It’s not uncommon for people to “fast” from particular things such as chocolate, coffee, and carbs. I’ve been known to do that off and on. I’ve also fasted from Facebook a few times. But since the advent of Twitter, Path, Foursquare and Instagram, I had yet to purge my system of ALL forms of social networking at once.
So that’s what I did in August. Now by no means does that make me a saint or superhuman, lest you be wondering “John, how in the name of all that’s good and right did you possibly abstain from all forms of social networking? How did you manage? Was communication with the rest of the human race somehow truncated?” These are wonderful and jest-filled questions, because I know of no one that has DIED due to lack of internet-ready networking apps.
But I nearly did.
At least it felt that way.
It’s kinda sick how disconnected I felt just days into my 31-day fast. A buddy of mine declared that I wouldn’t make it the whole month, and he was nearly right. I wanted to check. I just had to see what people were saying. Who was thinking about me? Was a tagged in a photo? Is anyone quoting rich and profound thoughts from my weekend sermons? Someone has to capture an Instagram of me and my new bro-tank shirt! Not to mention: who else “checked in” at the State Fair and are they going to the REO Speedwagon concert? I gotta see a Vine Video of that epic 80’s band!
When you really get down to it: pride rears it’s ugly head. That’s not to say that social networking is ALL about pride and ego. There are certainly wonderful and redeeming aspects. Connections are made. Information is shared. Prayer and praise are facilitated. All good stuff.
But the dark side of social networking is excessive vanity. It can quickly become about ME (insert SELFIE photo here). That, of course, is a pretty unbecoming characteristic of a Jesus-follower. Author Brett McCracken says “social media like Facebook and Twitter reinforces our sense of self-importance, urging us to say whatever is on our minds because some audience, somewhere, really wants to know.”
And yet, Philippians 2:4 challenges us to “look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Easier said than done, I know.
So moving forward in my social networking venture, I’ve developed a few personal guidelines that, if properly interspersed, will help me not make it all about ME.
1. Ask questions. Lots of them.
2. Quote smarter people than myself (which gives me a bunch of folks to draw from).
3. Be a resource of helpful thoughts, ideas, books, etc that benefit those that follow me online.
On another note regarding social networking: some people have asked me what apps and systems I utilize. Here are my personal thoughts on the matter. I try to create systems and use apps that serve and conserve. What will serve me and my ministry as well as conserve time and energy? To that end, I do the following:
• I use Instagram as my social hub. I will often take a picture of something and it automatically posts to Twitter and Facebook for me.
• I try to stay off Facebook as much as humanly possible. It’s a jungle out there. Recently, I switched to a “Public Figure” Facebook page, which gives me a few specialized options like turning off messaging, and it doesn’t give me access to other people’s timelines. And also, sadly, I discovered last week on my birthday that others couldn’t see the day of my birth nor post their well-wishes on my timeline. That was a tough pill to swallow. At the end of the day I peeked at FB to discover only a few messages from close friends. Ouch. It felt like my birthday got cancelled this year! Anyway…even though this feature removes me somewhat from the “Facebook Flow,” the time-saving benefit is great.
• I will often post to Twitter from sites like Zite (personalized news magazine) and YouVersion (Bible reading). I then try to stay off my Twitter feed because it’s mind-numbing. The thousands of posts with 140 characters and links start to blur together and my eyes gloss over when scrolling my feed. So, by and large, I’m trying to stay off of it, except for the posts of a few trusted people and sites that I know can keep me current on news and events.
• Instagram is frankly my kryptonite. My thumb goes to my iPhone app like Pavlov’s dogs. Thankfully I don’t follow a ton of people. And if you post trash, too many selfies, or more than five pictures in five minutes of your “smoking hot wife” then I stop following you!
• I check in on the Foursquare app periodically, but haven’t found it to be a very vibrant community. Google+ and LinkedIN bug me (sorry). Path is of interest, but I’ve not spent much time there. Vine and SnapChat don’t grab me at all. I think they are novelty and, bottom line, sin portals.
On that note: every social networking tool can be used for good or evil. I know that sounds very Obi Wan Kenobi of me, but it’s true. I encourage you to choose good. Run from evil.