“If you love anything better than God you are idolaters: if there is anything you would not give up for God it is your idol: if there is anything that you seek with greater fervor than you seek the glory of God, that is your idol, and conversion means a turning from every idol.” - C.H. Spurgeon
“The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be;
Help me to tear it from thy throne,
And worship only thee.” - C.H. Spurgeon
This post has been brewing for a while, so it’s probably going to be long. I’ve been uncomfortable for a while now with how I use social media like Facebook and Twitter, and I keep making half-hearted attempts at toning it down, only to find in short order that I’m right back on it a lot. Then I read this article this morning, and it has quite a bit of painful truth in it for those of us who, as he so poignantly says seem to have our phones as an ‘extra limb’ rather than merely a communication device. Ouch.
So, I’ve been thinking again this morning, and I realize there is something addicting about Facebook and Twitter, at least for me, and in examining why that is, I think I’ve come to the root of it, and it is ugly. In the idol factory of my heart, I think I’ve made an idol of needing the approval or affirmation of other people. This not a new sin for me. I look back at the me I was in high school and college, and I see that ugliness cropping up in me a lot, so it’s nothing new. But Facebook has not helped at all. And having a smartphone has made it even more accessible. I am not at all convinced that my iPhone has really been a good thing for me. Sure, it’s useful in lots of ways, when I’ve gotten stranded somewhere, or lost somewhere (a much more common occurrence than I wish I had to admit), it’s been helpful to have that connectivity. But, it’s also been a hindrance in other, more subtle ways. Anyone else find they are having a much harder time concentrating for any length of time on a book or anything non-technologically related? I feel like I’ve developed adult-onset ADD. I find myself reaching for that dumb phone when I really want to put it away. Sometimes I’m holding it and scrolling through various social media and news apps before I even realize I’ve picked up the phone. How many times a day do you really need to check to see if anyone liked your most recent post or, better yet, commented on it? I mean, let’s face it, the love language of bloggers is comments, yes? And how many times a day do you really need to check the headlines to see what new ‘crisis’ is broiling? Anyone else feel like the 24/7 constancy of the news organizations and tweets and updates fosters a kind of Chicken Little or Boy Crying Wolf mentality? I don’t know about you, but I’ve gotten a little jaded with it all, and when certain news groups start screaming crisis, I’ve started taking a wait-and-see posture before I jump on the bandwagon.
There are some benefits I’ve found through Facebook. The article I linked is talking more about Twitter, and I’ve tentatively waded into that water, probably against my better judgement, but it’s Facebook that proves the bigger stumbling block for me. For one thing, as often as we move, it has been nice to keep in contact with people in a way that previously just didn’t happen. And I like the camaraderie you feel sometimes around there. But that’s also a negative, because there’s such a draw to write the next update and keep it going, and then keep checking to see who chimes in. And how about that nagging anxiety, angst, what-do-you-call-it when people are posting about their happy, happy, happy lives and victories over things without ever once thinking about the friends on their list who are struggling with the very thing they’re celebrating? How many hours I’ve found that I can waste when I get sucked into the vacuum of scrolling and reading and following links. So much wasted time. It’s amazing how fast an hour can fly by when you’re in the zombieland of Facebook time.
Another caution about Facebook is that sometimes we mommies get so involved in our mommy blogging mode that we share things about our kids we shouldn’t. I’ve read things about friends’ kids that moms share in frustration that I really shouldn’t know about them, and I’m sure the child would be embarrassed to know that all his/her mom’s friends now know about him/her. Think about it, would you have wanted your mom sharing all the dumb stuff you did as a preteen with all of her friends? Would you want your young foolishness enshrined on the internet coloring lots of people’s opinions of you? How many dumb things did you do as a kid that you are now thankful your mom didn’t have a Facebook account to share it to? Is our need for a self-deprecating mommy moment or funny story more important than our obligation to love our children as ourselves? Our children are not mere extensions of our mommy-selves. They are people in their own right, who are still growing and maturing and they really don’t need their foibles and things they will someday be regretful about spilled out there all over social media for our friends to see, just for the sake of a pithy or interesting or self-approving status update.
