I realized something today. I think it's something I've known all along but was totally in denial about. There was always a little tug on my heart that this whole social media ordeal was getting a little out of hand in my life. I had recognized it, felt convicted about it, and even considered acting on it...but next thing you know I'm back on Facebook before even thinking twice about it.
Well, that was before...and this is now. I always say at the start of each new stage "this is it, I am going to turn over a new leaf" and all sorts of ideas run through my mind - I'm going to go organic, learn an instrument, learn how to cook, and maybe even pick up crafting or crochet. Then that next stage begins and I get stuck in the same ol rut, wondering what the heck happened to all those big dreams and ambitions.
But today I had a revelation. Often times, our dreams go unrealized because we chose to focus on something else instead. We all know that when we give time to one thing, then we are giving up time to something else. Which is why balance/wholeness is so important a thing to strike in life (and a continual process to master indeed). When I stopped and thought about all the things I'd love to let go of and new things I'd like to embrace in this new stage of life, I began to reflect on what things may stand in my way.
It was today that it hit me the one thing that sucks up SO much of my time. It was a typical study day, I was in the library looking through flashcards and highlighting notes when I took my usual Facebook study break. I mindlessly wandered through the status updates and the various people who were updating me on what food they just ate or song they just listened to...when I came to a photo posted by a girl. It caught my eye because she was with a group of friends and I had to do a double-take, because frankly...it didn't look like her much at all. It was a nice picture and everything, but it just looked nothing like her! So that's when it hit me. I had heard it plenty of times before - that Facebook has turned into a false reality where people allow themselves to fall into social comparison, envy, and mindless gazing. In my sociology class, we talked about social media and isolationism - how in this new age people are ironically "connected" in mutual loneliness. We all talk over our phones or computers, while we sit at home alone. In this ever-connected world, studies show that isolation and depression are rising, number of authentic friendships are declining, and our perception of true reality is becoming more and more distorted.
A few weeks ago our pastor preached on the sin of envy. He gave an example of seeing a photo on facebook of a family on vacation. In the photo, a perfect looking family is smiling into the camera as they all pose with skis in front of beautiful, snow-covered mountains. There we are, sitting at our desks or in our rooms gazing at this perfect looking family and envying their perfect looking life. But what we don't see, are the 10 other photos taken where dad was looking away, the boy picking his nose, and the girl whining about wanting food. Of course, out of all the photos the very best one is chosen and then posted on Facebook. There's nothing wrong with that, but there is a danger to it. We allow ourselves to compare the mundane of our "right now," to the "best" of another; and slowly but surely our appreciation wanes and our envy rises.
Now maybe this is only a problem for me. I've always fallen into social comparison and have had perfectionist qualities, so I'm not going to bash on everyone as if they can't use Facebook in a healthy way. I'll admit there are many things that are wonderful about social media. The original idea of being able to stay connected with distant loved ones or give updates to busy friends was an awesome idea; and it can be a very beautiful communication tool! And of course, as a Corporate Communications major and a future Publicity Coordinator I recognize the true value of networking and marketing that can come from social media.
But for me, it's just become too controlling over my life. When I had my iPhone, I would wake up and before even getting out of bed, would check my e-mail and facebook on my phone. Every few hours I would check for updates. Some nights, I would spend hours messaging people or uploading photos. There were times that I realized I was taking a photo not necessarily to catch the moment, but with the idea that I wanted to do this certain pose or this certain shot SPECIFICALLY with a Facebook status or new cover photo in mind. I don't know, it just seems wrong to me. Social media can be awesome if we have control over it. If we use it to truly connect with those we love and to keep in touch with real friendships. The danger is when social media begins having control over us. When we begin living our lives according to what we want to project in a false world. When we substitute real community for online community. When we compare our real lives with the projected and edited image of others' lives. When we allow hours of our day to go toward sitting infront of a computer mindlessly gazing or comparing instead of actually living and spending time in real relationship.
Like I said, I hate to be a harsh critic - but I am only describing what has happened in my own life and which I have decided has gone too far. I am ending one season of my life, and beginning a new one - in the "real world" and I've decided I want that world to be as real as possible. For me, that means letting go of the false world that I have created through Facebook. I'll be deleting my old one where I have 1200 "friends" and 1000s of photos for everyone to see every detail of my life. Instead, I'll be re-creating a new facebook community and restoring what social media is best used for - updating and staying in touch with those who I am closest to in my life and who would be difficult to speak to outside of face-to-face interaction or phone/e-mail. I will still be updating my blog as I love to write and share revelations - so you can follow me if you want to still read them :) Finally, for those who genuinely want to stay connected with me but who might not be my closest friends or family I love e-mails and have created a new one -- firstname.lastname@example.org - I would love to stay in contact!
The sad thing about all of this, is that even as I type this I continue to have internal objections of deleting my facebook. When I first realized I needed to stop this nonsense I had ALL these opposing thoughts come up in my mind. "Well, it's the new age you have to stay up with the times," "It's your major and future career, you need to keep your presence," "It broadens the scope of influence," "It can encourage others through statuses or messages." So on and so forth. But I realized, despite all those points, that when it comes down to it - all those objections are more of an ideal than a reality. While it would be nice to think I have more control over Facebook then it does over me, I would be kidding myself. I'll still use social media for my future work responsibilities, and to update close friends and family on my new facebook; but this is me taking back control over a powerful force than can so easily become more destructive than beneficial.
In this next stage, I probably still won't "turn over a new leaf" in all the ways that I imagine. But I know this is a step in the right direction. I can now focus more on the fulfillment of real community; become better aware of my real identity apart from it being an edited projection or compared with someone else's; take photos for my enjoyment and not just for social media; and have the time to do those small things I've always wanted to do - like learn how to play guitar, begin crafting, or join a yoga class. The possibilities are endless and I'm excited to live under a rock of old-fashioned, non-social media livin :)
Disclaimer - If you know me at all you know I'm a communicator! If you truly want to stay in touch with me, then I mean it when I say I truly want you to send me your e-mail or number and we can continue to grow and stay updated in real friendship!
I would also encourage you all to reflect on what role social media plays in your life, and how present you are in your day-to-day relationships. Remember, the Lord didn't make social media and anything man-made should definitely be taken with precaution! Judge your actions not by the world's standards but by the standards of Christ who sought authentic relationships and truth and commands us to seek Him as we make our number one aim to lead a life not of online presence, or personal recognition, or gaining acceptance from others; but in growing in righteousness in a way that best serves God and others.