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Entries in Social Media (31)


Stress free social media

In my ongoing effort to use social media in a positive way, I am giving myself some advice. These are probably no-brainers, and most people probably already know these things, but I'm pretty dense at times:

I should set time limits.  No, this is not legalism. It's a boundary. Boundaries are not legalism. Setting a boundary helps to keep me from being excessive. 

Keep Twitter and Facebook off my phone. Currently, I have Twitter on my phone, but not Facebook. Do I need to be able to scan comments while I'm away from home? It's a time killer when I'm waiting for someone, but a book could do just as nicely. One thing about having those things on my phone is that if there is a controversy or debate, I'll be tempted to think about it all the time because responding is so easy.

Realize that comments boxes can be bad places.  Encouragement is good, but starting a debate in a comments box never ends well. Comments boxes heat up quickly, and people forget their manners. If I want to feel happy at the end of the day, avoiding controversial comments boxes may help. There is also wisdom in letting someone else have the last word and being willing to suffer an offense.

Utilize private messages. Whatever happened to email? Do we have to do everything in public?  Debates in blog comments can be really bad; on Twitter, they're incoherent.  If I really want to engage someone, I should email where I can be more explicit and hopefully avoid misunderstanding.

Measure my reaction.  The more quick and emotional my reaction, the more necessary it is for me to avoid saying something. Comments fired off in the heat of the moment may not be well-thought out. I can't remember where I read it, but someone suggested waiting even as long as a day to say anything.

Learn to ignore. There is a lot of good on social media, but there is a lot of poor thinking, ego, bad judgment and outright stupidity. I can ignore these things. Ignoring is very freeing. I can also remember that I likely perpetuate these things myself, and I must be gracious about the whole matter.

Read silently.  It is "social" media, so there is an element of interaction possible. But just like sitting in a room full of people doesn't mean I have to take every opportunity to speak, I can safely just read and not engage in dialogue. Sometimes, my silence is more valuable than my opinion.

Now, what I need to do is recite these things to myself when I am tempted to say more than I need to say, or to start squirming at the words of another.


Lessons in spiritual pride

When my children were younger, all under twelve,  I thought I had everything under control. For the most part, my children were very obedient. They were polite with adults at church, said their "please" and "thanks you's" and memorized their bible verses for the kids' club. Other than the typical infractions, there wasn't a lot of conflict.

I was unaware that children can, and will, avoid conflict by being outwardly compliant.  This is especially the habit of the introverted. Introverts don't like conflict, so they will often give in, even if they don't agree. This is something I've learned from personal experience, living with introverts, and also from a dear friend who is introverted. 

The relative freedom from conflict in our home made me spiritually proud because I thought I was its creator. Dangerous ground. I admit it freely; and I know I'm not the only one who has done this.

When I realized the truth, it hit me like a bulldozer levelling a rickety old house and burying it into the hole of its foundation. It was painful, but needed. I began to see just how little control I had over my children. We may control toddlers and younger children, but as long as our children have minds of their own, we will really never control them. And that is the way it ought to be.

During some pretty tough parenting years, my husband said over and over again, "We want them to obey God because they are convicted to do so, not because they're trying to please us." Since I have been able to see things in that way, there is freedom. That is not to say I agree with everything my kids do. But they are big people now, and I am confident that I taught my children the Scriptures, presented the gospel, and worked hard to give them the foundation they need. It's up to them now. Now, I can be on my knees more.

This is not to say that my lessons in spiritual pride are over. I have a lot of room for growth. I see it rear its ugly head when other parents question what my children are doing with their young adults lives. I see it rear its ugly head when it's apparent that others don't approve of my children. For a long time, I didn't want to put pictures of my son on Facebook because he has earrings, and I knew there would be a whole host of mothers out there thinking some bad thoughts. I did it anyway, recently, and I was surprised at how many of them told me what a beautiful family I had. See? Spiritual pride at work. And it was unfair to my children to fear the opinion of others. 

I think social media is one of the worst things for generating pride. We see everyone's victories and feel bad about our failures.  We see the failures of others and we feel self-satisfcation about ourselves. When my children were small, and I didn't have the internet, this kind of phenomenon didn't exist, and I wonder if I was more content back then.

I had cause to teach I Thessalonians 4:9-12 recently, and I was convicted:

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

Yes, there is that wonderful verse about living a quiet life. The NIV renders it "mind your own business." Sometimes, putting too much emphasis on what others are doing is not minding my own business, and minding the business of others can lead to spiritual pride in my life. I don't think these verses mean I should never offer an opinion or venture a word of pondering. I do love to write, after all.  It means, though, that I don't have to have an opinion on everything. And if I do have an opinion, do I have to share it? It means resisting the urge to draw conclusions about anyone I don't know, resisting the urge to draw attention to myself by using sharp or cynical words. It means using words to build up.

Lord, may the words of my lips and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you.


Social media and the young

Yesterday, I had a lunch date with my daughter, and I was encouraged about her attitude toward social media. She described it to me as a love-hate relationship. She sees the benefit of it, and as an academic, it provides a good venue for information. But she recognizes its weaknesses, too.

