Tuesday, March 4, 2014

the internet, and sharing joy with care

We all know that Facebook is not the real world.  It's a virtual world where many of us only show our best, which is, I think, a good thing.  

Facebook is a place where we can share good news, accomplishments, and joy.  It's a venue to showcase our proudest moments.  But, that's also what makes it a rather taxing experience, for some.  

For some people Facebook is not fun place to visit.  It's a world filled with things they don't have, and probably want: the highest degree, a new job, a beautiful family, an engagement or marriage, a new baby, a great group of friends, a wonderful home, etc. etc.  It can be a painful experience to see all the things everyone else has, even if you remind yourself not to compare.  

On an intellectual level, I think we all know life isn't perfect for those people who seem to have it altogether.  But, it can be really difficult to remember that when you see pictures and updates of all the good things other people are getting, that you don't yet have.

I'm not saying that we should all filter to the point of never sharing our joys with our Facebook and internet worlds.  And I'm not saying we should sensor our pride for the accomplishments we've worked really hard for.  I'm also not saying that you should put bad stuff on the internet to "be real" or make other people feel better.  

I have seen some really beautiful posts on Facebook about struggles and grief, and they have elicited some amazingly supportive responses.  There is a place for that on Facebook, among other places on the internet, to be sure.  But, for the most part, you have to wonder what is going on when someone shares their low lows on Facebook.  And, you have to wonder even more when they do it consistently.  Sometimes when I read one negative post after another I cringe, and say a prayer for that person to go find someone to talk to other than the internet.  

What I'm generally concerned about for myself, and for others is this: how do I remain faithful in this specific world?  How do I care about people in this context?

I recently had a baby, and it really affected my perspective on the internet.  I didn't go to one extreme of never posting pictures of my child- I think Facebook is a valuable way for me to share this joy with those I love around the world.  But, I also limit how much of my joy I'm putting out there.  Do I post pictures of my baby every day?  No.  Did I brag about how easy my pregnancy and delivery was?  No.    There's a fine line, and everyone has to figure it out for themselves.  And the line that I use is this: am I really hurting anyone, in any way, by posting this on the internet?

Here's a re-gram.  Hard to resist as a parent, right?


I'm not perfect.  I've probably posted too many pictures for some, or bragged about something I shouldn't have that affected someone else.  That's not really the point, though.  The point is that I'm thinking about it, and considering the feelings of others.  

In my job I have the privilege of hearing about people's most joyful moments, and their deepest suffering.  It's a gift to listen, but it also makes me hyper-aware of what others might be going through that we don't necessarily see on the outside.  And that's why I try and watch what I put on the internet.  I don't want to put someone who is already hurting over the edge.  

Here's the last thing I'll say: people who don't have everything aren't always envious of what we have, either.  I know plenty of single, childless people making little to no money who are very happy!  And they're happy for others who are married, having babies, and making money!  So, we also shouldn't assume that people who don't have what we have lead unfulfilling lives, and we shouldn't' assume they're not happy for us.  

So, take this as a public service announcement of sorts, or take it as a way to be a more faithful, caring Christian on the internet.  Either way, know that I love seeing what you're all up to, and I love being connected to your joys and sorrows- virtually, and in person.

1 comment:

  1. Sarah, I've had some of these same thoughts myself but you've expressed them well. Like you I am suspicious of unrelenting good news from some of my friends. On the other hand it's not always clear how best to share bad news. And while I'm on the subject, I don't like political commentary very much either, even when I agree with it. I have blocked a few friends for this - and am considering it for a few more. Thanks for the blog.