Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Hallway Brawls of Social Media: I'm Not Handling It Well

Are you stressed out yet?  I'll be honest.  I'm exhausted!  I'm not terribly worried about a virus.  I feel secure on what I can do to promote equality and understanding.  I'm not even that devastated about being lied to by governments and prominent entities over and over because, let's be real, it's been happening since the dawn of time.  Mostly, I have just had my fill of hallway brawls that are only happening because we're sitting behind screens.  Maybe some of us get pretty hateful in person when we're worked up, but if we continued in public like that, we would quickly find ourselves without many friends and suspended for disruptive behavior.   People disagree.  Always have.  Always will.  The difference is the emotional crutch we have turned social media - especially Facebook - into.  

We desire validation and security it numbers whether we realize it or not.  When we jump on social media, we may not be looking for a fight, but suddenly we're caught in the middle of one, surrounded by the angry mob ready to hang someone for disagreeing.  And these days, any argument seems like a good one at first so we all like it, saying, "You tell 'em, friend!"  But then wait for it.  A few hours, days later, the other perspective pipes up and pokes holes in the argument which may sound just as good to us passing by.  The point is that we are given access to this endless debate 24/7.   Like many, many really good things, too much ruins it.  Personally, I've hit my tolerance level for all of this social media mess because it is starting to steal time and energy from me for no profit.  I'm happy to talk with you privately about whatever is happening in the news today, but it just seems to stir up strife on social media right now - even if I don't say a word.  The strife is felt and heard around the world, it seems.  

I don't have a lot of answers because we're in the middle of this weird experiment.  I remember when IRC chat and AOL Messenger came bursting into our culture because I was a teenager then.  Just like that first kiss or major rejection, some things get burned into our memory at critical moments in our life.  Instant communication has ballooned over the past 15 years and because of that we as a society are living in an experiment that's still trying to figure out what this immediacy is doing to us.  I know there is value sprinkled in there somewhere, but lately it's really hard to believe the value is outweighing the harm.  

Smoke Creek Landing by Charles Wysocki - charleswysocki.com 

There has always been an emotional pull for me when it comes to scenes like the one above and this (theoretical) simpler time where things weren't so complicated.  Like Anne of Green Gables, my heart dramatically longs for peace and productivity in a community that works and plays together.  After the year we've had (and the election isn't even close yet), I long for this place even more.  The truth, though, is that times of simple peace were never far from complications, even if we can snap a perfect picture that pretends they aren't there.  I'm afraid that we instinctively believe that if we all agree on this issue or that a peaceful picture like the one above will emerge.  Even if we could all agree on this or that, sin still exists and will cause problems.  So, what can we do?

I'm being more disciplined about the time I spend scrolling on social media.  Through some of my prior commitments, I can't eliminate it completely so I'll still be posting.  However, the constant bickering and hatefulness is really hard on my soul and I think it has finally gotten so bad that I can't deny it anymore.  If stepping away in some form is something you've thought you ought to do, but hadn't had the conviction, maybe this will encourage you.  The truth is, if you can't handle something then be prudent and take yourself out of it.  I pray I'll be the one to surrender my keys when my health prevents me from driving safely.  I think the same concept is very relevant here.  If I can't be trusted to act in a Christian way or be able to filter out all the garbage properly without getting unnecessarily upset, I need to do something to change that.  

I have some pretty great kids who will meet adolescence in the face of constant distraction that is designed to addict them to social approval and constant strife.  As a 40 year old woman who has grown up with all of these gadgets and apps, I'm not quite sure how to help them navigate it all and maintain 'in the world, not of the world' status.  I thought I had a handle on things and then 2020 hit so clearly there's more to learn on the subject.   What I do know is that prayer and actually paying attention to His truths works.  No matter where our culture is on the sliding scale of science and knowledge,  God hasn't changed and hasn't been proven wrong.  Ever.  So maybe that's where I need to spend more of my time rather than getting punched in the face just trying to go to the bathroom so to speak.  We're all just trying to do the best we can so let's treat each other like it..

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