Back in May, just as I was planning my summer hiatus from Facebook, the article Chasing the Right Likes from Joshua Becker caught my eye. It came around at roughly the same time as the blog post by Jamie Martin that I referenced in my first posting: To the Mama Who Feels Like She Never Gets Enough Done (My Productivity Secret). Both commentaries have stuck with me these past few months and have greatly influenced my decision to exit Facebook on a more-or-less permanent basis.
Jamie got me thinking about what I truly need to spend all of my time and energy on- and it’s not worrying 24/7 about politics, or laughing at every meme, or seeing what everyone and their dog is up to everyday.single.moment.of.the.day, or trying to decode some people’s cryptic messages or passive aggressive rants, or get sucked into their whining (mine included, ditto, ditto, ditto). I need to worry about my house, my kids, my pets, my husband, my house: my stuff. And I desperately need to get out of the “Oh, I have to post this!” mind set; the rewiring of the brain that occurs with social media abuse is simply horrific!
However, Joshua made me rethink the psychology of social media all together. In fact, he made me realize it is not a healthy place, at least not for me. Why, you may ask? The answer is simple enough: pride. One need only take a spin around “reality” T.V., Facebook, Twitter, or even the closest busy department store parking lot for evidence of society’s hyper-inflated self-importance. It is almost painful to see how full of ourselves we are. Selfies on the hour, every hour, posts about every meal, thought, gym visit, and bodily function; vanity plates, monster trucks and custom cars that scream “LOOK AT ME!”; clothes (or a lack thereof) that do the same; booming music vibrating the ground, annoying drivers or neighbors a block away, all because we are just so darned important that every one must want, no, need to see what we are doing or admire who we are.
According to Dictionary.com, pride is (among other things) a noun meaning:
1. a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.
2. the state or feeling of being proud.
3. a becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one’s position or character; self-respect; self-esteem.
4. pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself: civic pride.
Pride is rightly listed among the Seven Deadly Sins, and Pride is essentially what set off the “War in Heaven,” which led to the fall of Lucifer, a.k.a. Satan, who in turn took a third of the hosts of heaven with him. The after effects of this terrible rebellion have been reverberating in our terrestrial sphere since the dawn of man and are evidenced throughout the millennia in story after story of human history. Holy scripture is replete with illustrations of man’s hubris, as is secular literature, and at no point does pride produce a favorable result. In the cosmic scheme of things, it may be possible for pride to be a positive thing, but… for the most part it is not, for the most part it is quite destructive to the self, the soul, and society as a whole.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis observed that a “proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that is above you.” Additionally, Lewis noted that the “natural man,” or what we might call human nature is “something that wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit the whole universe.” How very true that is. Does that not explain the diseased state of the modern mind? We want to be admired, even by, and perhaps especially by, those we don’t know intimately? Isn’t it clear that man is so enamored with his ability to construct philosophies which exclude Nature or God, reconstruct scripture and society, devise experiments, and develop innovative idols to worship that he forgets to look up to the One who made this fragile, finite life possible?
In Herodotus’ The Histories, the master narrator tells the story of the ancient Lydian ruler Croesus who, while hosting the distinguished Athenian teacher Solon, came to ask of the well-traveled man, “Who is the happiest man you have ever seen?” Knowing Croesus was seeking to be flattered because of his wealth and the vastness of his conquests, Solon refused to feed the leader’s ego, and answered with tales of several men he’d known who’d not been particularly affluent or prominent, but who had had strong families, accomplished noble things in their lives, and died heroically while serving others.
Croesus was baffled by Solon’s selections and demanded to know exactly what his criterion for happiness were, especially considering the bliss that was apparent in Croesus’ own life. How could Solon have possibly failed to include Croesus? The shrewd instructor, seeing an opportunity to impart a bit of wisdom to the arrogant king, responded calmly,
Great wealth can make man no happier than moderate means, unless he has the luck to continue in prosperity to the end (death). Many rich men have been unfortunate, and many with a modest competence have had good luck…Whoever has the greatest number of the good things I have mentioned (sound body, health, freedom from trouble, fine children, and good looks), and keeps them to the end, and dies a peaceful death, that man, Croesus, deserves in my opinion to be called happy. Look to the end…often God gives man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him.
