Going Off-Line

By Matt Messner
matt.messner@gmail.com

More and more of my friends are quitting social media entirely. I miss their posts, but I get it. It used to be that only some people were on call for limited periods of time. This is no longer true. Thanks to our smartphones, we are all available to “everyone” 24 hours a day, seven days a week (As of 2015 68% of all American adults have smartphones).

People send us (“us” meaning every one of us with a smartphone) messages to our phones demanding meetings, a call, or an immediate reply. It doesn’t matter what we are doing or what time of the day or night that it is.

In our sincere desire to be caring, we try to meet these demands and to respond to these requests.

It used to be that when a minor crisis hit us we had to prayerfully process the situation. We had to wait a couple of days to address the situation. We had to meet with someone face to face. The waiting period allowed for our emotional decompression and for God to meet this “need” through other means.

Now we are able to immediately post (vent, rant, etc.) our problems for the world to see. Screaming into the void easily takes the forms of slander and gossip – bringing a very negative and sometimes hostile tone to the atmosphere of our social network.

When we are frustrated about something, social media also allows us to go directly to the person in charge, sending them a private message, expecting a quick response.

Expressing ourselves in these ways brings us an immediate sense of gratification, while burdening our “friends”.

Here are two important questions:

  1. Have we become more co-dependent and less God-dependent?
  1. Are the expectations and demands that we put on some of the people in our lives unrealistic?

If you have a smartphone, here is some advice:

  • Be sensitive to the demands that you make of your leaders (and friends). Some people understand the “big picture” of how many groups and individuals are requesting their time (especially during the holidays), but most people do not think about this (I see this especially with pastors and ministers). Most people (myself included) desperately want to meet everyone’s needs and expectations, but cannot possibly do it. Attempting to do so often comes at the expense of one’s family or personal health. We don’t want to disappoint people, but we cannot meet every demand. When we try to meet the demands without establishing clear boundaries of our limitations, we disappoint people and feel the strain in those relationships. This is unfortunate since this does not mean that we do not value a group, or love a person. In fact, the opposite is true. We just haven’t learned to say “no”.
  • Learn to say “no”. It is up to each one of us to train the people in our lives that we are not on call. Just because a person can message you does not require an immediate response. You don’t have to feel guilty by responding at a more appropriate time for you. You are not being antisocial media. You don’t have to throw out your smartphone to create some breathing room in your life.

I am not going to quit social media, but I am learning to say “no” more often and I am learning to not feel obligated to immediately respond to every demand. This isn’t selfishness, or a lack of love. It is self-preservation, prioritization and perhaps one way that we can help everyone lean on God a little bit more while still loving one another.

Can you relate?

 


Matt Messner is the Lead Pastor at Faith Center Foursquare Church in Eureka, California. At least for right now you can find him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.