Friday, January 09, 2015

Pinterest Panic, Fakebook, and Twiddling

I've been thinking a lot lately about the pressures on people today and how we interact with each other.  Before the internet (which sounds like the dawn of time but was really not too long ago), our pressure group  peer group came from our neighborhoods, churches, schools, and/or workplaces.   Within in those groups there was usually a good deal of commonality.  We generally were from the same socio-economic backgrounds, held the same beliefs, and in many cases, the same friends.  It wasn't so hard to keep up with the Jones' 50 years ago, because the Jones' were experiencing similar circumstances.  We could also see people a little more clearly, their dirty laundry literally being hung out on the other side of our fences.  Air conditioning was a bit of a luxury, so often our windows were open for outsiders to peer in or listen (sometimes it was difficult to not listen).  There were no video games or cable TV, enabling (not forcing, enabling) us to play with our friends.  No cell phones or texting made genuine communication commonplace.

The same technological advances designed to make life easier, to be used as tools rather than objects of devotion, have become a source of peer pressure and stress that is impossible to live up to or quench. In May 2013, TODAY Parents stated that close to half of moms are stressed by sites such as Pinterest. The same holds true, I'm sure, for single and childless women as well.  Oh, the stresses caused by friends updating their relationship statuses!  Social media sites often only share successes and celebrate accomplishments.  What you don't see is how many failures occurred before those crowning achievements so proudly snapped and posted.  Granted, there are those of us who are at the other end of the spectrum, always whining and complaining about how miserable their lives are, not realizing that their situation is more common than they realize....but let's not get off topic.

Most of us have experienced Pinterest fail, trying to duplicate a craft or recipe or rehab and failing hopelessly.  The same is true for the idealistic lives most of us portray on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.  Most of us show only what we would want others to know about us.  I'm not suggesting that we tell all our dirty secrets and use social media as a confessional.  I'm not even suggesting that we all post photos of our dust bunnies or dirty cookie sheets.  I'm also not suggesting that we stop using these sites.  They each hold a certain amount of value and usefulness for this generation.

I love Pinterest in particular.  It's like tearing out magazine pages with recipes and ideas, but you can actually find them when you need them because they are neatly organized without taking up extra room in my already crowded house.  It would be easy for me to develop an inferior complex looking at some of these pins, but I know that I am not particularly gifted with my hands and I know that my worth is based in Christ and not in anything I can do or say.  I also know that most of my friends who have tried what they have seen on Pinterest have frequently found their end results to pale in comparison.  So, while I love the site and visit it often, I realize that what I see there ain't necessarily so...

I also am friends with Facebook.  It is a great way to keep up with family on the other side of the country and reconnect with friends from grade school.  I am not aware of a single person, however, that has been able to escape being hurt or felt slighted in some way as a result of what someone else said on the site.  I also both celebrate and cringe when I see people update their relationship status, knowing that each time it brings joy, heartache, and gossip simultaneously.  Be careful just how much you share of your relationships, not just because of the stress it causes others, but also because there are some things people just don't need to know.  I also know of people who use Facebook purely for stalking information gathering, this too, is inappropriate. 

As far as my Facebook is concerned, I do my best to avoid political statements, not because I do not have or am ashamed of my positions, but in deference to my friends who do not hold similar positions.  Remember the day when it was impolite to discuss politics and religion in public?  Imagine you're in a room with all your friends.  Most of your friends in the room love Neil Diamond, but a few of them can't stand him.  You're still friends with those people because you have other shared interests.  Now imagine that you get up in front of all those said friends in the room, some of which you cannot see or forgot they were there, and you state that anyone who doesn't like Neil Diamond is just dumb.  I realize this is a silly comparison, but you get the point.  Facebook really should be a more "polite society."  We have to be careful about potentially inflammatory statements, and about sharing too much of ourselves. 

So what's my point?  These sites are great as long as we realize they are not "real" and often not even ideal.  If you find yourself being stressed by these social sites, take a short technology sabbatical and open your eyes to the real world.  Sit on a park bench or a bench in the mall .... or even Wal-Mart....and take a good look at people.  Those are real people.  See them for who they really are.  Look into their eyes (figuratively, or you could wind up with a black eye) and see the pain in their lives and their brokenness.  Take time to actually talk with a friend over coffee.  Yes, I know this is difficult.  Do it anyway.  Look past all the glitz and phoniness of internet sites, and see and relate to people on a deeper level.  You'll be much happier if you do.


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