By Kenneth Justice
~ The other day at coffee a mid-fortyish woman was telling my friend and I about her ‘fabulous’ life and was showing us pictures from a cruise she had just returned from, “I had such a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family, I recently bought a new car, and we’re going to Florida for Christmas…everything is awesome!” she said
After the woman left the café my friend that was sitting with me responded quite sadly, “Dude, I feel like my life sucks compared to hers….now I feel kinda depressed” he said
Actually, the picture the woman painted of her life for my friend was not the entire story. Having talked with her occasionally over the past few months I happen to know;
—) She almost cheated on her husband last year with an old boyfriend and is living with the guilt because she still secretly talks to the ex-boyfriend and hasn’t cut the relationship off
—) She recently found out that her 11 year old son is looking at pornography on the Internet all the time and she’s not sure what to do
—) She’s been having to care for her aging mother who’s health is failing and it’s been putting a major strain on her family
Maybe I’m seeing things that aren’t there but I’ve noticed a new trend in Western Culture; people are editing out the bad from our lives. Perhaps this trend is connected to the rise of Social Network sites like Facebook which encourage users to post all the wonderful moments of their lives…while at the same time leaving out all of the everyday mundane moments.
Although I no longer have a personal Facebook account I’m quite familiar with the typical fare to be found; people will post pictures of their vacations, their new automobile, fun times at a party….and if you only went by the photos on their timeline you would think all these ‘average’ people are living ‘above average’ lives!
The simple truth of the matter is that people generally omit the bad because it’s not like you’re going to post photos of yourself; sick in bed, picking up the toys the children left all over the living room, doing the laundry, using the bathroom (although perhaps some people do!) ….and all of the other mundane day-to-day moments of our lives.
Social networks remind me a lot of the after-the-service conversations that take place at church. The Sunday service is over and people stand around and have these quick 2-minute ‘status-update conversations’
—) How’s work going
—) How are the children?
—-) Do anything fun this past week?
The conversations are so tame and dull you would think everyone is living absolutely perfect lives where nothing ever goes wrong…..except; we know this isn’t the case. We know that people who go to church struggle with the very same things that everyone else grapples with;
—) 50% of church goers have bad marriages that lead to divorce
—) church goers participate in pre-marital and extra-marital sex
—) church goers struggle with addictions to alcohol and drugs
—) church goers struggle to maintain a balance between their careers and family
What I’m trying to get at it is that in many areas of our lives we tend to edit-out-the-bad because our culture encourages us to do so. Western Culture is very individualistic and promotes a ‘your-on-your own’ mentality. Instead of learning how to interact and communicate more deeply with each other, we feel like we have to do everything on our own.
—) Is your marriage on the rocks; it’s up to you to fix things all on your own
—) Is your boyfriend being a jerk; it’s up to you to fix the relationship all on your own
—) Are you unemployed; it’s up to you to find a job that will cover your finances all on your own
—) Are you lonely and need friends; it’s up to you to build a community around yourself
A few years ago I asked the minister at a local church why he didn’t do more to help the congregants in his church, “I’m not aware of any congregants in need” he said.
“What are you talking about? I don’t even go to your church and I know from firsthand information that John ****** has been unemployed for a year and in need of a job, and that Sue ***** is stressed out because she has been working a second job at night in order to pay all her bills” I said
“Well, unless the people come to me and tell me they need help I can’t be responsible for their problems” the minister said
Isn’t that so typical of the attitude in Western Culture; the minister is basically saying that these people in need are ‘on their own’ unless they come to him for help….and so I’m left wondering; why can’t the minister go help them before they come to him?
While social networks are not inherently bad….I’m concerned that they are being used to paint imperfect pictures of our lives; if we’re not careful social networks could transform our culture for the worse…..
Maybe I’m living in dream world, but I believe our lives are enhanced when we help each other out and don’t try to do everything on-our-own….of course, perhaps I’m simply just a loon who is way too idealistic.
Just a few thoughts as I was drinking my coffee,