With Eyes of Faith
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By Deacon John De Gano

The “hot gig” among many young adults these days has been that of social media influencer. Working from home they seek to create a fan base that will rocket them into endorsements and big money.

Social media platforms need media content in order to stay relevant and keep the lights on so they encourage media influencers with the possibility of “one day” making it big in the industry.

Unfortunately, with so much at stake financially, the social influencers are often placed in moral jeopardy, as they have to decide whether or not to endorse products and/or sponsors they do not believe in at the risk of losing their reputations in the process.

For example, I first became aware of social media influencers when I walked into a chain restaurant and found table signs promoting three “specials” -- food items recommended by social media influencers. Never having heard of any of these people, I took a closer look at what they were ‘selling.’ Each of the menu items featured a breakfast item, covered in syrup, nuts or chocolate sprinkles that had to exceed the recommended number of calories per day by several fold!

Why would anyone promote something so unhealthy, I wondered, unless they were strictly motivated by the lure of the fast buck, especially in this time of post-pandemic recovery? Wouldn’t they want to keep their followers around and not have them get sick, develop diabetes, heart disease or die of a stroke?

And what does this say about the integrity of an industry where success is based solely on making (and sharing) information quantifiable, marketable, profitable, repeatable…

The more hits you garner, the more you can earn through product endorsement, leaving the naïve and trusting in your care to potentially be shorn like sheep, sacrificed on the altar of unapologetic greed.

“Caveat Emptor” – let the buyer (a.k.a. social media follower) beware.

In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus predicted that there would be many false prophets (or messiahs claiming to be the Way, the Truth and the Life) and he advised his followers not to accept their words. By their fruits and actions you shall know them, he said.

Instead of succumbing to the lure of fame and fortune (i.e. mammon), Jesus gives us an alternative way of service.

If you want to be an influencer then be an influencer for God.

Saints are spiritual influencers. They have given their lives for the work of the Lord. They are earthen vessels, humble tools in God’s hands for our salvation and redemption.

Saints know their true treasure is stored in heaven where neither rust nor moth can destroy. Nor can our wealth be stolen.

As St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta might say, “We are not called to be successful influencers, only faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.”

God is not duplicitous rewarding people based only on the number of “likes” they get on their social media posts, the number of Bibles they have or even the number of Masses they have attended.

God is love and calls us to love. Freely. Without strings or at a cost to the other person. Shared. Given away. So that those who are lost or searching may find hope, mercy and forgiveness and be influenced by divine grace to become disciples, giving God the glory that is deserved.

John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria parish in Riverside.