Social Media Wars

I’ve wavered back and forth about abandoning Facebook and other social media altogether. I call this the social media wars. This is not because the war I am waging against people I disagree with by composing extensive, and to my mind, reasonable responses to their alternative points of view. No, this war is against my own proclivity to give my attention to and get angry about what people with disagreeable beliefs have written on social media platforms. After I settle down and reflect, I realize several key points, first I really don’t think that I will change people’s beliefs by what I write on Facebook. Second, I do know that attending to social media is what I do when I have not thoughtfully planned out how I want to invest my time and attention. Third, what people with different points of view than me post on a public platform is not anything that I can control or manipulate. Finally, I know that Facebook is not the best media to get accurate information from.

Having realized all of this makes it somewhat easy to say to myself, ‘just delete the accounts and walk away’. And then I think, I don’t have to delete an account to learn something meaningful here. I can learn something meaningful by reflecting on why I consume social media and why I get angry at what some people write there. This makes me think about one of the tenets of stoicism, a philosophy developed by the ancient Greeks and adopted by some Romans, as well, including the emperor Marcus Aurelius. Onc concept from stoicism is important to consider here, what to do with strong emotions and desires.

Be mindful, in particular of the way you respond to strong emotions or desires. When you experience a distressing or problematic thought, pause, and tell yourself: “This is just a thought and not at all the thing it claims to represent.” Remind yourself that it is not things that upset you but your judgements about things [emphasis added]. Where appropriate, rather than being carried away by your initial impressions, try to postpone responding to them for at least an hour, waiting until your feelings have settled down and you are able to view things more calmly and objectively before deciding what action to take.

(Donald Robertson)

I find this hard to do. I believe I have made some progress with this, but i still find myself reacting with anger and frustration far too often, often from questions and comments from family and colleagues and those on social media. I hope that my response to social media is easier to temper than when I respond to someone sitting next to me in the same room. But maybe all of what other people say and do, whether directed me solely or launched into the social space for all to read, is grounds for me to not respond at all, or at least not with anger and frustration. My non-response falls into the category that Paul of Tarsus wrote about 2,000 years ago. My reaction to everyday life does not need to be an accomodation for my own emotions to be displayed, nor do I have to become one more loud obnoxious voice playing gotcha with others. Perhaps those statements and questions are actually something that God does for me as a means of fostering my growth as a human. Circumstances and other people’s actions are not in my control, and whether totally happenstance or some prompt from the divine, I get to choose how to act and what to speak.

I will do my best to remember the stoic way and the reminder from Paul. My everyday life is all I have to offer to you, to society, to my family, and to God. I want to be able to have this everyday life be about well being for us all.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.”

(Paul’s letter to the Romans, 12:1)
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