Tip: A month ago I did a series claiming there are three basic types of anxiety: Surface Level, Life’s in Danger Level, and Foundational Level. The following topic is a mix of all of them. I would categorize this lesson as part rant. Ranting is a very healthy activity for getting emotion out and connecting with likeminded people. Hopefully you can find this affirming.
If I could eliminate one thing from the world, it would be social media. You may be thinking, “But Chad that’s hypocritical because you’re writing on social media.” Yes, and if I could eliminate it, I’d be happy to mail my lessons to anyone who wanted to read them. I think I can handle the three stamps a week. Social media is killing society. It used to be someone would say or do something stupid and a few days later it would be forgotten. Now? Things in our past are held onto and considered fair game: “Remember that thing you did when it was socially acceptable? Well, it’s not anymore, so I’m going to punish you for it.” It’s like social media is a nasty wife: (frustrated husband) “How do you remember what I did wrong 15 years ago, but can’t remember what I did right last week?” It amazes me that in a world where everyone knows that texts and emails can be misread, people keep using them as their primary communication tools: “Will texting cause a bigger fight? Perfect! Thumbs at the ready!” It also amazes me that we don’t apply this idea that we can misread things to what’s posted online: “They posted that? I’m going to assume the worst of them, so I can criticize them and feel superior for a brief moment because that’s an acceptable addiction!” As actor Zachary Levi wrote, “How come when I write that I love mangos I get attacked for somehow hating strawberries?” It’s like people are looking to be angry and spread hate. Ironically, these people would have a lot less anger and hate if they put down their phones and got a life that involved having in-person friends and engaging in outdoor activities.
What makes me angry is the most hateful people are the quickest to say “Don’t hate. Hating is bad.” When I use the word “hate,” I use it properly. It’s never at a person or a group. It’s at a thing like “I hate when people hurt others and justify it because they were themselves hurt.” “I hate when people act as judges and condemn others.” “I hate when hateful people claim they hate “hate” when they throw hate at others they accuse of being hateful when the main haters are them.” What happened to forgiveness? What happened to offering grace? What happened to having a conversation with people who are different than us and being open to their opinion: “I don’t understand why you’d think this way. Can you try to help me see your side, so I can be better informed and show you the respect you deserve?”
In my first book, Emotional Sex: Making good relationships great, I shared a lesson from Why You Do What You Do where he author breaks people down into three basic levels:
- Public: This is what people see when we’re in public. This is us when we have better social filters because we’re concerned about looking bad. This is the side that tends to be more energetic or shut down depending how we handle our surroundings.
- Personal: This is the side of us that only those who live with us really see. For instance, I tend to be much quieter with my family than in public (aka I’m boring at home).
- Private: This is our core, which consists of our private thoughts.
These different levels are why dating someone after a few months we can be like “I thought you were normal. What happened? Was I that blind or did you hide it that well?” What’s interesting is sometimes the friendliest and bubbliest people in public are the biggest messes at home. In public they’re either putting on a show or they get so distracted being in public they can feel happiness when they’re actually quite broken at the core. (That’s one of the reasons being in public can be helpful for healing; it gives us a break from focusing on our hurt.) This means who we are at home when there is less reason to put on a show or be distracted is a closer reflection of what’s really going on at our core. This is why we want to consider how someone is with their family before we get too serious with them. After all, they might look good in public, but they might be a total nut job when the social filter is relaxed or in my case it’s, “How are you so boring at home?”
This list was written many years ago, and to update it, I’d add another two levels:
4. Social Media Front: This is the total fake reality people create online in order to show off or hide what’s really going on in their life. This is all about raising yourself up to make others wish they were more like you or to go sad and try to gain sympathy power over others.
5. Social Media Parasite: This is the level where meanness is king and these people try to suck the life out of others in order to gain a sense of personal validity.
One of the reasons I hate social media so much is because of how full of lies it is. It’s easy to scroll through something like Facebook or Instagram where you see others looking their best and doing great things and feel like a failure. Of course it makes you look like a failure. You’re judging yourself based on a show. Social media is a playground for show offs and carefully calculated posts that hides or distorts reality in order to gain a false sense of approval from others. It’s like a student trying to be affirmed by their teacher, but the teacher is a collection of random people who will likely feel worse about themselves seeing what the student does.
When I was a youth pastor the most common compliment I received was a variation of “You’re so authentic,” and “You’re so genuine.” This is a great compliment to give people even if you don’t like them: (person) “You’re so authentic.” (receiver) “Thank you.” (person) “Can you be less authentic and pretend to be a nice person? Maybe put on some pants.” The reality is authenticity is thrown out the window when we have to walk on eggshells in public and online because upsetting the wrong person can lead to someone destroying our lives through social media, which is like gossip gone nuclear. Here’s the simple truth: You can have authentic people or you can have social media and cancel culture. You can’t have both because people can’t be authentic when there’s fear of being canceled.
Some people will argue social media is a gift because it allows them to have a closer connection to celebrities. Um, do you think celebrities are being themselves? They need to put on a persona because people on social media suck. People online regularly do the three worst social mistakes we can make; they half pay attention to what’s presented, they assume the worst, and they write the first thing to come to mind in response. Meanwhile, people with proper social skills double check what has been heard before getting upset: “To make sure I heard this right, are you saying (blank) or am I misreading it?” and they give themselves a chance to process what’s been shared instead of reacting defensively in the moment. It’s as if social media encourages terrible communication because it likes the drama: (social media) “I need hate to live. Feed me!”
All of this hate online culminates to someone eventually being canceled, and when that happens it’s like someone won a championship: “We found someone to attack as a collective group. We won!” Cancel culture is the equivalent of a mob with pitchforks and torches attacking someone accept the attackers get to hide behind a screen, so they don’t have to see the damage they cause others. They don’t burn crosses on people’s lawns, but they emotionally traumatize people without any guilt because they can justify it as “That person deserved it. I’m the judge, so I should know.” This is passive aggressive bullying instead of the blatant aggressive style we see in old movies where the big kid picks on the smaller one: “Bullying people is bad… unless you do it from your phone; then it’s fine.” Cancel culture hates things like “racists” and “close minded people,” but as it is almost always the case, we accuse others of doing what we do ourselves. Anyone who screams, “Don’t judge me!” “Don’t manipulate me!” or “You’re gas lighting me!” nine times out of ten are the ones judging, manipulating and gas lighting. It’s like years ago when the Christians who most hated gay people were actually struggling with their own sexuality.
The worst part about social media is it’s dominated by the people who were never meant to be the leaders of a culture. We’ve inadvertently given the power of our culture to narcissists, basement trolls, phone addicts, and young people who should be spending more time on their homework and waiting until they get some life experience and wisdom before starting to spread their opinions. Instead, the people we need to listen to are too busy doing what they can to make the world better or they’re too afraid to say anything for fear of be attacked online.
Until we “cancel” cancel culture, the best people will be too afraid to put their lives and families at risk while normal good people do their best to hide from all the meanness online. Even more important is if we start to put the Golden Rule back into play: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Mat 7:12) And, yes that’s a Bible verse.
This week may you consider how you can offer a little more love to fight our judgmental culture.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people (like me)