Writing an Internet post about how posting things on the Internet can strip away your joy is like writing a book about why people shouldn’t write books or singing a song about why we need to stop singing songs.
I’m aware of the irony. Bear with me, please.
I’ve shared that notifications can’t satisfy us. Unfortunately, that truth hasn’t sunk in yet.
Nevertheless, I continue to internally yell “Validate me!” with each post to the Internet.
I’d be lying if I didn’t have the same urge with this post. If I didn’t want you to tell me that you agree or that it was really inspiring.
Most of the time when I share something online, I want to help people or be encouraging. But underneath that well-intentioned shell, I long to hear other things.
Tell me my ideas are good.
Tell me my picture is beautiful.
Tell me my baby is adorable.
Tell me my life is awesome.
I hate that I don’t always share things to share joy or to be helpful, but instead to seek approval and find my sense of self-worth in likes and retweets and online praise.
I forget so easily that thumbs up and shares can’t satisfy me. No statistic can make me happier. No amount of kind comments will give me joy that only Jesus can bring.
Recently, I’ve been using Facebook and Twitter less often 1 . I still have an urge to open an app, check the notifications, and see who is mentioning or praising me.
I once heard that checking Facebook is the modern-day equivalent of opening the refrigerator when you’re bored. Sometimes I check social media and forget why I went there in the first place. It’s like taking a bite of cold pizza from the fridge when you weren’t hungry to begin with.
I don’t want to live for temporal status updates. I’m tired of unsatisfying nibbles at day-old deep dish.
- I don’t want to let a constant stream of non-vital information consume my life. The majority of posts will be completely irrelevant in a day or so and 99% will be irrelevant in a year, yet I return to it day in and day out because the habit is so ingrained.
- I don’t want want to let the amount of attention a post gets decide how proud or satisfied I am in that moment.
At the same time, I want to celebrate with people, congratulate those I care about, and share in the joy of others.
This is a tricky, fine line to walk. I’m grateful for people’s kind words. I’m thankful that people love me and my family and encourage our socks off regularly. But I don’t want those likes and comments to dictate my life or be the source of my joy, hope, or approval. I want to reserve that place for Jesus alone.
I don’t know your motives. I don’t know why you post the articles you do or share pictures of your vacation or your lunch or your baby or your baby eating lunch on vacation.
It’s totally possible that you have good intentions. Maybe you’ve never even considered why you post what you do.
For me, I know that I don’t always have the best intentions.
I know that I don’t always share things because I want other people to share in my joy but because instead because I want other people to bring me joy or to be jealous of my life.
One more like. One more comment. One more favorite or retweet. That’ll do it. That’ll scratch my itch.
It never does. It can’t.
I don’t know what the solution to this is. For now, I’m spending less time on social networks. I don’t do much to promote blog posts and I’ve turned off comments from this blog because I let them turn into tiny altars of praise to me.
I want to share ideas. I want to be helpful. I want others to share in my joy and see my gratitude. I just don’t want to share things as a means to a selfish end.
I want to combat the lie,
“If I share this and get enough attention for it, I will be happier.”
I don’t want to use my baby as a prop for praise. I don’t want to publicly share my gratitude for my wife so that people will be amazed at my gratitude. I want use social media to be a good tool instead of an unruly master.
I want my validation to flow from who Jesus is and his love for me, not from what other people think of me, whether it is incredibly kind and encouraging or rude and hurtful. Life isn’t more difficult in the digital age than in the thousands of years prior, but it sure has gotten more complicated.
Human nature hasn’t changed. We’re always trying to turn things–good or amoral–into something to worship or as tools to be worshipped with. That’s a heart problem, not a technical issue.
So what am I doing inlight of all of this? To start, when I have the urge to check social media, I (try to) do something else, like:
- writing down an idea or thought for a blog post2
- praying for something or someone
- texting a friend some encouragement.
I haven’t perfected doing these three things by any stretch, but, wow, the ideas have been flowing much easier when I give myself space to think instead of pacifying a split-second of boredom with tweets and posts.
This is a tough battle to fight because I am the enemy. My nature is the problem, not the platforms or tools or other people at the water cooler. I’m not ready to call it quits, but something has to change.