I’ve been thinking a lot about social media lately. More specifically, I’ve been wondering if the life we choose to put out on a screen has changed the way we put out life off a screen.
I’ve been thinking about how, thanks to twitter, facebook, instagram, the vine, and whatever else we’re using these days, we have the opportunity to headline our successes, broadcast our happiness, and completely edit out the negative.
If I have a double chin or an exposed tank top-arm in a picture posted on facebook, you better believe I’ll untag myself immediately. I want to look good to all the people I went to middle school with and haven’t seen since. I don’t want anyone to think I’ve let myself go because of a realistic photographer angle. If I’ve made only two healthy meals in a week of grabbing whatever I can between crazy work and evening obligation schedules, I only instagram the healthy meals, (duh). I want you to know that I’m a healthy culinary genius. And if I’ve only read one book in the last two months, but I made time to read today, I will most definitely be tweet quoting that bad boy so that all of my followers know that I, @allisonbuzard, am an avid reader.
Social media isn’t the place for deep vulnerability and sharing personal struggles. In fact, I’ve been known to rant about the facebook-overshare a time or two. And while I’m not advocating for more social media over-sharing, I am wondering today, if our use of social media has crippled our real life ability to share. Are we becoming too accustomed to editing ugliness and only sharing the good stuff, that we have forgotten how to be real and vulnerable off the screen?
And what about this: Do we assume that others in our lives are doing great because of what we see on social media? Have we stopped really checking in with our friends because it appears on facebook that their put-together, color-coated kids are always smiling, they are drinking green-colored smoothies, their work is fulfilling, and they are reading CS Lewis? Have we lost the art of real community, because we assume from our viewing of online community that all is well?
While we’re going deep, let’s go even deeper. Today, I’m wondering if social media has altered our motives. Did I cook that meal and plate it nicely because I want to eat delicious healthy food, or because I want accolades from my instagram followers? Did I post on facebook about my recent coffee date with a college student because I genuinely had a good time connecting with her, or because I want people to know that I’m a good small group leader? Did I tweet quote that guest speaker or author (using her/his twitter handle of course) because I genuinely liked what she/he had to say, or because there was a little part of me that wanted to be retweeted or interacted with on social media by someone that’s a little famous?
Very easily, social media can lead to self-centeredness. Self-centeredness can breed insecurities. Insecurities can birth editing. Editing can produce a false sense of identity. And a false sense of identity can cause pride, fear, inauthenticity, and even impure motives.
And delving even a little deeper, sometimes, I wonder if we’ve lost the ability to “treasure up things, and ponder them in our heart” like Mary did after the birth of Jesus (Luke 2). Can you imagine if Mary and Joseph had access to social media and used it like we do? Because the pre-marriage pregnancy seemed a bit sketchy back in the day, I doubt they would have posted month by month pregnancy progress photos on facebook, but would they have told everyone that they were visited by angels and explained the conception in a facebook post? Would they have instragramed baby Jesus with the shepherds? Would they have tweeted about their visit from the three kings so the three kings could retweet it and used the hastag #4kings?
Sometimes, I wonder if we’re too busy taking pictures of nature, typing a deep quote, and tagging people in posts to just plain savor the good moments in life. Have we lost the art of pondering things, and treasuring things, and keeping things to ourselves? Are our lives too public?
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m crazy self-centered. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s not just me (I’m not disagreeing that I am self-centered and in my head). I’ve seen some tweets from friends quoting a speaker that I’m pretty sure we both thought had C+ content at best. I’ve tagged friends in photos and realized later that those friends had untagged themselves. I’ve talked with friends who got jealous of how great everyone’s life seems on facebook when theirs was falling apart.
I’m not advocating for going back to simpler days and signing off all social media. I have taken breaks for seasons, and if you feel the need to do that, do. I think social media has great benefits; I just think we need to be sure that social media isn’t shaping us into inauthentic, self-centered, attention-hungry, oversharers.
What do you think?
Has using social media changed you or your community?