INFLAME: To provoke or intensify strong feelings (such as anger) in someone; to make a situation worsen; to aggravate, exacerbate, intensify, worsen or compound.
I see so much inflammation these days. All around me. Actually I feel so much inflammation in my joints these days I can barely move. Ahhhh, the price we pay for “maturing” in life. With wisdom and maturity comes bad hips and sore knees. But I digress. :-). I’m talking about a different kind of inflammation today. Inflammation of the heart. I truly believe it’s a huge problem right now. We have pushed and pulled and provoked each other so harshly lately that we are ALL inflamed and hurting. And you know the old saying, “Hurt people hurt people”.
I hear many friends stating, “I’ve just got to take a break from social media. People are just pissing me off lately! I can’t take it!”. But rarely do I actually see them take that break they were saying they needed. Why? Because many are addicted. Some people think the addiction stems from living in a culture of breaking news, the desire to stay “in-the-know”, or as some say, “FOMO” (fear of missing out). But I think the addiction runs much deeper than that.
I think it is an addiction of connection. Of belonging. Of being heard. Of being needed. Deep down, we all crave those things in our soul.
There is so much loneliness in the world, and social media allows us to feel connected, even though sometimes the connection is very shallow, and maybe even false. For instance, because I “follow” Jen Hatmaker on Facebook and feel a connection/kindred spirit to her, that doesn’t mean that we are BFF’s. She may be a part of my world as I stalk her FB page to see what she has to say today because I LOVE HER AND WE ARE BFF’S even though if I knocked on her door in Austin she would not have one clue who I am and would probably have me arrested. Hey all BFF’s have their spats, right? HA. Anyway, you see my point. The connections we feel via social media aren’t always true connections and we mustn’t get those confused with the need for REAL personal relationships. Those are the only connections that will help our loneliness epidemic.
However, all that being said, I’m a big “fan” of social media in general. Yes, it can be abused and misused, as can almost anything in the world today, but there are so many great things about it when used correctly. I recently asked my friends on Facebook this question:
“What would you miss the most about social media if it suddenly went away?”
Almost 90% of the answers were all about connecting with others. A few people mentioned getting their news or sports updates, info on current events etc... but overwhelmingly people said they would miss the connections with friends and family, especially those that don’t live in close proximity.
I was telling some friends the other day that social media spaces— specifically Facebook and Instagram were my LIFELINE this year with all the traveling I was doing. It can get lonely being thousands of miles away from your loved ones so much. No matter where I was in the world this year, I could always log onto FB and see what my friends and family were doing, and interact a bit, even through the miles and time changes. It was a big comfort to me and something “stable” I could lean on.
All that being said, I do think there are good rules to keep in mind when using social media. I’ve been doing a little research about how to make my “internet world” a little better and I thought I might share some of those ideas with you here.
First off, I’m going to try and take a different approach with my social media pages. I’m going to be more intentional about what I’m posting and WHY I’m choosing to post. I recently asked my FB friends about what kind of criteria they use before posting... or did they just post without thinking how their post might be construed or misconstrued by others. My friend Amy Jean gave a list that I thought was SO PERFECT, so I’m going to use her list here as a great example. She said this was her criteria:
1. Correct spelling and grammar.
2. Would I mind reading this in front of a group?
3. Would a potential employer want to see this?
4. Would future me want to see this?
5. Am I speaking truth? Do I have evidence to back it up? Is what I’m saying honest while still tactful?
Then she added:
“As much as we think social media is a platform to post or say whatever without consequence, there is always a consequence whether we know it or not. Something I say or post may totally turn someone off to anything else I have to say, so yeah I think it’s really important to filter what you post while still being authentic. ☺️”
There is much truth to that statement. (Thanks Amy!). There definitely CAN be consequences to what we post. For example, I’ve had friends in the music business who have noticed their work being affected by posting political views that didn’t necessarily line up with some of the people who had been choosing to hire them. I’ve also known friends who have left their church after reading their pastors private twitter account and feeling like his private thoughts weren’t in line with what they believed to be true. I’ve seen families splinter and friendships end over social media posts. It’s crazy how powerful a few words can be. Remember the lady who posted a short racist tweet before flying to Africa and by the time she logged back in to her social media account at the end of that flight, her tweet had gone viral, getting her fired and basically having half the country hating her. She only had a few followers but that “viral” thing can turn your life upside down quickly. Whatever you post, you better get ready to OWN it people. What goes on the internet, stays on the internet FOREVAHHHH. Think about what you are posting before you put it out there for all the world to see.
I also think we should take a good hard look at WHY we are posting. Am I trying to make myself look cool? Am I trying to fill some need for attention at the moment? Or am I posting because I think someone else might learn something from my post or just enjoy it? What are my motives? I think a good gut check is important, maybe not with every post, but now and then it should be done.
Many folks said they stayed away from any controversial posts, like politics or religion. But I think it’s important to feel free to say how you feel about these subjects. Others might be influenced by what you have to say... as long as it’s done respectfully. I actually enjoy seeing some people post their thoughts on those “hot topics”, as long as their thoughts and feelings aren’t done in an inflammatory way.
We are back to inflammation again. :-)
That is the biggest problem in my opinion. It’s not usually WHAT we are saying, but the WAY we are saying it. So much anger, indignation, defensiveness, and judgement towards others who might not believe the same way we do. And so little compassion, sympathy and grace being tossed around. It’s a scary place to be sometimes, this social media world.
All that being said, I’m going to lay down some rules for myself going forward with my social networks. Here is my promise to you friends that connect with me on any social media.
To the best of my abilities, I promise to:
- Be the same person online as I am in person. No presenting things better than they are or worse than they are.
- Make sure any information I share is vetted by me and several other sources before posting.
- Always allow for differing opinions, as long as they treat me and anyone else they interact with on my page respectfully. (Someone told me a long time ago that your “cyber space” is like your “living room” online. If someone came into your home and started bullying you or any of your other guests, you would ask them to leave. Same rule is going to apply to my social network pages.)
- Never post anything intentionally inflammatory, but yet not be afraid to stand up and speak when I feel my voice might help contribute to justice.
- Try to make my posts matter. Be informative, funny, helpful... anything that might make someone else’s day a little better. Don’t post just to POST. If I need to write my thoughts down about something to get them out of my head, write in my journal. Not all my thoughts needs to be made public.
- Not take myself too seriously.
That last one is KEY. I think we all probably need to lighten up a bit and laugh more. Laughter IS the best medicine and with the state our country is in right now, comic relief is NEEDED Y’ALL.
To wrap this up, I think we can all agree that social media has changed our society, culture, and specifically the way we interact with each other and I don’t see it going away anytime soon. So I truly believe we need to all learn how to navigate these fairly new waters in more productive and less inflammatory ways, or we are all going to end up feeling lonelier, less connected, and more angry and isolated than ever.
Please feel free to share any other ideas you might have for communicating on social media. I know we all have a lot to learn and hopefully we can learn together! Let’s stop the inflammation and use this powerful tool of connection in the most positive way we can.
Are we cool?? COOL! :-)
Love and blessings to you all,