As we talked about writing, books, and how social media can help or hinder our writing, she shared with me that she realizes that social media can become a breeding ground for competition and posturing. I'm glad she sees that. It's so true. She recognizes the tendency for her peers to regard something as not really happening unless it's on social media. You didn't eat that hamburger; it's not on Instagram. She astutely reocgnized that social media does allow us the ability to create our own worlds, letting those in we want and excluding those we don't.  She doesn't have Facebook for this reason.

The thing she said that really stuck with me is her comment about how being too forthcoming on social media, i.e., revealing too much about one's personal life, can give people power over you. I had not really seen it that way. What she meant is that when we share too many personal details with people we know only online, it creates a sense that they know you better than they really do. There is still a place for discretion and privacy.

I have been thinking about that quite a bit since our lunch. I was pleased, though, that despite being under twenty-five, she has pretty responsible attitudes about social media. And one thing she said that really encouraged me was that she makes every effort to never complain on Twitter because as she said to me, "What do I have to complain about?  I'm so blessed."

How's that for a word of wisdom from the young?


Social media to the glory of God

I've not always used social media for God's glory. Like others, I've said things I shouldn't, vented when I should have remained silent, and used words to tear down others. I believe, though, that social media can be used for God's glory.

I spoke to someone recently who said she was reluctant to use social media as a personal pulpit.  I am not entirely sure what she meant, but I think she may mean coming across as harsh or condemning. No, we don't want to do that as Christians. I make no apologies for being a Christian, and my social media sites reflect that. I think there are times that honouring God via social media is seen just as frequently in what we don't say than in what we do say.

What I mean by that is the tendency to whine and complain. I know what I mean, because I've been guilty of it.

When I was a young woman, I would write in journals, pages and pages of complaints, injustices, and woes. In the end, I could rip out the pages when I re-read them (as I inevitably did) and thought they were pretty stupid. In this day and age, we have forums where people can listen to our rants. Or at least, we think they're listening. In all likelihood, they're rolling their eyes wishing we would stop complaining. I've done it, and I'm ashamed of it.

I've been thinking a lot lately of Paul's letter to the Philippians, where he tells them to do all things without grumbling (Phil. 2:14-15).  The whole letter is filled with Paul's exhortations to rejoice despite the situation; despite the fact that he maybe poured out as a drink offering; despite the fact that he is in jail. Paul didn't complain. He didn't leave a record of whining for us to look back at 2,000 years later. That's the kind of example I want to follow.

To put it bluntly, when we're constantly complaining, it's a bad testimony. If we're going to use Facebook or Twitter, we ought to use it to declare his excellencies, whether it is a simple "Praise the Lord" as our status, or a link to something really God-honouring and edifying. When every little problem becomes a Facebook status, what are we saying about how much we glory in God's goodness to us? I've been that complaining, murmuring person, and ultimately, it doesn't make me feel any better to vent like that.

We may not use our Facebook or Twitter to proclaim the gospel, but at the very least, let's not use it to discourage others from it.


Performing Experiments on Ourselves

I read a little booklet about Facebook and social media.  I will be reviewing it next week.  In it, the author suggested that an article online that exceeds 400 words may be passed over.  I don't know about the accuracy of that statistic, but I can make a couple of observations.

When I began blogging, a popular blogger suggested that keeping a post to 1,000 words was a good idea.  That was almost ten years ago.   I think 1,000 words is pushing it today.  I think the author who suggested 400 words may be closer to being correct.  I wrot a post for Out of the Ordinary, and my first draft was over 1,200 words.  There was no way I could post it at that length, but I was faced with a difficulty:  could I do the topic justice in less than that?

I did my best, but there were things I wished I could have said.  I could have done a "series" but the nature of our blog rather excludes that.  "Series" on blogs are very popular.  It seems as if we are reverting back to the time of Dickens, who first presented his writing in such a way.  I think he would have laughed a great deal at the notion of one of his entries being only 400 words. 

Another thing I have noticed is the fading attention spans of teens.  Apparently, 20 minutes is about all they can manage.  For now.  What will it be like five years from now?  Ten minutes?  How much understanding can one get in ten minutes?

The reality is that some issues and topics are complex, and need more than 20 minutes or 400 words.  How much understanding can we get with such brief attention?  I even find myself falling to this attention deficit thing.  I'm reading Kevin Vanhoozer's Is There a Meaning in This Text, and it is a complex read.  I find myself being able to spend only about 40 minutes at a time before feeling like my mind is wandering.  When I was a student in my first year of university, I could read for hours.

The inner rebel in me wants to shout and complain about this, and say, "Stop!"  "Wait" and "Hold on!"  Surely we can work to stave off this kind of thing?  I'd like to think so, but I am probably either too idealistic, or more likely, utterly deluded.

I think I am going to try to increase my attention span by setting the time on my phone and reading until it goes off.  I'll increase the time by five minutes at regular intervals and see how it goes.  Nothing like performing experiments on oneself.