Croesus wasn’t satisfied with this answer, and he failed to glean the lesson learned Solon was seeking to impart. In the end, he was utterly ruined. His pride led him to lose all that he had amassed, including his beloved heir and the entirety of his kingdom. The man had everything anyone could want, save the praise of one man. How many of us seek after the same thing? We have everything we could possibly need, and very likely much of what want, but we still crave more. And we allow that drive to consume us, whether we’re conscious of it or not. I have come to see that the failure to enjoy the moment we are in without first thinking, “I can’t wait to post this,” is part and parcel of that unconscious lust.
In the days and weeks since my car accident and in the time I’ve been off of social media, I’ve had lots of time to think on these particular issues. Unfortunately, I’ve come to the conclusion (though I have been fairly aware of this character fault for more than a few decades now) that I am one pride-filled little lady. While I don’t believe God “let” that wreck happen or “caused” the “Nancy Kerrigan-ing” of my knee, the time that I’ve spent sidelined has been a God send (mostly).
Seriously, folks, I’m not so blind to my own faults to have missed the Napoleon complex, a.k.a “small dog syndrome,” to which I am prone. Nor have I missed the internal burn I feel at times to be recognized. In his post Chasing the Right Likes, Joshua tells the sweet story of an orphan girl seeking the attention of her house mother. His conclusion is that many of us continue to seek that attention well beyond when it is normal or healthy; and for some, even many, social media only enables these childish desires to flourish.
Women’s “Lib,” at least the modern incarnation of that movement, is not something of which I’m particularly fond. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I detest much of what is considered “feminism,” particularly the way the left-wing politicos have practiced it since the 1960’s. A few strong, truly independent women who were a part of the feminist past do stand out to me, however. Sadly, theirs are not the voices we hear so prominently today.
Rose Wilder Lane, the daughter of well-know pioneer Laura Ingalls Wilder, is one such woman. A pioneer herself, Lane is often considered the mother of twentieth century Libertarianism. In her fictionalized autobiography on Lane entitled A Wilder Rose, Susan Witting Albert has Lane speculating on the origin of the relational difficulties between mother and daughter.
Indeed, it has often seemed to me that in those days (childhood)— except for a brief golden hour after supper and before bed— I had no mother, for she had no time to give me attention or affection, and I was left to ask for it or beg for it or even misbehave for it, which earned instead her sharp anger and my sullen guilt. Then, I thought this lack of mothering was my own particular privation, and I resented it and pitied myself. Now, I know that many children do not receive the mother-love they need and that they keep on needing and wanting it for a long, long time, perhaps all their lives. Do I? Do I do what I do for her now because of the lack, the emptiness I felt then? I don’t know. Perhaps. Perhaps.
I know how she feels, or rather felt. My own maternal relationship often seemed as if I was trying to navigate waters filled sharks and shrieking eels in an attempt to get the “mother-love” I craved. I’m sure there were times my mother felt as if she were suffocating under the weight of my desire for her time and praise. What she could give or was willing to give me as a child didn’t satisfy my thirst to be “noticed.” I ached to have her all to myself, but my plans for us were always interrupted by someone or something else, like a sibling, a grandchild, work, divorce, dating, remarriage….
Still, there came a time when I was a senior in high school and Mom had foot surgery. She was off from work, recuperating at home for six long weeks. By that time it was just she and I, and much like the Harry Chapin song “Cat’s In the Cradle,” I think she suddenly comprehended just how little contact we had with each other (and how little influence she had over me). She sought to remedy it forthwith, but it was too late. I resented her efforts to manipulate me into staying home and being a nursemaid. There was my job, church, school, friends, a boyfriend…nothing that included her. Later, in my mid-20’s I recall she came to my workplace to request the use of my car for a two or three day solo road trip; I was frustrated by her request and refused. She observed that my coolness towards her at that moment could stem from nothing more than her reticence toward me in my childhood. “I wasn’t there for you, and now you’re not here for me.” Spot on, Mom. Brilliant.
