I have a confession to make.
A good percentage of the things I post on Facebook have shady motives. Sometimes, if I post something political, it’s for the purpose of garnering “likes” from people I know will agree with me or, worse yet, to shame those who don’t. Sometimes I post things because I want people to be proud of me, or to think I’m smart, or because I’m feeling lonely. Other times I’ll post things in a passive aggressive attempt to let someone reading know that I think their ideas are awful and they should change (and they would change if they were as enlightened as me, I tell myself, and this meme will certainly do the trick!).
I’m not proud of this. I recognize it as a character defect and it’s one of the hardest for me to surrender. Step 6 encourages me to become entirely ready to give these defects of character over to my higher power, but to be honest, sometimes I’m unwilling.
Why am I unwilling? Because I invest a lot of energy in justifying my social media presence. I often think about how the world will be less safe or sane or good without my input. I often fantasize that this tweet or that meme or my witty and theologically astute comment will go viral and all the world will say Amen. I tell myself that if I don’t speak up and out, who will?
But if I’m honest about what’s going on in my insides when I do all this, I’m miserable. I hate that I pick up my phone every 30 seconds to see if someone has liked my status. I hate that I obsess in my head over what someone I’ve never met thinks about today’s news headline. I hate that I construct these resentments in my heart towards friends, family and strangers because of what they have said or haven’t said on Facebook, or because they didn’t like or love my comment. I hate that the need to be right has dominated my need to be happy and serene.
To quote Russell Brand, in justifying my misery I recommit to it.
I was discussing all this over tacos the other night with a friend. We concluded that we were a lot alike in how we use social media. We suspect that a lot of people are like us, too. We also considered some of the best ways real change happens. In my experience it happens over meals like that one. It happens over face-to-face interactions where we seek to truly hear the other person’s perspective and, because we are face-to-face and therefore more vulnerable, we tend to speak our minds in kinder, gentler ways. It’s easier to love someone whom I disagree with when they are eating tacos with me than when they are separated by pixels and screens and state-lines.
When I’m face-to-face with you I’m less likely to reduce you to a single issue or meme, and you are less likely to do the same to me.
This is not to say that all of social media is evil and brings out the worst in us. It is to say, however, that more times than not it brings out the worst in me. It unsettles my serenity and makes me a less joyful person when I am wrapped up in the web of everyone’s thoughts about world events or what I ate for dinner.
A week ago I became willing, at least for now, to surrender this defect of my character. To help with that I removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone and stopped posting or commenting on either (when I publish something on my blog it is automatically shared to those platforms). I’ve noticed myself lurking from time to time on my laptop (just to check in on my friends, I tell myself), but those times are getting fewer and farther between, and I’m grateful for that. I’m learning that I can live without the world knowing what I think about this week’s news headlines (anyone who knows me well enough already knows what I think on those matters. Why keep beating the same drum?). I’m also learning that there is more room in my life for joy and peace and hope and thinking the best about my neighbors than I have when I’m debating strangers on Facebook.
And I’m learning, again, that I cannot fix people, places or things. Rarely have I ever changed because of someone’s argument or Facebook status. But I’ve changed much when others simply loved me for who I am, where I am, and entrusted my life to the care of God. I want to be that sort of person for others. If one day I can be that person while being on Facebook, that would be great. Until that time, I’m willing for today to give it up.