I get the irony. You’re probably reading this article because you clicked on a link on social media. But let’s set aside the caveats and have an honest conversation.
This weekend my wife asked me, “Do you think you’re addicted to social media?”
My defense was swift and certain, “It’s not an addiction.”
Her question had struck a nerve.
This morning, like every morning, I pulled up Facebook. But instead of the standard feed, I was met by a kind greeting that it was my 11th Faceversary. With a clever video reliving some of my highlights, it confirmed eleven years of social media engagement. Then it hit me, I’ve been with Facebook longer than I’ve been a father and almost as long as I have been a husband. Other than my immediate family and a few close friends, Facebook is one of the longest running relationships in my life. For eleven years, I have woken up daily and scrolled through the digital platform.
I’ve gone days without coffee. I’ve even gone days without showering. But, in eleven years I can honestly say that I haven’t gone a day without some level of social media interaction. It is an integral part of my life. Does that mean it’s addictive? Maybe.
The truth is, I see social media as a sort-of mission field. In a world filled with noise and negativity, I feel called to bring goodness, truth and light to the conversation. But in the middle of those efforts I have to be very careful that I don’t idolize and become enslaved to the mission. And that’s why I’ve come to the conclusion that I need less social media in my life.
This isn’t a scathing condemnation of social media. There are many positive aspects. But here are 5 reasons why I will use social media less in 2018.
1. The Danger in Quiet Comparison
When Mark Zuckerburg and his Harvard cronies created Facebook, I’m afraid they didn’t consider the effects.
For eleven years, I’ve lived in quiet comparison with everyone and everything that comes across my feed. After I wrote my book and began speaking, it only became worse. Once you’re convinced that Facebook is essential for business and professional success, it’s all the more addictive. And you’re constantly comparing your performance.
But the problem with social media, is that you’re not seeing other people’s reality, you’re only seeing what they choose to show you—it’s their version of reality, not reality itself. As a result, your reality is compared to your perception of others’ reality. The result is a quiet trap that isolates us and destroys our self-image. Even worse is the temptation to present what works rather than simply being yourself.
The comparison game is immature and narcissistic. It will no longer crush my dreams and choke my capacity for authenticity.
2. The Hypocrisy of Our Online Self
There’s something terribly wrong with posting a video about spending time with your kids when you’re actually neglecting your kids to make the video. That’s hypocrisy at its finest. Even worse is when you bring your kids into the video to add that extra dose of “awww”. My kids are a joy and I want to share them with the world, but the moment my motives become skewed, I lose all credibility.
It’s kind of like writing a post about gratitude, yet complaining when it doesn’t go viral. Or smiling for the camera and criticizing everyone in the picture after the camera has been put away. Or being the guy who has a million followers online, but is terrible at maintaining personal relationships.
I refuse to lie to myself about this anymore. Moreover, I refuse to let justification rob me of the truth. When I’m more concerned about presenting an image than actually living it out, there’s a problem.
No more online hypocrisy.
3. The Not-So-Subtle Addiction
One of the most interesting aspects of social media is that it appeals to the introvert and the extrovert. For those who thrive with personal interaction, you can have your fill. But for those who prefer to stay out of the spotlight, you can gleefully watch the world interact without saying a thing.
This type of duality makes for an obsessive habit because it’s not based on your personality or your mood. It appeals to our nature to seclude ourselves and our nature to be known. That’s a dangerous combination.
Social media has become our security blanket when the world around us doesn’t seem to comply with our needs. If our spouse isn’t paying attention to us, we can run to someone online who will. By that same token, if we’re wanting to pick a fight or release some tension, there’s a world at our fingertips. No filter required.
If a social platform is your security blanket in both the highs and the lows, you’re hooked.
4. Drowning in Information, Starved for Wisdom
I remember NBC’s longstanding public service initiative, “The More You Know.” But what if more knowledge, more information isn’t what we need?
Social media has created a machine of information that is readily available at any moment. The sheer volume of noise we have access to is deafening. But there’s no definitive way to vet that information against what is true and what is wise. As a result, we are drowning in information, yet starving for wisdom. E. O. Wilson first said this in 1998 and twenty years later it’s more relevant than it was back then.
We have to remember that social networks are marketing tools first. And unlike television, we can’t skip the commercials. That’s why we have to be incredibly aware of what comes across our feed and begin to discern between what is wise and what is simply baiting you to click.
As we consume and create, may we collectively strive for wisdom and truth instead of simply adding to the sea of information.
5. Abundance Happens in Real Life
Social media allows for limitless connections, but true abundance doesn’t happen online. It happens in real life.
The other day a friend posted that he was having a bad day. Countless people commented to cheer him up. I gave him a call instead. It surprised him, but it was meaningful. I’m not tooting my horn, but I am saying that we can’t neglect personal relationships in lieu of digital interaction.
We need to have coffee with people. And while we’re having that coffee, we don’t need to be on our phone. We need to look people in the eye and tell that they matter and we’re there for them. Listening and compassion are the lost arts of a culture consumed with connectivity, yet longing for abundance.
Abundance isn’t found in an online course or digital program, it happens in relationships. That means we have to be vulnerable enough to let people in and vulnerable enough to be available. We must invest in people.
Clicking a like button or dropping a comment in a thread is easy. In 2018, I’m committed to more coffees, more lunches, more conversations and more abundance.
Lay Down Your Identity
I keep thinking about the story of the Rich Young Ruler. The one where the wealthy young man comes to Jesus and asks what else he must do to inherit eternal life. After a list of to-do’s, the man looks to Jesus and says, “I’ve done all of that. What else?” In love, Jesus asks the man to sell his possessions and follow. The man leaves discouraged because he can’t let go of what he desires the most.
A lot of people misunderstand this story and let its deep truth fall to the wayside. The issue isn’t this man’s possessions, the issue is his identity. This young man found his identity and security in his wealth. It was his addiction. I suppose if the young man had found his identity as a megachurch pastor or a social justice warrior or a social media fanatic, Jesus would have asked him to lay down those things down as well.
This year, I’ve learned that our identity is often tied to the things that we think will yield abundance. But as long as something other than Jesus occupies the throne of our heart, we will miss our heavenly purpose here on earth and we will be left to strive for the wholeness we long for in lesser things.
For me, it is time to get honest about where I’m finding validation and where I’m seeking abundance. I hope you’ll take a moment during the final weeks of 2017 to do the same. What have you allowed to take root in your life? What changes do you hope to see in 2018?
The great news is that you have a choice in the matter. And that begins with being honest—with God, with yourself and with others.