Friends, I have a pretty special guest to welcome today. He's quite fantastic, quite strapping. His name is Grant, my better-half, my stud. That's right. I finally coaxed him into writing a piece for my space here, lucky you. Recently, we were having a conversation about social media and its woes. The troubling insecurity it so often inflicts and our deep need for validation and worth that we search for within it. Grant has some thoughts on all this and writes to leave you with some things to consider and chew on. So without further ado, here's Grant.
I’M A HATER…
I’m a hater. I get it. When people talk about their numbers of followers or retweets or status likes, I can’t help but make a face…a weird, head-turned-sideways kind of face that can’t be hidden. I can’t help it.
I’ve always trailed a year or two behind every trend or recent bandwagon craze, and the social media frenzy hasn’t proven any different. If anything, social media has made me feel affirmed in my lack of trend-trust. My motto: if you stay far enough behind, you end up being ahead when the trend train comes back around…it’s working for me.
THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA…
But social media isn’t just another trend. Social media has recreated the way we speak…the way we think…our daily schedules…and how we perceive value. So while I may seem like that guy railing against the way things are, shouldn’t we stop and think critically about how social media is affecting people around us, especially since it has and is and will have such massive implications for everything and everyone around us for generations to come?
The thing that really bothers me about it is the increased distance being created between true connections with other people and the collateral damage of using social medias primarily as indicators of social influence and personal affirmation.
I believe social media has simultaneously told us that we are closer and more connected to people, all the while broadening the chasms that stand between us…and has also somehow found the time to create yet another system of reward and rejection that is leaving unnecessary scars on the face of rising generations. In short, it’s digital middle school, everyone standing scared to death on the sidelines hoping they get liked and followed…and God forbid you say something stupid or go hardline on a completely debatable issue! Now instead of not having meaningful conversations with the people we love most, we have 1,000 meaningless conversations with people we don’t know and are privy to countless other useless facts and stats that act like gravy to our already over-saturated plates…this junk is just spilling over into every stratosphere of our world. And somehow this has manufactured a sense of belonging. (And this sense is what drives you to check your phone in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning or last thing before bed or every time you sit on the toilet.)
On top of that (and this may be my personal pet peeve), social media has been so kind as to create yet another social pressure in our already jet-streamed culture, barreling along through life at breakneck speeds, dragging consumers white-knuckled behind it, forcing us to communicate and perform another relationship function that didn’t exist before—you know, in that world where people actually used to talk to each other…by speaking words…to another human being’s face.
Strikingly, speaking to another human face to face has now become an art form.
Our ingenuity in communication has almost single-handedly destroyed the art of speaking. I miss the days when you had to actually speak to talk to people…but we don’t do that anymore. Instead, we’ve given birth to entire generations that are CEOs behind screens and driftwood in public. And this from a generation where BEING HEARD seems to be a mainstay, a cultural baseline of conversation. But no one is being HEARD…they’re being read. We can’t hear your voice because you’re not speaking. And you can’t speak because, quite frankly, you don’t have to…the keys are doing all the talking.
What we have seen is that social media has proven its value in moving a message from point A to point B with unparalleled speed. Revolutions and catastrophes are broadcasted nearly real time; knowledge of what’s happening worldwide has become more tangible than ever before. But in the midst of that modern marvel of technology, I believe that we too quickly lose sight of what’s happening below the surface, down there where insecurities have found new platforms…where validation has found a new face: little hyperlink like and comment buttons glowing alluringly below our most recent statuses, whispering our successes and fears to everyone looking on. There’s a monster in the swamp of our up and coming culture, and we need to identify it.
And apart from my obvious antagonism toward it, the greatest problem I find is that behind all the melodrama birthed on social media there are real people with real feelings, lying broken in the shadows with nothing but their LED screens to light the way, only to be led further down a rabbit trail they never intended to walk.
You weren’t intended to chase after influence and affirmation, and social media certainly wasn’t created to provide it. Or maybe it was…but it’s not working.
Not when the ones who type the loudest—or tweet the most—tend to be the very same with an inordinate attention to their own opinions and an undeserved platform of influence, often diseased with the malady of envy or RED: respect entitlement disorder. And unfortunately social media makes megalomaniacs into techno pied-pipers.
I can hear the voices almost leaping off the status updates—you’re over-reacting…it’s not that big of a deal…yada yada yada. I realize this is all rant-y and not very encouraging, but this comes from a sense of compassion and urgency for the wounded that I see dragging in off the approaching horizon. I want to leave you with something that will infuse you with courage and, at the very least, will give you pause to consider your social media interaction.
#1 - YOUR VALUE ISN’T DETERMINED BY ANYTHING/ONE.
