Monday, July 24, 2017

Using, Or Being Used By, Social Media

If it isn't shared on social media, did it ever really happen?

If it doesn't get a certain amount of likes, did it really have any value to begin with?

From dinner plates to hotel rooms, family outings to everyday routines - we are documenting everything these days . . .

Pictures and photographs of my grandparents in their younger years are rare and priceless to me because there are so few of them. Those that do exist tell only so much about their lives.

In contrast, my Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with pictures that people want you to see of them and their rose-colored lives. Only the best shots make the cut and even if someone posts a "negative" picture, I question her motive thinking, "Oh she's just looking for sympathy...."  

I feel my eyes turning that envious shade of green, wishing it could be me at that place, eating that meal or having that experience. On some imaginary scale in my head, I find myself rating me, judging my life and feeling my discontentment grow with each swipe of the screen.

The opposite happens too. When it is my family doing the neat thing, or my husband taking me to the "cool" date spot, or one of my daughters making me feel especially proud, I click away trying to capture just-the-right shot to literally show-off and brag about whatever it is I want to make everyone else feel envious over.

Oh, I justify it in my head, telling myself I am making it "just right" for my "Chatbooks" Scrapbook or to share the memory with family that lives far away, but I still find myself stalking my own postings to see how many "likes" I've gotten. To be totally honest, the more likes, the better I feel about myself.

Studies have been done proving that the same euphoric feelings that arise from having a bunch of "likes" is extremely similar to the endorphins that are released when a person is literally "high." This is part of the reason that social media use is so addicting and dangerous to us all, not just teens. It is why it is so appealing to those of us who struggle with low self-esteem. Social media, in itself, is not "evil" but it can quickly charm the unsuspecting user into cyclical patterns of destructive feelings and even behavior.

There are lots of warnings about what, when and how we allow our kids to take in social media, but when was the last time you took stock on how it was affecting your heart? To be honest, it's been too long for me...

Recently, my husband and I got away for a couple of nights without the kids. We visited some old stomping grounds and spent a lot of time reminiscing about the past while dreaming about the future. About halfway through our time together, we realized we had not taken a single picture. I started to feel bummed about it and how I didn't have any record of this special time together.... not for my own sentimental feelings, but to show everyone on Instagram...

When I realized my motive was to make others jealous, it really made me think... If it isn't documented on social media, did it really happen at all?

Of course it did! I decided then that instead of taking pictures with my phone, I would take mental pictures, treasuring the moments in my heart -not unlike the Gospels tell us Mary did when Jesus was young.... I decided to "be" in those moments, living them as I had them.

If I spend all my time "with" my family behind the camera or on my phone or behind the camera on my phone, then am I really "with" my family? Documenting the moments too often keeps me from living them and other times it tends to give Satan the opportunity of robbing me the joy God intended me to have in those experiences.

When I update my profile picture am I really fishing for compliments, wanting others to tell me how good I look? Or when I share a blog post on my Facebook page, do I really want to share that information or see who agrees with me? Even when I write for this blog I seek others' approval by seeing how many times a post has been read or shared or commented on...

In a recent Bible study, I was challenged to take a break from not just social media, but technology as a whole. I was encouraged to plan the day-long hiatus, clearing it with work obligations, but not posting about it as to make a big, bragging deal about it. While I've not met this challenge yet, it has already challenged my thinking on how social media robs me of so much life and so much joy.

I am not ready to make a broad, sweeping commitment, closing my accounts and logging off certain sites. But, I am ready to not just consume blindly. I am wanting to be aware of the effects of what I am taking in and the motives that are driving me to hit "share."

However, if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram or both, I can assure you this - you can't define me clearly by what you see there. My life is more full and too colorful (the bright, pretty and dull, ugly) to be clearly, fairly or accurately portrayed there.

I hope people who truly call me "friend" and sincerely "like" me already know all of this. I do know that my Jesus does and He is the One who loves me. My salvation in Him is what defines me and gives me the validation that the gods and idols of the internet fail to provide.

Missing the abundant life Jesus came to give? Have you allowed Satan to steal, kill and destroy by sneaking into your mind through a wireless signal?

What are the safeguards you put on your heart and mind when it comes to social media? In what ways are you being intentional to use social media and not let it use you? Please share your insights below....

No comments: