Have you ever felt like spending time on social media and the Internet in general is more damaging or discouraging than it is beneficial or uplifting? I feel your pain. Technology has done some wonderful things for us. It allows us to communicate with people we don't see on a regular basis, share information with a large audience all at once, send links and photos and videos other people post, and make new friends just to name a few.
It can grow our world if we're purposeful in finding new connections and using a variety of mediums to get our information. But it can just as quickly shrink our world.
I like to think I can scan through my social media feeds to keep up with the lives of my friends without being drawn into any negative comparison or jealousy. But time and time again, I feel a niggling sense of discontent when I spend too much time taking peeks at what others are doing with their lives.
Spending great lengths of time looking at what others are doing with their lives only serves to breed discontentment with our own. We always want what we don't have. We see things others have and want them for ourselves, forgetting everything they had to do to get to where they are in our desperate attempt to get everything we want immediately, without going through the work and the waiting. We let jealousy over take us without considering that they are not us, our stories and paths our different, we need and want different things. Not everything that works for our neighbor or sibling or friend or coworker is going to be the best for us. We ought to just keep our eyes on our own prize.
News feeds are a highlight reel-- people generally don't post about the everyday moments or their mistakes. They showcase the good times. And we then find ourselves comparing our struggles with their successes, forgetting that they have just as many troubles as we do. It gives us a false sense of reality in which they're the winners and we're the losers. It robs us of our joy and contentment in our own lives and makes us feel like we are less valuable or less successful or less worthy.
The constant noise the media feeds us-- between news and social media-- drowns out that still small voice calling us to a different, slower kind of life. In the chaos of constantly being connected, we can't hear ourselves think or stay tuned into who we really are because we're inundated with images of other people's lives and their opinions (or perceived opinions) about ours. Being constantly connected and available to others keeps us at a running pace, thinking we have to do more and more and more.
When we're constantly connected, we have a tendency to ignore our surroundings. Whether it's the persistent pinging of our cell phones or scrolling through funny videos and cute photos, we can easily ignore the real life people around us.
Between losing touch with those right in front of us, drowning us in comparison and jealousy, and having that still small voice drowned out by the noise, technology and the media confuse our sense of reality, leaving us with only a poor substitute for the vibrant life that could be ours if we only disconnected and found our footing outside cyberspace every once in a while.
I'm making a concerted effort this holiday season to set my phone aside, shut off my computer, quiet my inner monologue about my to-do list, and slow down to pay attention to the world around me. Will you join me?
Technology Is Shaping Your Spiritual Life. Here’s How by Zac Harrel, Relevant Magazine