Marriage, twenty years, two kids, depression, and her death later, and I’ve learned much about the internal and external struggles Mom had; they were legion. I needed desperately for her to talk to me, to explain who she was to me so I could comprehend her, understand the choices she made- especially those that directly affected me- but that wasn’t in her make-up, not for me anyway, the baby of the brood. This lack of meaningful communication made it exceedingly difficult for us to love each other on terms that the other could truly feel. Instead, we, two little Napoleons, mother and daughter, fought with each other from atop our mighty steeds, deeply wounding but never toppling the other.
Before she passed, Mom and I found a small, rocky patch of earth on which to meet, but there was not time enough to work through our problems. I persisted in never feeling I’d had “enough” of her, starving, in the most pathetic of ways, to hear her praise me, to put my “accomplishments” on a pedestal above those of my siblings, to admit that I was all that I thought I was, to open up to me… and to apologize for not being the mom I’d needed early on. Talking past each other was a hard habit to break. The last candid picture I have of her came from Christmas 2001, a month before her death. She is holding my oldest, who was a toddler then, and I can see the tension in Mom’s jaw; I know it was because of me.
Much of what separated us in the five years between that day the parking lot at work and the frantic phone call from a sister-in-law telling me that Mom had died suddenly, was nothing more or less than Pride. We were both so full of “it,” and I was certainly not going to be the one to lose grip on the controls.
“Pride is a deadly cancer. It is a gateway sin that leads to a host of other human weaknesses. In fact, it could be said that every other sin is, in essence, a manifestation of pride. This sin has many faces. It leads some to revel in their own perceived self-worth, accomplishments, talents, wealth, or position. They count these blessings as evidence of being “chosen,” “superior,” or “more righteous” than others. This is the sin of “Thank God I am more special than you.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Internally, Facebook is no different a struggle for me. “Look at me!” “Praise me!” “Like me!” “Affirm me!” Me, me, me. I, I , I. I don’t want to be a part of that anymore! No one needs me to link all of my apps to Facebook so that the world may know how far or fast I walked today (Fitbit, Map my Run), what I ate or how much weight I’ve lost (MyFitnessPal), what I’m reading (Goodreads), or what I just purchased (Amazon, Groupon). We each have our own worries, why do you really care about mine? Does it make us feel better to know some one has it worse? Or does it make us feel superior to know how good we are, comparatively, you know? Does it make us feel intelligent and astute to “correct” our friends’ views or comments (or grammar)? Who really wants to hear me whine about my monthly migraine cycle or annual cold or bum knee? Do I really need eighty-five “Get well soon” posts to make me feel better? I’ll bet your pets are just as cute as mine, your garden as pretty, and your neighbors just as annoying. Do you really want to give me feedback about a child who won’t listen? Are yours any better? And it goes on and on. Doesn’t it all just turn into a demand for attention that we should have gotten over decades ago? Doesn’t feeding one another’s egos just make us all into a bunch of meth addicts, craving more strokes, more likes, more approval?
Granted, there are wonderful, positive uses for social media, such as keeping in contact with old friends and family, especially when we are separated from those we love, genealogy, seeking for community services, asking for help without having to get on the phone (I hate the phone), sharing positive, uplifting messages, and supporting friends in pain, just to name a few. But, to those who are prone to addictive behaviors, social media can become poison to the soul and just another vehicle for unhealthy behaviours, such as attention seeking. Pride destroys all that could be good, twisting an opportunity to communicate into a Tower of Babel. Galatians 6:3 reads, “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. Indeed, there is much we do to deceive ourselves down here. In an attempt to be something by man’s measure, we puff ourselves up and forget that the only measuring stick that matters is God’s. I hope to do better by Him in the future.
Thoughts? Feel free, the three of you who may see this, to add your own sentiments. I promise not to get too uppity to know I have a reader or two. 😉
Some good reads on the subject: