This is either incredibly odd or the latest sign that we are nearing the end of civilization as we know it. 

Thousands of people now freely admit to communifaking—the act of faking a conversation on a cell phone in front of others.  According to this research 43% of women and 32% of men admit to regularly faking a call.  The percentages are even higher among younger generations: up to 74% of 18-24 year-olds admit opening their cell phone and carrying on a conversation with…nobody. Yikes.

The obvious question is: why? There is one somewhat legitimate reason given. In a threatening situation, some women will fake a call as a means of protection or to signal that she is connected to somebody who knows exactly where she is.

Guys often communifake to show off their phone, attempting to foster Blackberry envy. One person said it was like birds preening their feathers to attract females.

Some make the phone ring to get out of an unwanted conversation, like with a particularly pushy salesman. One 27-year-old said, “Absolutely, I communifake.  It’s a little rude if you just ignore somebody. But if I see somebody at work who I want to avoid speaking with, I’ll just take out my phone and pretend to be making a call.”

 Among the young, it may be a sort of techno-ADD, in which a person is addicted to multi-tasking. They get nervous having nothing to do with their hands or to watch on a screen.

My favorite explanation is that communifaking is a form of “impression management” that helps us project a better image of ourselves to others.  Nobody wants to be seen as the lonely loser. “If you go to a pub and you’re sitting by yourself, that says something. Rather than to be thought of as a loner or not desirable as company, you use your virtual connection to look like you’re more desirable and involved and actively engaged with others.”

That got me wondering: are there any ways we communifake in spiritual terms?  Do we present an impression of a relationship with Jesus that may not be authentic – or accurate? And what might that look like? 

We might be faking the disciple life when we…

+ say “fine…just great…blessed” when somebody asks how we’re doing in the hallway at church on Sunday morning… and we’re not.

+ hesitate to confess our brokenness because we’re scared others won’t want to be around us if they know the truth about our mess.

+ only pray with nice, safe language instead of screaming our very real lamentation, anger and confusion with God like the Psalms urge us.

+ define our Christian life with categories of absolute certainty about everything rather than admitting that our faith-life is often desperately confusing.

+ act sweet in public with people we skewer in private.

+ live off the fading glow of a past spiritual experience rather than pursuing Christ by daily discipline.


            The reason I know these forms of disciple “impression management” so well is that I’ve done all of them–and sometimes at the same time—and I’m a pastor!  Maybe you can think of more that you’d share in the comments section.

So, close up the phone. Sit quietly. Listen for Jesus. Don’t worry about what “they” are thinking about you or your walk with Jesus.  Just be real, even ruthlessly authentic with Him. It’s a risk. It’s scary. But it’s also the only way to live free in his grace.







One response

  1. If we’re going to be honest as Christ-followers this cuts deep in regard to what I may be communifaking in my relationship with Jesus. Thanks for the prompt to do some serious personal reflection. Thanks for the metaphor David!

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