Between the election year and recent bathroom issues, my Facebook feed is a continuous stream of negativity, vulgar memes, and articles filled with logical fallacies and click bait titles parading as “viral take downs”.
I openly admit to unfollowing most people I’m friends with, especially those who are continually outraged about something. Doesn’t it get exhausting to be constantly up in arms? Isn’t there more to life than using your Facebook wall as a soapbox for whatever is the cause du jour? For goodness sake, share a funny quote from your kids, a family photo at the beach or something not designed to prove a point.
I love social media. It is capable of so much good that it pains me when my friends seem only to view it as a means to argue and piss off people with differing opinions. I know I should close the computer and walk away, but I keep coming back because inevitably I do find some glimpse of joy and hope mixed amongst status updates posted in all CAPITAL LETTERS. (Also, probably because I’m addicted.)
Facebook can be a near occasion of sin, or simply a sin for many people. Maybe not every time you log on, but many times, the temptation is too great. I struggle mightily myself. If I’m feeling down, it’s probably a sign I’ve spent too much time ruminating over the noise on Facebook. Rather than focus on the issues pissing people off today, I thought I’d try to tackle the sins behind the behaviors that repeatedly appear in my feed. It’s like an examination of conscience for your online persona.
When you continually give your opinion, whether through long status updates or by sharing articles that aim to insult a large segment of the population, you are indulging in the sin of pride. You are placing an inflated value in your opinion. Before we so glibly state something as undisputed fact, we should perhaps stop and think who will benefit from reading this? Who may it hurt? As Christians, I don’t think it’s overkill to ask, do I reflect Christ when I share this? To counteract pride, we should display humility. We should assume we don’t have anything new to add to a conversation rather than presume our opinion is welcome. Before we argue, we should presume that hurtful status wasn’t directed at us and move on. We should consider that our chastisements probably aren’t going to change anyone’s heart in this heated discussion and delete that comment. In this year of mercy, we are given ample opportunities to “forgive offenses willingly” and “bear wrong patiently”.
Are we allowing Facebook to do our thinking for us? Are we taking headlines and opinions as facts or are we studying and prayerfully discerning a matter for ourselves? Can we really criticize others when our own opinion is shaped by the four “loudest” friends on our wall?
Time is precious; we constantly say we don’t have enough of it, yet we how much do we spend on Facebook anyway? Is this time that would be better spent doing something more mindful rather than zoning out? Is our limited leisure time spent in enriching our lives, engaging with our families and remaining quietly with our thoughts? We don’t always need to be doing something, but we also don’t always need to be talking in more stimulation. We need to be diligent even in how we choose to rest and making we’re not “too busy” in our leisure to make time for prayer.
How emotionally attached are we to our online conversations? Are we constantly attached to our smart phones to we can be notified when someone disagrees or likes our latest tirade? Can we step away to fully enjoy real conversation with our family, even if that conversation is based around less stimulating topics like Minecraft, Legos and Disney princesses? When Facebook competes with the people in our homes and our responsibilities to them, we need to consider temperance. We need to moderate our online interactions so those strong feelings don’t unintentionally spill over into our interactions in our home, and time that should be spent in the present moment isn’t wasted on online twaddle.
It is hard to be grateful for all our blessings when we spend too much time admiring the curated life of someone else through a screen. Or worse, leaving a comment to steal some of the spotlight. New house? “Oh, it must be nice to have so much money!” Flattering headshot? “That must be photoshopped.” I know I need to work at showing kindness to celebrate with my friends rather than seeing each blessing bestowed upon them as something stolen from me. It’s not a matter of some have all and some have none. It’s about remembering that troubles happen off-screen for everyone, and seeing the joys in our own lives and not letting them be downplayed by the joys of others.
We can be greedy in a conversation. We can seek to dominate the flow of ideas, to get the last word and to be the center of attention. We can overshare private details of ourselves and our family to garner the spotlight. We can be vague to pique people’s curiosity and allude to events to invite speculation.
We can also be greedy for information, gossip and the latest update on a “breaking story.” We try to eschew material goods, but we consume and horde information and visual noise like Fort Knox. We can take in too many news stories, articles, updates and links. It sits in our brain, stimulating us, maybe worrying us hours later, but we can’t stop looking and reading.
Be generous with your time and attention to where it matters: to your family and to God. Be generous in the positive messages you spread online; the encouragement, the praise, the note of forthcoming prayer. Stop hording information, cut back, click less, and stop reading.
Facebook is a great place to practice custody of the eyes. If someone is sharing inappropriate materials, unfollow, unfriend and feel no regrets. Imagine your kids are always looking over your shoulder, or think, would you want them pulling this up online themselves? (Honestly, I don’t struggle with Lust on Facebook, so I was unsure what to write here, but I’m sure there’s no shortage of material. Ideas?)
I know we’re called to “instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, and admonish the sinner” but I’m pretty sure Holy Mother Church never expected us to do all three with a meme and a few clever hashtags. We think we’re being so enlightened and witty with our posts but inadvertently someone comments in anger and well, now we have to respond. Or we disagree with someone else’s witty meme and we have to respond this very minute with the caps lock on and stand at the ready should they choose to continue in error. We type out words we’d never in a million years have the guts to say to someone’s face, be they family, friend or stranger. And just suppose we were wrong? We’d never admit it. No one can see our face online, yet we fear loosing any part of it in an anonymous mudslinging competition.
Meekness on Facebook is unheard of, yet it is the remedy for so much of the anger that people are spreading right and left. Offensive meme? Let it go. Rude comment on your post? Ignore it. Did you engage someone and find yourself in error? Say so plainly and apologize.
“I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…..then share several memes that mock that persons way of life.” – things Jesus didn’t say
So, yeah. That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week. You? Be sure to write it down then link it up below. Please be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!