Monday, September 17, 2012
Linkup: Social Media Exhaustion
Last week, Sarah Markley put out a call for posts on social media exhaustion and living publicly, and what we should do about it. I really enjoyed her posts and had a few thoughts of my own. Due to the broadness of the topic, I'm sidestepping the living publicly part and focusing on social media exhaustion. None of this is revolutionary and it's all been said better before, but here it is.
I feel that I use social media fairly responsibly. Sure I spend a lot of time blogging, Facebooking, and Twittering, but I don't think I'm obsessive about it. I definitely value "real-time life" above virtual life, and I can step away or scale back when necessary. To me, the problem with social media isn't addiction or volume. It's over-awareness. As much as I appreciate many aspects of our wired world, in a way I long for the days when our spheres of influence and acquaintance were smaller. I've identified three main categories of social media over-awareness that are really damaging for me:
1. Too many needs. Before the Internet, we weren't responsible for responding to personal news from hundreds or thousands of people a day. We weren't bombarded constantly by prayer or charity requests from people with many degrees of separation from us. For me, this is the most exhausting aspect of social media. I'm very empathetic and always feel like I ought to be helping everyone (and donating to every cause). I can't handle daily exhibitions of all the personal problems and tragedies in the world. It depresses me and wipes me out spiritually, robbing me of the focus and energy to help or pray consistently for those who are actually in my community. Try as we may, we can't provide support to an infinite number of people.
What helps me: Thinking of something concrete I can do for those people and groups who are in my life.
2. The comparison trap. Of course we're not supposed to compare ourselves to others, but trying to stop that completely is like trying to stop breathing. It was hard enough when we had a limited circle of other women to measure ourselves against. Now we have to compete with the entire world. When I compare, all I see are areas where I'm "failing" and falling short. It's a major happiness killer.
What helps me: Re-setting – considering my life independently, apart from everyone else's lives. Without comparisons, I'm actually very content. Of course there are things I'd like to change, but I generally feel good about where I am in life.
3. Hatefulness. The bar for online civility gets lower every day. Most of us would never encounter so much negativity in our in-person lives. Unfortunately, social media is the perfect playground for the many among us, on all points of the spectrum, whose opinions are The Only Opinions. It's a lot worse right now because of the election, but I've witnessed intense personal attacks and flame wars blow up over, like, Coke vs. Pepsi. It's appalling. On the bloggy and faithy end of things, I've read smug, accusatory blog posts by Christians about Christian issues that brought me to tears and made me doubt myself. I've felt ripped to shreds by total strangers. There is no excuse for such hatefulness. I believe in absolute truth, but I also believe in non-essentials. There's a place for calm, respectful discussion, and even (gasp) letting people continue in their beliefs even if you think they're wrong.
What helps me: Walking away. :P I already know that contributing to vitriolic arguments will accomplish nothing, because these people are only looking to prove their own superiority. So I just try to communicate respect and love whenever I say something opinionated. We are not God or even God's extra special representatives. Our job is to share and then to love and let God take care of the rest.