Value, no matter how it’s reshaped or redefined in our world is never truly determined by others. In fact, I’d go a step further and say it’s not determined at all (by which I mean, there’s no Wizard of Oz hidden behind a curtain amassing critical details on whether or not you measure up). You are valuable because you carry in you the bloodline and fingerprints of Creator God. There’s no more measurement required.
But when we begin looking outside of Him for our value, we will continue to de-value ourselves on the basis of what others do and don’t say or what they do or don’t do to appease our starving egos and fragile flesh.
You are valuable. So, because of the love of God, stop looking at the stupid like and follower buttons on your personal profiles to find validation. You cannot find what you need by sinking your hopes into people liking your statuses, and if you can, then you haven’t yet discovered who you really are in Christ. In Bill Johnson’s words, “If you knew who God made you to be, you wouldn’t want to be anyone else.”
Value isn’t determined, it’s inherited.
#2 – IF YOU HAVE TO LOOK ON SOCIAL MEDIA TO FIND OUT IF YOU’RE FRIENDS WITH SOMEONE, YOU’RE NOT.
We’ve created a world with growing degrees of separation, and we need to stop the madness. It’s getting ridiculous.
Social mediums are a tool to move information. You may be able to make a social introduction, but ultimately you can’t form friendships through data. You can tally data…you can collect information…but you can’t befriend it. You can go to any library in our nation and find countless biographies of President Abraham Lincoln, with dates and details and pictures to boot, but you’re no more his friend because of said information…you’re just informed.
But how about the people I do know?
If you know them, I would suggest that social media is a bad measure of true friendship. If your relationship is based on your interactivity with that person over social media alone, it’s time to take a step forward or re-evaluate your relational expectations. Spend time talking with them face-to-face. It’s scary how foreign this concept is becoming…real interaction where you’re forced to do basic things like listen and respond.
People need contact. Hurting kids need hugs, not emojis. When my four-year-old daughter falls and scrapes her knee, she wants to be held. Why? Because we were innately created with the need for tangible connection. Fast food is alright when there’s nothing else to eat, but when it becomes your primary source of nutrition, a heart attack is on the way, and our kids are starving for the real thing.
Friendship is cultivated face-to-face.
#3 - IF YOU MUST PARTAKE, PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
Like it or not, this is the world we live in. Social media is one of the most powerful engines for moving messages, which means that you (like me) cannot avoid using it. With that being said, proceed with caution and apply some well-worn methods of wisdom to this fledgling. Like for instance…
+ DON’T POST PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE REACTIONS TO REAL-WORLD CONVERSATIONS.
This just reveals a flaw in your personal character. What you say is important. It has consequences. And social media cannot play the scapegoat for you. If you don’t want the consequence in real-world relationships, don’t roll the dice by posting it on social media…it may just come back to bite you. My suggestion: if you didn’t have the poise or conviction or clarity to respond in the context of the conversation, don’t use social media to purge. In fact, don’t use social media to purge at all. It’s not a toilet.
+ SOCIAL MEDIA CAN BE A FORCE FOR SERVICE, OR A CESTPOOL OF SELF-ABSORBTION.
Please hear this from the loving heart of a dad of two beautiful little girls that I want better for: posting selfies and videos of yourself all the time reveals an over-stimulated sense of EITHER self-centeredness or self-loathing, both of which seek to be satisfied with more attention, the key word being more. They are insatiable pits that never get filled. Selfies are the equivalent of only talking about yourself or looking into the mirror, and we know from mythology what happened to young Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection—he perished in unfulfilled self-interest and self-lust and never did anything with his own life. We’ve all experienced the pain of being around someone that only talked about himself…and yet we tolerate “love me” statuses and selfies like they’re somehow different. They’re not. Don’t waste your time trying to create some flowery self-image; instead, create a legacy…make a difference. Leave something of value behind. And who knows?...if we stop texting and tweeting and taking pictures long enough, we may just have lives worth being remembered and clarity enough to help others see their value instead of fighting to determine our own.
+ DON’T CONFRONT OR ARGUE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media is the equivalent to being in public. When conflict arises, (and it has quite a presence in the current social forums) exit quietly and make every effort to be peaceable. If you can’t help but get in debates on social media, you have no business being on social media. It’s not conviction…it’s a lack of restraint and self-control. Let’s not give some noble office to our inability to overlook foolishness, our impatience with showing grace to immaturity, and our hatred for opinions and views that may oppose our own. Confrontation belongs in the framework of relationship and is best done one-on-one and face-to-face or over the phone if otherwise impossible. (And with the power of technology, you can also use Skype or Facetime in making apologies or working through conflict.) There’s no excuse for arguing on social media…literally no excuse.
So, can we collectively agree to find the benefits of social media and spit out the proverbial bones?…there are lots of them! With any luck, we can lead the way in avoiding social media emergencies—and worse yet, graveyards—and help the next generation master another thing that will soon be expendable. In the meantime, let’s strive to slow down and have a few real conversations with the people around us. You never know what you might find out.