Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Social Media Experiment

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child;

Turn back the clock. It's August 2010. My days are full of joy. I'm happy and managing life and its stresses peacefully, wisely. I read a lot, take long walks with my children, garden in the warmer months and enjoy friends and family more intimately when the cold weather keeps me indoors more often. A lot of my time and energy is focused on my passion for family history. When I find someone who needs help with their family history research I do what I can.

but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 

Enter social media. New things to see, hear, read and opportunities to grow. I'd only used the Internet to connect me to information up until the point that we moved away from my social connection to family and friends. The only world immediately available to me to replace my social life (or so I thought) was through the Internet. 

Problem? I assumed both worlds were the same. They aren't. One has bodies you can see, smell, touch, and hear. The other only has words and images. Even video is limited to exposing the true essence of who and what is seen. It's staged. The world that understood who I was, the one that saw me wash dishes, fold laundry, make dinner, and read bedtime stories even though I was exhausted from overwork and battle fatigue, wasn't invited onto my computer screen unless I wanted it there. Nor could it shout to the new world of cyberspace how much it loved and missed me.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face:

I think I know you. You think you know me. Words express our thoughts, and our desires. We tell virtual strangers stories about our lives, hoping to uplift, inspire and learn. I see pictures of you that you use for your profile, and others that you post on Facebook. I try to discern who you really are. But there is that impenetrable glass that never allows a true understanding or true connection.

I hold in high regard those few who actually go to Blogworld and other social media conferences where there's an opportunity to see face to face. That's a healthy way to use and continue in social media. Where there's a balance between and a link to both worlds. Where fantasies and illusions are replaced by real living, breathing human beings who have hopes, dreams, problems and stresses like everybody else.

Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

No matter what I've said about how I feel, what my dreams, goals, values and standards are, social media is limited to never exposing to you what my life is really like. And that's not important unless what you're looking for is a deeper friendship and connection. 

If you're quick to judge and slow to discern AND unwilling to find common ground where values and standards are discussed and respected hearts can harden, making relationships difficult. Typed words are very limiting and easily misunderstood. 

Patience, respect, and a sincere desire to understand another's words over time with a lot of questions back and forth are required.

And now abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three;

Do I believe there's value in social media? Yes. I believe it has enormous capacity for good. But what I think I've learned is to use it for the good of those whom I can interact with in my family, neighborhood, and community. or for the good of YOUR family and community.  

I believe we are the agents of change, the bridge-builders. Anything less than that vision leaves idle minds that could be engaged in service to self-serving relationships that can depress and discourage because they are shadow-like by nature, never really real. 

My hope is that I can learn how to use these magnificent tools to do a work in the world that is uplifting and inspiring, and tangible. I feel like I'm starting to see clearly how it can work.

Used wisely it will  build connections of trust and usefulness within our real life communities. But if it uses us, it has the capacity destroy us, our families and our other relationships. 

but the greatest of these is charity.
1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Charity, the pure love of Christ; the love that allows for understanding of differences, teaches and encourages respect, aspires to everything good and beautiful, and yearns to be the  bridge between the haves and the have-nots are things that encourage me about social media. 

When we shift our selfish desires that seek our own gratification to magnanimous ones that want to connect for the purpose of helping those who live in our homes and communities, we'll be the recipients of peace in our hearts, knowing who we really are to the world and in the world and for the world.

And when our focus shifts from what WE need and want to what we can give, we will see so many more opportunities to share WHO we know with those who have a need to know THEM. 

Our days will feel richer because we'll have tools at our disposal that can quickly and effectively reach the previously unreachable. Even if only a small percentage of people online use it to promote their neighbor's cause or business, those threads of activity will slowly wrap around each other and bind us together as brothers and sisters, and will become more easily discerned and emulated by those who are seeking to do good in the world.

Will I continue in social media? A few days ago I would have said no. My strength was gone. I was humbled by my ignorance and naivete.  I had become so inwardly focused that I couldn't see my value, if that makes any sense at all. But I need to be connected to people to help, to lift, and to inspire, and to BE inspired!

Most of that connection will be found in real life, in my home and community. It's up to me to set up a system that works efficiently to link both worlds together seamlessly. I will decide how much time I devote to that service, and what my standards are. And my real life relationships will always have to come first. They've earned the right and privilege to be the relationships I work the hardest on every day. 

 And if I can't figure this out for myself, how in the world can I guide my children who will possibly need to use the Internet much more than I have or will?


  1. This is a very thoughtful and heartfelt post Betsy ... one I GREATLY appreciate. There is a lot to ponder here.

    "And when our focus shifts from what WE need and want to what we can give, we will see so many more opportunities to share WHO we know with those who have a need to know THEM." Wow!!So, so true. I really love that you feel this way Betsy and speaks volumes about who you are and your core. For me, it's an absolute privilege to know you and call your "friend" near or far; face-to-face or not. People like you teach me a whole lot about me and I'm always so humbled and grateful for this.

    This truly is one of my favorite posts of 2011 - I will take more time to reflect on this over the holidays. Thank you Betsy, thank you for being wonderful, blessed, meaningful you!!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!!

    Abundant kindness and gratitude,


  2. Thank you Elena for saying that. I almost deleted this post because it's not very cheery. You know? A little serious for this time of year! So I thank you!!

  3. And the greatest of these is charity.

    Thank you, Betsy, for giving us a reminder of the season.

    I can understand how social media, including blogging, can be a drain on your time and energy. I have a friend who is getting into blogging who says she does it until 12 noon and then she's done for the day. She has much more willpower than I do.

    But perhaps her methods would work for you? Perhaps fencing off this part of your life would make it a better fit.

    But I am being selfish, not charitable. I sure would miss you if you left our virtual world.

  4. I second what Carolyn so beautifully states!

  5. Carolyn,
    I'm learning to carve out a life like everyone else is. I love social media and the new friends I've made. I don't like the dependence I feel on it. I'm at home full-time with no way to get out starting my second year in a row. With little ones at home it's quite a temptation to be exclusively online. But my vision of reality was incredibly warped over time. I never thought that could happen to me. I want to balance it all...not my strong suit!

  6. Thank you for this very thoughtful post, Betsy, there is so much in it, like Elena I will go back to it again.

    I can completely relate to being sucked in by social media, this paired with a feeling of inadequacy in the beginning and the enormous amount of time spent online (and taken away from real life) made me feel very miserable.

    Later I started to ask the same questions about social media and I have come to the same conclusions: "I believe it has enormous capacity for good. But what I think I've learned is to use it for the good of those whom I can interact with in my family, neighborhood, and community. or for the good of YOUR family and community." Without the online relationships built in the last year I would never have reached that conclusion.

    Like in real life it is about balance and focus, and staying away from temptations, i.e. constantly checking e-mails, reading just another blog post etc. "Preaching wine, drinking water" - I think I forgot to mention discipline!

    Have a lovely and peaceful Christmas!

  7. Peace! Yes...that's what I want! Thanks Barbara.

  8. I think that with time balance comes and not necessarily the reverse- at least that is how my social media experience has been.

    I have been doing this for so long now I have gotten pretty good at managing my time, but not perfect.

  9. Could be that you've uncovered the root of my problem ,Jack...impatience!!


What do you think? I'd love to know.