Posts Tagged With: social media

Self-Worth and Social Media

Dear Pope Francis,

Increasingly, social media dominates our lives, so it’s not surprising that when you took questions from youth in Sarajevo, someone asked about social media. For better or for worse, ministry will continue to make use of social media. When it comes to things like the New Evangelization, effective use of social media is helpful, because thousands of people can be reached with minimal work; all it takes is a like, a share or a re-tweet.

But where social media becomes problematic is when we forget that it is a means, not the end in itself. When we treat popularity on social media as the goal, we reduce the events of our lives to the fodder to post and get likes, followers and retweets. We share the updates about how well our lives are going. Perhaps the worst of these is the ‘humble-brag’, when someone brags about a success by trying to hide it behind a complaint. When we turn our lives in the means to achieve social media notoriety, the value of the experience is determined by the online response. Suddenly, my trip to Europe last summer is no longer valuable because I experienced personal growth, thought more deeply about important issues, and accomplished something on my bucket list; it is only valuable for boosting my online persona as someone who is spontaneous and adventurous, and well-travelled as a result. Instead of allowing that event, and other life changing events, to be a spring board, launching me forward, being hung up on the social media response keeps me focused on myself and where I am, creating (perhaps unknowingly) a rut.

Treating social media as the goal leads to doubting my own worth as a person. In the same way that events are valuable insofar as they boost my online persona, I stop treating my self-worth as something inherent, and make it something tied to external factors, how many likes, retweets and followers I have. Social media is just one example of the way people attach their self-worth to externals (think about the people who are obsessed with weighing themselves, the size of their cloths, or how much weight they can lift at the gym).

On this point, I think the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council were quite prophetic:

“All who, of their own free choice, make use of these media of communications as readers, viewers or listeners have special obligations. For a proper choice demands that they fully favor those presentations that are outstanding for their moral goodness, their knowledge and their artistic or technical merit. They ought, however, to void those that may be a cause or occasion of spiritual harm to themselves, or that can lead others into danger through base example, or that hinder desirable presentations and promote those that are evil.” (Inter Mirifica: Decree on the Media of Social Communications, 9)

This passage most obviously applies to the classic examples of harmful media, like pornography, and while that it is spiritually harmful, it glosses over the other spiritual harm, like degrading the value of our lives in order to get likes and followers. Perhaps even it is more spiritually harmful when we tie our self-worth so intimately into our social media persona that how we treat ourselves and value our lives is determined by that, because often times we don’t realize we are doing it. We are so used to being to connected via social media that we stop paying attention to how it makes us feel, and the role it has in our lives.

Logging out,

Lauren

PS: Watch for my next letter, when I’ll pick up this topic again, and talk about the importance of mindfulness and social media.

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Finding Iggy: Going to the Frontiers

Love deed IgnatiusDear Pope Francis,

Happy feast day!

I’ve been following lots of the social media updates on Twitter and Facebook about the Feast of St. Ignatius. There have been lots of cool quotes, well wishes to the Jesuits, and funny pictures with the cartoon Iggy to celebrate St. Ignatius’ legacy and the contributions of the order he founded.

What has been popping up for me all day is Ignatius’ idea of being sent to the frontiers; going to those places where other people either can’t go or don’t want to go. The frontier may be a literal place, like a remote mission territory. It could be working with a marginalized population in a very populated city. It could even be spending time with a single person who is feeling like they are at the edge of society.

I’m thrilled to see social media feeds full of pictures and thoughts about spiritual things, especially when they have to do with such a cool saint, but being called to the frontiers issues me a challenge.

I am challenged to go beyond myself, and the safety of posting my thoughts and reflections online. I am challenged to go, to act, to do something to serve my neighbour. One of the quotes floating around today illustrates this: “Love ought to show itself in deeds more than words.” Being called to frontiers, wherever that may be, is to be done with love, and that requires actions. Tangible things that, with God’s grace, I do to share the Gospel with the people around me, even if I don’t explicit talk about Jesus-stuff.

At its heart, this is about following St. Ignatius’ oft quoted maxim: find God in all things. In order to go to the frontiers, in order to serve people or situations with love, I need to genuinely believe that God is there. I need to be willing to find the grace in the hardest moments, and open myself up to allow God’s love to flow through me.

And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the spiritual contributions of St. Ignatius all year round!

Embracing my inner Iggy,

Lauren

Go Forth Ignatius

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Controlling and coping

Dear Pope Francis,

It’s been a busy week. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve had a lot of hours at work. Over all, it’s still just part time but the individual shifts are long and leave me pretty wiped out the next day. I’ve had a few interviews for other jobs and volunteer positions, but until I have something solid to report I’m keeping quiet on the details. As always, prayers are great!

I haven’t been writing recently, not because my life has been super busy or because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I’ve been worrying about how pretty much the only things I post on Facebook these days are links to mine and Lauren’s posts on LTP, and a lot of what I’ve been thinking about feels very private.

Facebook-Privacy-GuidePart of it is a result of a conscious decision I made to not post so much of my life on Facebook a couple years ago. Sometimes (like once in a blue moon, and none in recent history) I get messages from creepy people, and generally when it happens I get super paranoid about my privacy for a while. I’ll purge my friends list of everyone who isn’t family, who I don’t know in person, haven’t spoken to in the last six months or who I wouldn’t be genuinely interested to catch up with if we ran into each other on the bus. I untag myself in most photos and go through all the pages I’ve liked and the groups I’ve joined and remove myself from everything. I generally try to avoid posting ubiquitous status updates and am often accused of being the slowest person ever in regards to putting up pictures if I’m the photographer at an event with friends.

Most of the time, I ignore the internal contradiction of being both intensely private about my own life and a reporter.

Yesterday, a reporter friend from school posted on her blog about how private her own journey back to Christ felt. She wrote about being nervous of what her Facebook friends would think if she posted the link to her blog, and about how the long-term consequences of being silent about faith aren’t worth it.

Something I really admire about Tara is how upfront she is about being Christian. She posts about things she’s grateful for, bible study, and the ways her car tests her faith. Her online presence is generally really positive, even when she’s having a hard day and I always get the sense that her relationship with Christ is something which really permeates every area of her life.

I’m not trying to compare myself to her or put myself down for being less active on social media than she is. I’m sharing the link to her blog because I’ve been struggling with a similar question lately. Tara wondered what her Facebook friends would think about her posting about her faith. I wonder what people will think if I share the big life stuff which has challenged and informed and deepened mine.

Something I struggle with in these letters is finding the line between being honest about what I’m struggling with in my spiritual life and my experience of being a young Catholic woman in a largely secular culture; and maintaining my privacy. I don’t want my posts on this blog to be like journal entries. The closer something is to my heart the harder it is for me to put it up here.

But at the same time, a lot of what I have to say about my relationship with Christ and why it runs so deep doesn’t translate well to writing without also writing about the big life stuff that’s happened. Even the broadest strokes – two years of crisis after crisis on all fronts leading to a major depressive episode followed by a nervous breakdown, an identity crisis, and a year of going through the motions outside while paralyzed inside by my own anxieties. It’s not like you can just bust it out and say “and that’s why me and Jesus are tight.”

My 17-year-old sister was really upset with me during the drive back to Ontario because I hadn’t told her much of anything about my life in New Brunswick over the last few years and I wasn’t just spilling everything. What she knew was the stuff I shared with my parents, and she was hurt that I didn’t seem to care enough or trust her enough to tell her anything myself.

If you weren’t in the JDH cafeteria during the winter of 2013 when I ran out of money on my meal card and then cried because Jeremy, the Tim Horton’s guy paid the $1.72 for my medium earl grey tea and I couldn’t comprehend why someone was being nice to me; you probably would have thought I had my shit together based on what I put online. I live-tweeted the students’ union meetings and posted status updates about whatever assignments I was working on and the things I cooked when I was procrastinating on those assignments.

Controlling what I put on social media started as a coping strategy when everything was outside my control before I moved away. Over the years control over my information expanded from the Internet to include more and more of the details of my life until it included everything and nothing.

I know being so intensely private offline is affecting relationships. Something’s gotta give, and I suspect it might have to be some of my privacy.

Trying to open up,

Meredith

Source: xkcd.com

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#100GratefulDays Update

Dear Pope Francis,

As promised, here is an update about how my #100GratefulDays challenge is going. The short answer, given with very little reflection, is that it hasn’t really gone anywhere. But as I think about it more, that’s not really true. I haven’t tried intentionally to be more grateful on a daily basis, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I did feel incredibly grateful for some of the good things that happened in the last month.

One thing I am realizing is that I am not the kind of person who thinks to share pictures on social media on a regular basis. This poses a real challenge for my goal to post a picture each day of the challenge. On one hand, it could be a good thing to push myself to do this, because it would make me more consciously aware of being grateful. But, on the other hand, it also forces me to live my life constantly looking for the picture to post, not recognizing the thing I am grateful for, which seems to defeat the purpose of starting the challenge in the first place.

My original intention was to focus on being intentionally grateful, even when it seemed like there was nothing to be grateful for – to be radically grateful. There have been some days where things seemed so bleak, I couldn’t see a single thing to be grateful for. This challenge is for days like that. It’s about creating a habit in which I look at the positives, the silver lining, and/or good stuff.

The pictures are helpful for one thing – they are good at helping me realize just how off track I got in my challenge. They are a built in accountability tool. Accountability is a good thing, I may need to find a different way of holding myself accountable. I don’t know exactly what that looks like just yet, but I know it will come.

Going into the next third of my challenge, I want to focus on being accountable to the challenge, but I also want to really focus on being more grateful when things are bleak. I started the letter by saying that I can name times when I was grateful for the good things: like my trip to Europe, making new friends, and having good conversations with old friends. But radical gratitude isn’t just about being grateful when things are good, it’s about being grateful for my life simply because I have a life. It’s about saying that my life is enough just as it is, not when I have a job, or a certain number of friends, or when I’ve accomplished certain goals. Radical gratitude is about being grateful on the journey, and that is something that I need to work on.

For any readers who may have taken on my original challenge, or who want to join now, I encourage you to think about what your success and short comings in the first third of the challenge. Then think about what you want to work on in the next third. If you’re comfortable, feel free to share with us at LTP, either in the comments or send me a private message, or just keep it for yourself. Whatever works for you!

Gearing up for the next phase,

Lauren

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Reducing Screen Time

Dear Pope Francis,

Last weekend I went on a self-imposed phone fast. I was visiting a friend and decided that I would disconnect from Facebook and texting for the weekend. In the vein of fasting in the Catholic Church, I allowed myself two short opportunities to check my phone and Facebook each day from Thursday evening to Monday morning. I had to stay in my room to check my phone because it had to stay there. I found the fast easier than I had anticipated, but that may have to do with the fact that I stayed busy with Mass and visiting with my friend.people texting

The fast got me thinking about how much I check my phone, which includes Facebook and my email, and how it impacts me, especially in light of my focus on self-care and trying not to compare myself to others. I realized that while there are definitely benefits to having a smartphone (like being able to write posts on the go, stay connected with my friends from across the country or keep my calendar up to date), the excessive connectivity really isn’t helpful.

I find it very disrespectful when people are on their phones when I’m hanging out with them, especially one on one. It’s as though spending time with me is somehow not enough, that I’m not entertaining enough. It really hurts. I know there are times when people need to be connected, maybe they’re expecting a really important phone call or email, but I doubt that’s the case every time.

A solution to all of this isn’t as easy as saying ‘put your phone away.’ There’s a whole mentality around popularity and phone use, although much of it is unconscious. People feel good when they receive texts and Facebook notifications. It means others are thinking about them, and that’s not a bad thing. But it can develop into a bad thing. In my case I was becoming way too concerned about what was being posted on Facebook, and how many texts I was sending and receiving. In some subconscious way, I had tied my self-worth to those numbers, instead of the overall quality of the relationships they were contributing to. I was comparing my whole life to the my friends’ highlights, the snapshots they gave into their lives on social media, which made it seem as though their lives were fantastic and perfect, while mine has been far from. Instead of making me feel closer to my friends, I feel more distant and isolated.

textingSince the phone fast, I have been mostly successful at continuing to limit my phone use. It’s usually around somewhere, maybe on the dining room table or in my bag, but very rarely is it within easy access 24/7, as it was in the past. I am still limiting my Facebook use, and actually went so far as to change my settings so that I wasn’t getting updates as frequently. It’s not that I want to be anti-social, or that I think that social media is detrimental, but as the saying goes, “where your treasure is, there your heart is as well.” If I substitute ‘time’ for ‘treasure’ then it applies perfectly to this situation. If I spend all my time on Facebook, rather than on the things that are really important to me, like practicing my German, prayer, spending quality time with people, or writing, then it suggests that those things maybe aren’t as important to me as they first appeared, and that the newest Facebook post or text is more important than it really is.

When all is said and done, I am not planning to give up my phone or deactivate my Facebook profile anytime soon, but I do plan to continue with the reduced screen time. For the most part, I am happier, and I have more time to do other things that really are important to me. Technology use is a habit, and as with any habit, I want to make sure that it is helping me, not hurting me.

Powering down,

Lauren

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