I lived a profoundly fulfilling day today. Yet, Facebook and YouTube deserve absolutely no credit for today’s significance. Quite the opposite, these services (which I use and enjoy) actually make life less significant and fulfilling. Let me explain.
The power of a small face-to-face community
I got to lead a small group at church wrestling with the theory of evolution and how Christians should think of it. I deeply enjoyed seeing my friends face to face and sharing heart to heart what I learned. After 35 minutes of discussion I feel I learned a lot and impacted the lives of others.
That experience, which happens every week, finds no parallel on social media. Sure, we have groups for this and that, yet online community only imitates real life. I get so much further into a discussion with high-stakes when I talk to a human being face-to-face.
The power of an in person experience
Later in the morning I played a Bible character instead of preaching a sermon. Preparing to impersonate David required nearly double the normal work for a sermon. Yet, showing up in person blue robed and sandaled I and those with me profoundly experienced the Bible. Acting out a narrative allowed me to enter it and share with others.
I certainly appreciate Facebook live stream. Thanks to this service a number of people tuned in to my David impersonation and got to experience it as well. I want to acknowledge this value in social media… To bridge gaps. Facebook allowed some who could not show up, to digitally arrive. Yet, how much more deeply would they have stepped into David’s story if they experienced it in room with us?
Real, live community!
After church perhaps the best part comes when you get to connect with dozens of friends and just talk and hang out. I love getting to look people face-to-face and joke and laugh. In a very real sense 30 minutes hanging out in person after church counts more than a weeks worth of interactions online. It refreshes your soul to stand with other people who laugh with and care for you.
When I use Facebook I find myself tempted to believe falsely in the depth of my relationships. I might follow the life stories of friends throughout the week, yet not really know them. The shallowness of online only friendships prevents them from making significant investments into your life.
The afternoon I enjoyed resting with my family. I love life as dad and husband. My wife Ashley blows me away with her wisdom, kindness, and hard work. Christy amazes me with her creativity and intelligence. Isabelle always makes me laugh and smile.
Ironically family time, this incredible time with those I love the most, gets hijacked most often by Facebook. Here’s how it works. In the middle of chasing the shorties around the house as tickle monster they do something crazy cute. As any red-blooded millennial would I whip my phone and snap a picture.
Then I stop playing, open Facebook, pull up the photo, and write a post. All this so a few hundred people who don’t really have a significant impact on my life complement my picture. When I’m on Facebook, I check my notifications. Then I see someone commented on a picture yesterday. So I read the comment. Then I scrolled to see if anything else happened.
Of course, while I do this on my phone the girls still want their dad/tickle monster. In my honest moments, I stop playing, step aside, and focus totally on my phone.
Unfortunately and dishonestly sometimes I pretend to pay attention to my daughters while I give most of my attention to Facebook.
I feel weird even writing that above. It’s true. Time with two of God’s gift to me gets squandered by Facebook. God let me become a father. May I never dismiss that privilege.
Facebook also makes life insignificant. YouTube does this too.
My day also had times when all three of my girls had other things to do then run from me. Then I could choose what to do.
The draw of Facebook and YouTube comes from their nearly magical ability to hold my attention. Thanks to massive computer algorithms every time I open those apps I always find entertainment. I can watch primitive technology videos on YouTube all day. I can invest hours finding out what my 600+ friends did this weekend. Yet, do these things matter?
What can I do that matters? I have a stack of books tackling profoundly important topics which I love to read about. I can invest more time fixing and building the girls play set. I can spend time writing about things that excite me.
I have an efficient brain
Here’s the problem. My brain loves Facebook and YouTube. It doesn’t have to work so hard. Learning about new topics or tackling home improvement issues requires mental heavy lifting. Yet those things which tax my brain make my day profound.
Studies have shown that people who spend time doing important things feel their life has meaning. Those whose lives fill up with truly mundane tasks see the meaning of their life in this sense. In other words, if I spend my day scrolling Facebook and YouTube watching trivial things, I will go to bed feeling trivial and insignificant. Yet, if I spend my day thinking about important things and doing them I will see my day with a profound light.
Social media and leukemia
While my skepticism of social media grows I must admit one area where it profoundly blesses me. Every time we take Isabelle to the hospital we have an army of dozens praying for us. Every time we share a need, people fill it. Facebook has connected us and shared our story to many. I must confess a debt to the power of Facebook to match a network of friends to a deep need. Without Facebook, our support network might be much smaller.
I treat Facebook and YouTube with much skepticism and care these days. Neither of these companies have any right to intercept my life with a flood of trivialities. I still enjoy the power of their networks to make connections and share information. Yet, I intend to live my life digging deeply into truly profound topics and causes. This will mean more of my phone sitting to the wayside while I spend time with those I love and consider deeply God’s world I love.