As this year begins, I find myself thinking about my use of social media. In general, I’m a fan – I enjoy Facebook in theory, Twitter and blogging (my blog has been down for 2 weeks – thanks for fixing it Todd Hiestand!). But there’s a dark side to social media of course and I have a few social media resolutions I am trying to pursue this year.
Resolution 1 – Remember the Purpose of Social Media
I had a friend share with me once how wonderful my life looked on Facebook. I told him that was funny because his page looked so much cooler than mine and we exchanged our memories of mutual envy over beers and laughs. He’s single, always on the move and cool but doesn’t act too cool and makes fun of hipsters which is what hipsters do of course.
He assured me that I was still cool. I not only own a minivan but one of my favorite moments is looking in the rearview and seeing three cute kids in their carseats. Even if I’m listening to the Arcade Fire at the same time, I’m pretty sure that’s not cool. He tells me, “It’s cool that you’ve accepted fatherhood instead of trying to be cool.” I tell him, I’m sorry I wasn’t listening, my wife just texted asking me if I know where the Buzz Lightyear and Woody toys are. “What were you saying? Yeah, maybe you’re right, maybe I am still cool.”
It’s not that our Facebook walls and Twitter timelines lie, it’s that they are incomplete. I think it’s normal (and healthy) that we post our better pictures and attempt to post somewhat intelligent, relevant or helpful status updates. However if we work too hard at looking perfect, we may be guilty of vanity.
We might be tempted to think it’s a good idea to post pictures of the non-great moments like getting out of bed or when we are angry or every thought that pops into your mind but that is not helpful as such things usually bother or offend our friends and followers with boring minutia and over-sharing. This is because social media is not meant to capture all the dimensions of life. It’s a tool for sharing appropriate moments with one another. I’m resolving to make sure I remember that.
Resolution 2 – Keep My Emotional Distance From Social Media
There was a time when the only people that got on my nerves were actual life-forms I interacted with throughout the day. Now, much of what gets on my nerves is from avatars and names in my Inbox.
On one hand, we’re constantly told that what happens on social media isn’t really real. But on the other hand, it turns out it in fact, much of it is reality. I’ve looked into it and there is no truth to the rumor that the Terminator T-1000’s have been converted from killer robots to tweeting and status updating machines (although it would explain whose making all those memes and I do like recycling).
We are living in this unprecedented time where we literally interact with actual hundreds (if not more) life-forms on a daily basis. Let’s non’t look past this, let’s take that in. That’s a lot of people and I’m not sure we have the emotional bandwidth to sustain such interaction and I need to remember that.
So on a very practical level, I want to stop saying to my wife, “Did you see what (person of choice)‘s status update today?” Unless it’s about a kid being born or something really exciting or clever, I need to get rid of this because it’s usually annoying and honestly, we need fewer annoying things in our kitchens and living rooms. Which brings me to …
Resolution 3 – Spend Less Time on Social Media and Keep Fasting
I learned quickly that social media will ruin my life if I am too committed to it. “There’s so much to read, so much to keep track of. So many interesting people. There are even people who think I am interesting. I must interact with each of them in order to enjoy a full authentic friendship …”
No one thinks they spend dangerous levels of time and everyone knows a bunch of people that spend a lot more time (or seem to) online. That’s part of how we justify to it to ourselves.
If it’s of any practical help to you, my social media habits generally include checking Facebook/Twitter a few times a day and simply scanning (I rarely reload pages). I know, I am missing some amazing insights. May God bring these great revelations to me in other ways if He sees fit. I am not a good Calvinist but I do believe God desires to bring specifics things to our attention ever so often … and long ago, He did this without the help of social media. Sometimes He brings the greatest of insights in our times of prayer. I know, crazy.
For at least a year, I have been fasting regularly from social media and I need to keep this up as I am enjoying it more. I usually take a break during the weekends and usually after controversial moments. For instance, I didn’t read too much more about the Dynasty Duck guy who made those really weird and offensive remarks. I have nothing but respect for those who blogged and discussed it though. For me, I was in a peaceful moment observing Advent and chose not to partake. There’s a time to jump in the controversy and try to settle the sides, there’s a time to rebuke, and there seems to be a time to just stay out of it. It’s been my experience that no matter which of these three you do, there will be people thanking you and hating you so be ready to own your decision. Which brings me to the fourth.
Resolution 4 – Be Bolder But Be Wiser
I don’t really have any specific agenda in mind but I tend to play it safe as I like to think that I typically don’t add to the mess of things. I know I used to instigate more. And I think part of that was because I didn’t have as many conversations and conversationalists to engage with and so as odd as it sounds, instigated was a way of making friends (I know, I know).
But I think I can advance certain conversations more (and every so often a trustworthy friend encourages me). This will be the hardest one for sure as I try to balance the this and the third resolution together.
Truth is some days your skin is thick and feel you have something to say and willing to accept whatever the feedback. Some days you don’t want to deal with it and sometimes you feel the responsibility of taking one for the team. Some days everyone thinks you’re brilliant (some days, you might be). And some days, you should sit on the mountain and pray for your Jerusalem (i.e. the people and calling you love). As incarnational as He was, Jesus was not healing and sharing bread with the masses in those moments. He couldn’t, He was literally away and likely one of the ways His strength, creativity and commitment was renewed.
Resolution 5 – Be More Intentional about Starting More Conversations
This has a whole long mental thread so I’ll spare you but I’d love more interaction with you readers. Honesty, it’s not just about “getting comments” but according to my Post Views (which there is debate on how accurate they are), a good number of my posts will get 300 views in a day and near a thousand as the week goes on. I know these are very small numbers in the blogger world and even if half those views are correct, to me they say there is the potential for intelligent dialogue here. I’d love to have it and have my friends interact with each other.
This is what I’ve been learning from my time in social media and hoping 2014 will be healthy, sustainable and honoring to God and others. Happy New Year’s.
Do you have any social media resolutions? Would love to hear them or your thoughts to mine. Thanks for reading/sharing.