How to Survive the Social Network with Your Heart Intact?

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I got this shirt from Target a few months back, and I’ve gotten so many comments from people when I wear it.  Most of the comments are from people who totally agree with what the shirt said, and there was even a guy that wanted to buy it for his friend, who he claims is constantly guilty of this.

One of the amazing things about Facebook and all other the social networks is that anyone and everyone can have a platform for their life.  Some people truly use it to connect with others, but some really just want to show off.  Nothing could be more annoying than when you’re trying to have real, authentic connection with people and they start posting pictures and thoughts that are outlandishly self-referential, insensitive, and just blatantly boastful.

Yesterday, my wife showed me a news article on a Christian actor that posted online about how his wife did not feel any pain when she was giving birth to their first child — which is pretty cool if he could have stopped writing right there — however, he credited their painless delivery to the fact that they were Christians who lived blameless and pure lives.

I cringed when Winnie told me about it.  It is quite painful to hear something like that, and he actually got quite an earful from hundreds of people responding to his post.

This is just one example, but sometimes it is not as blatant.  It could be that someone is on vacation and they’re posting realtime pictures of scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef and and you’re sitting in 110 degrees of desert heat.  Or, there’s a friend who likes to post his trophies, new toys, and new purchases every other day.  Or, there’s another friend who takes pictures of an exclusive party or get-together, but then they post it on everyone’s newsfeed, those who aren’t a part of the ‘inner circle.’

These frustrations will always be there, and sometimes I would have to revert back to Henri Nouwen’s words on who I am and my self-worth (see previous post Like or Unliked).  But for now, here are a few practical tips for surviving the social network:

1.  DON’T GET ON FACEBOOK (OR YOU’RE PREFERRED SOCIAL NETWORK) WHEN YOU’RE ANGRY, LONELY, SAD, OR HUNGRY.  Be aware when you’re vulnerable.  Try another social outlet that’s more direct; i.e., grab a friend for coffee, dinner, lunch, or a movie.  Talk on the phone with a buddy.  Do something else, like watch a comedy, walk your dog, go out in nature, do something creative or fun.  The world is out there besides the computer screen.  Seek to feed your heart and self-esteem beyond the social network.

2.  RESTRICT AND LIMIT OTHER PEOPLE’S POST AND ACCESS.  This is a way to self-care that may seem restricting but it could actually be freeing.  Restrict and don’t allow access to everyone.  Imagine yourself as a castle.  Not everyone gets access into the city, and even less people gets access into the inner wall.  And of course, the castle is restricted access to only those you trust.

3.  CREATE YOUR OWN TRIBE.  We all need close and intimate connections with friends and family.  Start creating your own people.  Ask and invite those who have shown trustworthiness into the inner castle of your life.  It may feel awkward and weird, but it’s worth it.  When you restrict access and create your own tribe, you actually give space for yourself by unplugging the negative or the irritating, and plug into what strengthens, inspires, and fills you.

4.  PRACTICE BEING HAPPY FOR OTHERS.  This is hard to do, and I do not suggest doing this by itself, straining yourself emotionally just because it is the right thing to do.  Practicing being happy for others happens in the context of relationship and community, and it is an outflowing of knowing who you are and that you are loved.  Doing this step by itself is pure legalism, but doing this within the context of knowing love is power.

5.  PRACTICE BEING REAL AND AUTHENTIC ON FACEBOOK AND IN REAL LIFE. Keeping it real and authenticitic are the new ways to be humble.  If being pretentious separates people, let’s have the courage to risk in order to bring people closer together.

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‘Like’ or Un-liked?

Am I "liked" or "un-liked?"

Am I “liked” or “un-liked?”

Sometimes I think Facebook regresses us to being 5th graders in elementary school again.

Everyone wants to be liked.  Everyone wants to be seen and accepted by others.  This is what we were made for as humans — to connect with one another.  This is why the ‘like’ button on Facebook (or on most social media platforms) is so addicting.  Whether we admit it or not, we feel really good as the number of ‘likes’ increases the minute after we post something online.

Have these thoughts ever crossed your mind:

“I wonder why Dan (*replace with your friend/arch rival/nemesis/somebody you compare yourself to…) didn’t ‘like’ the picture I posted? 

“I wonder why Dan gets more ‘likes’ on his posts.”

Sometimes you just want to set a rule between you and your friends that says:  “I’ll like your posts, if you’ll like mine!”  That way, nobody gets left out, and nobody is wondering if those friends who didn’t ‘like’ your post were inadvertently trying to tell you something in a passive-agressive way.  If you’re one of those people who has a tendency to seek the approval of others, the ‘like’ button could totally drive you into Facebook Depression or Facebook Social Anxiety.

The reason is that whenever we post a picture, a thought, an idea, or something about who we are , there is a temptation to associate our value to the amount of ‘likes’ we get from our friends.  There is a temptation to compare the number ‘likes’ another person gets on their post.  If we were to pursue these thoughts one step further, you might find yourself face-to-face with the real question behind these thoughts.

“I wonder why Dan didn’t ‘like’ the picture I posted?” turns into: “I ‘like’ his stuff all the time.  Am I just invisible or I guess I DON’T matter to him?”

“I wonder why Dan gets more ‘likes’ on his posts?” turns into: “What’s wrong with me?  Am I not good enough?”

I think this is the underlining question behind it all.  It is a question we have been asking even before you turned on your computer this morning.  It is a question we all have been asking even before the invention of a social network.  We’ve decided to enter into this life, trying to find our own answers to our worth, value, and personal meaning.  In my journey, I’ve found that the only person that could answer this question is God.

I came across two Henri Nouwen quotes that really help me see this:

“As long as I keep running about asking: “Do you love me? Do you really love me?” I give all power to the voices of the world and put myself in bondage because the world is filled with “ifs.” The world says: “Yes, I love you if you are good-looking, intelligent, and wealthy. I love you if you have a good education, a good job, and good connections. I love you if you produce much, sell much, and buy much.” There are endless “ifs” hidden in the world’s love. These “ifs” enslave me, since it is impossible to respond adequately to all of them. The world’s love is and always will be conditional. As long as I keep looking for my true self in the world of conditional love, I will remain “hooked” to the world-trying, failing,and trying again. It is a world that fosters addictions because what it offers cannot satisfy the deepest craving of my heart.”

“…The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: ‘These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting belief.

THIS IS GOD’S ‘LIKE’ BUTTON.