I’ve been avoiding writing this for months.
Even now, here are my thoughts: Why can’t I be the expert for once, the one who teaches lessons from someone else’s dumb mistakes, the kind of person you’d want to look up to? Why do I always write posts like this?
I’ll tell you why, self. Because it needs to be done. So there.
One day, I was on Facebook and I accidentally clicked the little history button at the bottom of my browser. It showed me how many times I had visited the site. I can’t remember now what the number was, but it was excessively, ridiculously huge. Like national-debt, I-can’t-believe-that’s-right, has-someone-been-hacking-my-computer-five-times-a-day-for-a-year huge.
You know how some people stress eat? Well, I think I stress Facebook.
And stress-check-blog-stats. And stress-look-at-email. And stress-avoid-joining-Pintrest-because-it-would-consume-what-is-left-of-my-free-time.
As usual, it comes back to my need for approval and affirmation. Like many people, I am basically an insecure mess, a few comparisons away from concluding that every single person in the world must be cooler and smarter and more talented than me.
But when I get those Facebook notifications (the ones that aren’t Farmville requests…or shallow comments on photos…or general spam) then I know that someone thinks that I’m worth something. If people like my blog post, then I am a success as a writer. If I have several emails, I am important. If everyone likes my status, then even the mundane snippets of my life are fascinating to the greater population of people involved in my life.
And if hardly anyone looks at a blog post…or my Facebook wall is blank…or the inbox is empty, then a little voice in my head will say, “No one cares. What did you expect?”
And the truth is, it’s my fault. I’ve given those digital demons that kind of power over me by constantly looking to them for approval.
That sounds really sad. But before you judge, think about the way social media affects you.
No, I mean it. Really think about it. We’re not used to doing this anymore. We run ideas through our minds like items in a Speedy Checkout Line. But if I’m going to take the time to reflect on the ugly parts of myself, I want other people to suffer with me. (Kidding. Sort of.)
Here’s what I know: I want to care more about what God thinks of me than what you think of me. I really do.
But I’m not actually changing anything to get there.
I can write passionately and eloquently about really being present when talking to other people. I can make fun of people who watch too many T.V. shows. I can even be honest and say that I struggle with swinging between pride and insecurity.
But unless I take those eloquent convictions out of my journal and blog and do something about them, I’m going to be in the running for the Biggest Hypocrite of the Year Award.
Last week, at the writer’s conference I attended, I took a class on using social media to promote your writing. The lecturer was asked how she could use technology without letting it take over her life. She simply said, “I don’t have internet at my house. When I’m home, I’m home.”
Then she said, “People seem to have the impression that social media will suck you in, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But listen to me—you are in control.”
Control is great. I like control. Except when control brings accountability, one of those pesky little things I try to avoid whenever possible.
Now that I’ve taken the time to think about this, I can’t ignore it anymore. I need to face the truth. This post needs to be written. And here are some practical steps that I need to take.
- I will disable my automatic Internet connection. With wireless, it’s so easy for me to waltz over to my laptop anywhere on campus and quickly check all of my affirmation-boosting sites, almost without thinking. I think having to take an intentional step to get Internet would help me think about whether I really needed to get online.
- I will write down how many times I go to a specific site during a typical week. This is not fun, kind of like recording calories. Seeing it right there on paper can be ugly. But it sure is a wakeup call.
- I will save the U.S. Postal Service. I have a bad habit of using all the awkward gaps in my schedule for mindless Facebook time. There’s one particular window of time that pops up every day. Instead of opening up my computer, I’m going to write a letter to someone in that time. Because I love the U.S. Postal Service. And they need all the help they can get.
That’s it, people. Sorry to make you read through my action plan, but I think it’ll help keep me accountable. (Hooray for shamelessly using the Internet for my own selfish personal gain!)
It comes down to this: I’m not a victim. I can’t chalk this up to my culture or personality or self-esteem problems brought on by socially awkward high school years. (Which is a real shame, because I love blaming my problems on other people/situations/random inanimate objects.)
Nope. I’m in control, and there’s no getting away from that. This is not fun. But I think it’s what needs to be said and what needs to be done.