betray a life of significance and purpose? Do the words on my wall encourage the weary, speak love to the lonely, and bring peace to a divided world? Do the photos I post reveal the people and things I most treasure? Do my memes address the things that matter? Or will our great-grandkids scroll our account and conclude we really loved cute kittens and hated Democrats or Republicans?

This is my 1,788th blog post at Daily Illumination. I also have a few years of sermons online as well. Gulp! That’s a lot of words and opinions posted in the public domain. If one were to trace my digital footprints across the years, where would it lead them? What main message have all my cumulative words communicated? That’s not for me to answer.

But I hope all of us will read the words Job wished he could have inscribed on a rock forever for all future generations to ponder.  

For I know that my Redeemer lives,

 and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;

and after my skin has been thus destroyed, 

then in my flesh I shall see God,

whom I shall see on my side, 

and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

(Job 19:25-27a)

The brilliant irony of history is that Job’s words were preserved and eventually written down in a book — the Holy Bible! His proto-Tweet is clear and less than 280 characters: Life is short, live for eternity.

The mortality rate is still 100%—which means we’re all gonna make it! Job would have wanted to leave digital footprints that led others to the hope that even while this earthly body will someday perish, there is a Redeemer who awaits me on the other side. This life is but the warm-up act for the big dance to come. Let our public words and digital diaries go and proclaim likewise. 

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