I love social media. I love the doors it opens. I love the way it helps me stay in touch with friends whom would probably never communicate with apart from Facebook. More than anything else, I love that it is allowing me to share my love for God and passion for family via The Busy Mom. It works for me, this new way of communicating. I think it’s because, in all honesty, I’m not a terribly “private” person. At least, I don’t think of myself that way. I’m a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of girl.
Lately though, I’ve discovered that there is a very real down side to social media. Some time ago, I received a rather blistering phone call from a friend who was upset over something I posted online. She was genuinely hurt—and I genuinely didn’t understand why. After some thought though, I realized it was less about the thing I posted and more about her desire to be included in my life.
Facebook was making it appear as if I was hanging out with everyone under the sun—except her. It wasn’t true of course; pictures are just a snapshot of what we do in a day. A nano second. A moment. But these days, a picture sends a thousand different messages to those who see them via the Internet. And it’s all open for personal interpretation.
I get it. I’ve felt that way too.
An image of a gathering that I wasn’t invited to crossed my screen one night as I was surfing the Internet.
“I could’ve gone my whole life without seeing that picture,” I said to my husband.
“Why do you even care about it?” Jay asked.
I cringed. I’d been “unfriended” by the afore mentioned “friend,” which, as everyone knows, makes it official. And there she was—my former friend—in a picture with my current friends. Insecurity flooded my thoughts.
I didn’t realize I was insecure like that.
I wanted to crawl into my shell like a hermit crab and scoot as far back as I could get. It seemed that I had no privacy. We know who speaks to who these days—and we know who doesn’t. It’s all out there for the world to see.
The R&B artist Rockwell’s song “Somebody’s Watching Me” played in my mind. (Hey, I’m an 80’s girl.)
Overexposed. That’s how I felt. Like I had spent too much time outside without sunscreen.
Except, instead of being sun-burned, I was being screen-burned.
It seemed that every part of my life was being Tweeted and/or Facebooked by me or someone else. We like to talk about who we’re with and where we go—and post pictures of everything from family birthday parties to class reunions. And it’s good, most of the time. But it appears to me that Facebook and Twitter encourage a new version of name-dropping.
Ever.So.Quietly. Not necessarily “big” names, either. Just ordinary ones.
The ones that matter to the person who’s reading them.
The coffee date. The Bible study group. The last minute meet-up. The concert. The teen’s campfire. The successes. The failures. The breakups.
It’s all out there for the world to see. We’re our own paparazzi.
Philippians 4:8 came to mind. Paul was pretty good at telling us how we should spend our time…
Is it good, all this time we spend talking about ourselves? Truth is, I could tell you what a friend in New Jersey had for dinner last night, and what another friend in Nevada really thinks about her church. Teens and grownups alike announce their breakups online. (And I thought breaking up was hard in the 80’s!) Relationship statuses change overnight from “Married” to “It’s complicated.”
Eyebrows go up.
Complicated? What happened? These are the questions one asks oneself when reading these kinds of things.
Worse than the information overload, though, is the the emotional currency that’s being spent… just to become overexposed.
Over the next several weeks, I realized something about myself. I simply had too much information about other people. Information that quite honestly, I don’t need. I don’t need to know about the personal lives of 2400 people. And they don’t need to know about me. Not really.
At the end of the day, I believe that we were created for intimacy. Most folks cannot possibly maintain so many relationships. All this social media exposure is like trying to drink in relationships from a relationship fire hydrant.
It’s too much. And it’s robbing us of intimacy.
OverExposed. I began to wonder—why am I reading this stuff? Why are we exposing (aka: sharing) so.much.stuff about our private lives?
We were made for intimacy.
Most people these days know more about the absence of intimacy than the reality of it. So we fill the need for closeness with false intimacy—the kind that Facebook creates. We crave affection, warmth, and closeness; we need to know that we matter to someone, that someone cares, that someone sees our lives and loves us—that our pain does not go unnoticed.
Unfortunately, social media is a poor substitute for the real thing. I’ve seen so many people wounded due to overexposure.
“A righteous man is cautious in friendship…” Proverbs 12:26a
So what’s the result of all this overexposure?
Unintentional wounding and a loss of true intimacy.
I think social media is awesome—but it’s time to start asking ourselves what we’re trying to accomplish with it.
Some of you might be thinking that it’s funny that a girl like me is writing about the dangers of social media. After all, I post regularly to almost 60k women via The Busy Mom. But I’m no different than anyone else. And I’ve started protecting my private life—and thoughts—a little better. I’ll still be posting the things that my heart is burdened to share over at The Busy Mom, but I’ll be buttoning up my personal page (and life) a little bit tighter in an effort to foster better relationships with the people who I’m truly “doing life” with.
Even online, there’s a harvest that’s coming.
OverExposed? Post—with the harvest in mind.