We have seemingly unlimited capability.
We have limited capacity.
A finite people creating seemingly infinite tools.
I believe that the tension created by this discrepancy causes our souls to stretch beyond our natural functioning. The result is that we feel that we are losing life or connection, while in the same moments being inundated with information and possibility.
Let me explain.
The phenomenon of social media has only existed in our culture for the past decade, and many would argue that it still has not reached its maximum capabilities. As a culture we have fully embraced this new creation and have so interwoven our lives and the lives of our children with social media that we can scarcely imagine or remember what life was like before we had it.
I would ask that you ponder this analogy. Could the creation of social media be just as potent as the creation of the first gun? Though this comparison may seem a bit far-fetched at first, guns, like social media, can be used both as a tool and as a weapon. A gun can be viewed both as a tool in the obtaining of food in the context of hunting or as a weapon caused to inflict harm. A tool or a weapon, is social media not the same? We praise social media for its capabilities as a tool, but are we fully aware of this same platform’s ability to inflict harm? Not just on bystanders but also on ourselves? Have we just created a weapon and put it in the hands of adolescents without fully understanding its abilities ourselves? Do we marvel at the tragedies inflicted upon those around us without realizing that we are all adolescents in this game?
I believe that social media is overstretching our souls in three key ways: distraction, disengagement, and detachment.
With our new ability to have information and interaction at our fingertips, have we unknowingly created a Pavlovian society? We have evolved into a society in which we have suffered the loss of the ability to wait and the art of patience. A society in which we are conditioned for immediate results and stimuli. We conditioned ourselves, and specifically the generations after us, to expect instantaneous results and interaction. We must ask ourselves: what are the ramifications in doing so? In our development of technology, are we breeding out the ability to engage? Engagement requires patience. If I am used to instantaneous responses and results, do I then have a growing frustration with the world and relationships around me that cannot naturally nor practically provide the results and interaction at the times that I am conditioned to expect. Does this then cause me to devalue these relationships and consider them not worth the focus it takes to develop them?
If I am distracted due to being conditioned to expect a rapid response, there will be an increasing tendency towards disengagement. This will be amplified if the world I am distracted from begins to suffer tension. For example, as a parent, if I am disengaged from my child and that child acts out, not responding to my attempts at correction how I desire, do I then retreat online to find a solution instead of engaging in the moment? This may appear noble at first due to my desire to gain access to resources, but at what point does it become a hinderance? Where is the line when my efforts to educate myself crossover and actually become me barricading myself with the information? In this scenario, I should consider whether I have reached a sufficient level of information to handle the situation responsibly or whether I’m searching for information as a form of escape?
It is my belief that we have become so engorged on information that we have stretch marks on the skins of our souls. Emotionally we do not have the capacity to engage with all of the various scenarios and information we are inundated with. Mentally we do not have the capacity to process and store all of the information we are gorging ourselves upon daily. One may respond, ‘“Should we not be concerned with (insert various cause/war/tragedy)?” But we must balance our intake of information with our capacity for response. When we do not balance information with response, we feel residual guilt and building anxiety. My friend’s 11 year old son has been having nightmares about ISIS taking over our town and killing his family. I am not saying this child should not know about tragedy in the world. However, I am saying that we are giving people access to information without giving them the tools to process this information in a healthy way. The frustration of the recipient of the information in these scenarios then leads to a state of detachment. I simply become used to feeling helpless. This is why we see bystanders making videos of heinous acts instead of putting down the phone and helping. We have become used to watching without having the ability to act. We have become detached.
I am not saying that social media is all bad. What I am saying is that it is not only tool but also weapon.
We must ask ourselves a few questions:
Are we fully aware of what we have created?
Are we stewarding it well?
Should adolescents have unlimited, unmonitored access to it?
If my daughter brought home a gun, you can bet that we would have talks about safety and reasons for having it. Why are we not doing the same with the emotional and mental guns that our society is freely distributing and encouraging?