And, to be honest, you don’t really care what I had for breakfast, either. Man, am I guilty of this stuff!
Something else I’ve been thinking about recently is that there is something about the anonymity of internet interactions that makes us more willing to say hateful or insensitive things that maybe we wouldn’t if we knew the people in person rather than only on the internet. Have you ever seen someone’s blog or Facebook comments blow up when they dare to address something that someone else strongly disagrees about? People seem so quick to take others to task, even when they don’t know them in person. Let’s face it, blog comments and Facebook comments, for all their immediacy, don’t really lend themselves to well reasoned arguments. Nuance and face-to-face conversation is so much better for some of these discussions. Besides, why do we feel so strongly that we MUST comment and lecture people when we disagree with someone on the internet? Do Facebook arguments change anyone’s mind? I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that it’s easy to make assumptions and engage in heated discussion, and usually I leave those discussions feeling uneasy, angry, frustrated, depressed, anxious, you name it, but all negative. In watching some of these meltdowns happen, I’ve come to wonder if certain aspects of the social media culture don’t breed a kind of modern day equivalent of those women that Paul warns about in 1 Timothy 5:13 who through idleness go around as busybodies and gossips causing problems by saying things they ought not. That is a tendency I’ve had to check in myself, because it’s so enticing to get sucked into some of the controversies that spurt up, especially if you have strong opinions about the subject. I’ve decided my life is happier to avoid a lot of it.
And speaking of making assumptions, I learned something pretty important when I served on a Grand Jury once, and it pertains to some of what I see as negative on Facebook. With the immediacy of ‘news’ these days, it’s so tempting to weigh in and assume we know the truth based on just what we read on the news sites or blogs. We had a case once that was quite complicated, and who did what and why and when and who was actually involved in the crime and who was not was not clear cut and easy to determine. There was a lot of ‘he said,’ ‘she said,’ ‘they said,’ ‘we said,’ and while we were pretty sure what had happened, sure enough that a majority of the jury voted to indict the parties named, there was enough ambiguity that some of us on the jury weren’t sure some of the individuals were involved or not. When the story hit the news, many of the details were sealed, not available to the public, so the story told in the paper wasn’t anywhere near the whole story, of course. Reading the comments and hearing the assumptions people were making was very frustrating to me, knowing some of the details that couldn’t be reported, because based on the little that was reported they were logical assumptions about the people involved. The problem was, they weren’t necessarily true. It’s amazing how a story can look one way, but when you have more information it can vastly change the story. Not that what was out there was untrue, it just didn’t tell the whole story. So, I guess that’s a warning to be careful in rushing to judgement on stories that hit the news and social media. We, the public, really might not know all there is to know, and hard as it may seem to think it, the information that isn’t out there could change the story a lot, impossible as that might seem, convinced as you may feel in reading what is reported.
So, wrapping this up, the reason I titled this long thing, “Jumping Off the Train to Zombieland,” is that I’ve decided I really don’t want my kids’ memories of me to be overwhelmingly the top of my head and distracted interactions with them because I’m fiddling with my phone or computer all the time. For all the talk, facetious and not so much, about the coming zombie apocalypse, I think we may have missed the fact that it’s already here. True communication is stunted these days. Go into a restaurant and look around at how many people are sitting there focusing on that stupid phone in their hands rather than communicating face-to-face with the real person right there with them. We sit in the same room together, but apart, as we all have our little personal devices out, chatting with our Tweeps and Facebook peeps or playing our Minecraft games together, but we are in actuality sitting there alone, though we have people right there next to us. We’ve traded the false intimacy of the internet for real, live communication and friendship and family.
And I am convicted and tired of it, and I’m trying to unplug somewhat. It won’t be easy. Like I said, it is the weirdest kind of addiction. But I am looking forward to the breath of fresh air being a little more disconnected will bring.