by Mark Mansfield via David Rountri
In the fast-paced age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blogs (like this one), human beings are transmitting and receiving a seemingly infinite amount of information in a way that no era has never witnessed. I’m too lazy to look up statistics, but if you’re reading this, I’m sure you have also observed the mass-digitization of our social interactions in which, I believe, we have sacrificed quality for quantity. Now, I’m not here to rant or make you feel guilty about using social media and technology. Please remember that while reading this post. I just want to provide a few thoughts on the topic you might find interesting and hopefully freeing.
I recently broke open a fortune cookie from Panda Express (one of the greatest places on earth). On the side without the lucky numbers, one small sentence read, “Speak less of your plans, you’ll get more of them done.” I was taken back by the simple yet profound words from inside my sugary cookie. This idea is very relevant to a generation of people constantly updating each other with our plans, from what we ate for breakfast or who we’re going to hang out with Friday night, to our current relationship status (ex. single and ready to mingle). Ironically, we know all of these facts about one another, yet so many of us feel lonely, isolated, and deprived of real intimacy. Even the word intimacy is beginning to collect dust as a stranger to our modern vocabulary. If I were asked if I really know all of my 1000 plus Facebook friends, I would have to answer: No. I know about a lot of them, but I don’t really know most of them. Clearly, we’ve sacrificed quality for quantity.
For many of us, social media has become an outlet for us to find self-worth and identity, or at least amplify the things we identify with. It is a way of showing people that we’re social, exciting, fun, smart, etc. Online we can show the best sides of us and edit out the parts we don’t want others to see. It’s no wonder psychologists have begun diagnosing people with Facebook depression. They see the fantastic lives of everyone else and wonder why theirs is so uneventful. If you look up in a public place today, you will see everyone glued to their phones, scrolling through feeds. Our society is addicted to a digital world and our abilities to interact in real life conversations is on the decline. But is this virtual life really working to satisfy us? I don’t think so. There are definitely many benefits to virtual networking, but I think we’re missing out on some beautiful aspects of life and the way we were truly designed to live in community with one another.
I want to invite you to live your life without feeling the need to let everyone know about what you’re doing. I challenge you to do something fun and exciting, and not post every detail on Instagram. I challenge you to go minister to the poor, and not make a status about it. Go to lunch with your best friend without taking a picture at the end to post online afterward. I think when we put those awesome moments in our lives on display for everyone to see, something special gets lost along the way. How much better would it be instead of making a status on your anniversary about how great your spouse is, to simply write them a letter that only the two of you know about. I believe there is so much more value and meaning in something like that, and holding back these important moments in life from the digital world will allow us to share them more intimately with one another. It is my hope that we, myself included, can begin to unplug from the distractions of social media and get back to genuine deep relationships that so many of us lack.
I’m really curious to see what social media will look like in the future, if people will eventually get tired of posting their lives on a website for the world to see. I don’t know if you’ve started feeling this way too, but I have become tired of posting about myself for people who don’t really know me to like or favorite. I would rather speak less of my plans and just do stuff, live life like I don’t have to prove my actions to everyone. Am I saying to delete all of your social media accounts and never get online again? Yes. Jk. No. Like I said, there are definitely benefits to maintaining a virtual network. Instead, I would simply ask yourself some probing questions like: Why am I posting this? Am I looking to find acceptance, approval, or worth in how people react or respond? Why am I scrolling a newsfeed for hours on end? Questions like these will help you get to the root of whatever issue you might personally be facing. For me, I easily get puffed up with pride and get a false sense of security when people like my stuff online. Maybe you struggle with boasting about yourself or idolizing certain people (aka. facebook stalking). Whatever it is, I challenge you to search your own heart and see if you deal with any of these issues.
Ok, now here is the good news! Each new day is an invitation to live life to the fullest. I can’t help but tie the Gospel into this post because the reality is that God is really good and without his grace, we can’t live the way he intended. I am a sinner who makes mistakes daily. I fall short of what God created me to be, but because of what Jesus did, I am forgiven and have new life. I no longer have to prove my case before God or other people because Jesus took my case and accepted all the punishment I deserved when He died on the cross. Because of Christ, I have a purpose and an identity that will never change. For those of you who believe in Jesus, you have the opportunity to live a secretly amazing life by his power, one that doesn’t have to justify itself with status updates to the world (real or virtual), but simply makes much of Him. In light of that good news, let us all speak less of our plans and just do them. Assuming my fortune cookie was right, we’ll get more of them done that way.