Happy September (Recovery Month)! School’s back in session and vacations are over for many. If you’re like most, you’ve been seeing everyone’s summer pics on facebook and Instagram. While you might expect this post, written by a Professional Counselor, to talk about the influence of social media on self-esteem or depression, I want to invite you into a more personal journey- one of compulsive behavior, learning, and communication.
The Back Story
My days started to become more efficient at work; I found creative ways to engage or disengage with people; I was less stressed over the high dose of negative news I was seeing; I let go of the pressure of having to keep up with posting or needing to respond; I focused on the core things that mattered as opposed to the (look, a SQUIRREL!) distractions.
I began to see how compulsive I had become, even a little dependent. I felt fear about missing out on something. I got a “hit” (or high) from that next new message or like or share in my notifications. I had worried if someone didn’t respond soon enough.
The Addiction Framework
Even though a year break taught me about my personal misuse of social media, don’t expect a crusade AGAINST social media from me today. As much as I benefited from my “vacation,” there were a few things I missed out on, too. I overlooked a few announcements (sorry for missing that birthday heads-up). I lost a bit of connection to the world around me. In essence, some communication was actually stunted for me. And I missed out on a little healthy distraction I find encouraging.
The Rest of the Story
The modality of communicating by tech IS effective and helpful for many. We can complain all day about children not learning to communicate well because they “can’t even” (and I do believe that is a concern to be aware of as a parent). However, social media can be helpful.
Social media is a communication platform. Whether we like it or not, things like social media are the new telegram or front porch conversation of years ago. And they don’t appear to be going away any time soon, only adapting and changing.
As with many things in this world, the actual vehicle of social media may be relatively neutral- what makes it egocentric, compulsive, and harmful OR helpful and relational, is likely thepurpose and motivation and heart behind its use. I want to be “linked in” to the latter so I can live free, not compulsively.
Are you “addicted” to having a good mood? The all-out fascination with having a good mood might be distracting you from living meaningfully.
What is your highest priority? Relationships? Money? Status? Fun? God? Adventure? Let’s get honest- if pushed and prodded, what is your greatest care? What do you spend the most time thinking about?
Too often, we are sold a shallow mantra: “As long as you’re happy.” “Do whatever makes you feel good.” Much of advertising, promotion, and sales center on these mantras (including counseling). From landscaping to love, if we can feel better as a result, why not do it?
The problem is, the elusive search for the “holy grail” of our lives can often end bitterly. Why? People often don’t get happy by pursuing it alone. Happiness doesn’t come as a result of selfish hoarding (just type in “research on happiness” in a search engine). People who only care about their happiness have a name- they’re called narcissists and self-absorbed. I have been- and can be- this type of person. There is a better way.
Psychology, though I love it so, misses the point when it answers life’s biggest questions with: “Does it make you happy?” How about, “Who am I?” “What do I want to be known for?” “What is God’s will?” “What is my purpose?”
Don’t let yourself be reduced to a bottom-feeder by taking what comes your way. Look deeper. You are valuable and fascinating and unique and amazing. YOU. Created in God’s image. Filled with purpose. Now go get ’em.
Explore with me a little bit.
In looking up some popular quotes on manhood, I couldn’t escape the concept of strength, war, and suffering. Why?
“Adversity toughens manhood, and the characteristic of the good or the great man is not that he has been exempt from the evils of life, but that he has surmounted them” (Patrick Henry).
“…We (modern society) make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful” (C.S. Lewis).
“In the meanest are all the materials of manhood, only they are not rightly disposed” (Henry David Thoreau).
“[Battle] brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood” (General George S. Patton).
“A man must at times be hard as nails: willing to face up to the truth about himself, and about the woman he loves, refusing compromise when compromise is wrong. But he must also be tender. No weapon will breach the armor of a woman’s resentment like tenderness” (Elisabeth Elliot).
Though all people face challenges and adversity, men are defined through it. How they respond, how they love, and how their strength comes through- when it does to the benefit of a greater purpose- is manhood at its best.
Thus, I believe that one of the best features of a man, when lived properly, is utilizing strength and evoking it in others. This is often reduced merely to a show of muscle or forceful behavior. But a man who uses his strength well will sacrifice for the good of others, will boost others to achieve higher goals, and will welcome pain and suffering upon himself if it means the greater good of those he loves and seeks to care for.
“No man has ever risen to the stature of spiritual manhood until he has found that it is finer to serve somebody else than it is to serve himself” (Woodrow Wilson).
Our culture is in crisis for men who are men. And I am not talking about work on a battlefield, doing manual labor, or loving UFC fights. How can you display strength for the good and benefit of others and for a greater purpose? For a lot of you, I have raised more questions than I have answered. That’s a little bit of the point. When a man uses strength well, he will also lead others well.
In Part IV, we will explore Purpose #2: Men are built to LEAD in some fashion.