The Tragedy of Convenience: 3 Ways to Tame the Online Beast

It’s Tuesday morning, 11 am you check your Facebook to see what others are up to. A “like” here, a “haha” there, and a cringe there, followed by a few more clicks on some funny memes. Done.

Except it’s not.

Most of our “friends” we have on Facebook, or other social media websites aren’t even really friends anymore. I mean sure, you had some good times in the past, maybe you were high school best friends or college buddies or you met them at a party once, but they aren’t in your personal, close circle for a reason.

Times have changed, we have grown-up (hopefully) or maybe people have moved away. Different interests have divided us and the, oh so dreaded political tensions that seem to be upon everyone today can take over formerly pleasant friendships.

Which brings me to my point . . .  studies have shown that people click on topics that are sure to raise emotional responses, thus creating an online hub of social tension. We have spent years either wittingly or unwittingly creating this online persona that is supposed to capture who we are, but it doesn’t. It can’t. There is no way a two dimensional screen can portray the dynamic, spiritual, emotional and intellectual person that you really are.

Because of our depth, we pass up “liking” things that we really do like because we don’t want everyone else knowing that we like them. We know better now, since all these hacks and cyber attacks lately. Saying nothing is better than saying anything at all, right? We render ourselves shut down and reserved because who we really are might be received with contention because of how much gets lost in translation in just a few taps of a keyboard. Body language and nonverbal cues are missed, tones of voices are lost and words can fall flat, or maybe unintentionally too harsh, online.

Then we find ourselves having these molded versions of our “friends” in our heads based on these shallow and controlled revelations by these social media site’s computers and algorithms. These are the tools that are helping us categorize these wonderfully deep people into certain boxes, arenas and schools of thought. “Oh, they agree with such and such on this, that means that they disagree with me on that.” And so the story goes and many of these online relationships aren’t meaningful enough to confront uncomfortable online scenarios, so we let these little internet pet-peeves build and build, until one day, that person posts something, thinking it’s totally benign and all hell breaks loose on Facebook: Heated exchanges, followed by some huffing and puffing to co-workers and spouse about the mindless post and then, WHAM! “Un-friend” followed by big fat click of the “block” button. And its done.

The rest of the day is spent with the exchange in the back of our minds, affecting much of our interactions and topics of conversations.

I dare say that social media will be looked back upon as one of the fundamental reasons for social degradation and deterioration.

However, it seems to be an necessary tool for many, inescapable for several if not all forms of networking and income.

So what can we do about it?

How can we stop this virtual thing from taking over our actual lives?

Here are three things that I think can help.

1. Un-follow people you aren’t willing to or care enough about to actually confront about an offense. If you don’t have the emotional energy for them in real life, maybe don’t give them the time of day online. Yeah, their posts are interesting, but is it really worth your precious time and stamina? Besides, it will be much easier to obey those words, “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath” when no wrath is produced!

2. Limit online time. What are you really online for anyways? Is it to check to see how many likes your most recent post got? Is it to check up on some sales in certain groups? Whatever it is, have a clear goal for why you are online, get it done and get off. Being nosy in other people’s affairs, even if they are being waived around for everyone to see, never really helped anyone. And now that you have time limits for being online, you can get other stuff done, like cleaning out your car or reading that book you have been wanting to read!

3. Once your online, get into the attitude of giving, not receiving. I guess this one can get awkward because sometimes what we have to give people may need to hear but don’t always want to hear. I mean, who cares what color the dress was really? But, then some serious issues that spike our blood pressure get presented, that go against every grain of our mortal existence and to those I say, only God can tell you what to do on those issues. That is where we need to have a clear direction and purpose for our online presence. In fact, I see that purpose becoming more and more defined everyday. But in the end, we give. We give of what we have and of that, we must be good stewards of. Because before we start giving beyond what our real life responsibilities have called us to, we must make sure we have plenty to give to our spouses, children, friends and most importantly, God.

If online time robs us from the ability to focus and get centered in our quiet time, then something is out of balance and we must pull back and re-align to establish equilibrium again with the One who gives of Himself fully so that we may give to the ones He has fully given to us.

Then, hopefully we can push back even more of these tragedies of convenience!


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