Tag Archives: social media

The slippery slope to bigotry and hatred

This past week’s events in Charlottesville have hit a little too close to home. We live just 100 miles, or less than 2 hours away. It’s a town I’ve been to many times. A quiet college town nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Not a place I would expect to see as the location for hate-fueled violence and death.

But it did happen. And it’s a wake-up call for me that there is no place immune to the dark nothingness of bigotry and hatred that infects our world, our country.

I realize that my generation is not the first to witness the fear-mongering and anger that leads to racism and division. But we are the first to see how technology and social media have become a new kind of fuel with the power to fan the flames of hate, causing them to spread further, faster. And as absolutely terrifying as the ones who stand on street corners, boldly shouting their hate-filled rhetoric, or drive their cars into crowds of people for no reason other than they disagree, it’s the people who sit on the other side of their computer and phone screens shouting and cursing and bullying that scare me even more.

Emboldened by the perception of a thin veil of anonymity Twitter and Facebook become a playground of lines drawn in the sand where groups gather on one side or the other and loudly condemn anyone who thinks differently from them.  Everyone is put into a group. We are an “us” or a “them”. You are with us or against us. And if you are a “them”, oh boy you are everything that is wrong with this world. You are stupid, blind, naive, evil, a bleeding-heart liberal, a crack-pot conservative, just plain wrong. You are worthy of every curse-word in the book.

And the war cries go out in 130 characters or less, and the troops rally. Friendships are ended at the click of the “unfriend” button. There is no room for respectful debate or common ground. This is where it begins. It is the slippery slope toward bigotry and hatred.

Because as soon as we, any one of us, are able to look down on our neighbor and elevate ourselves — as smarter, freer, better, more enlightened, shrewd, or reasonable — we have placed a foot over the line of intolerance; taken a step closer to fanaticism.

The only thing worthy of our intolerance is hate.

While we absolutely should and must speak out against hate, we also have to guard our hearts and tongues lest we allow the dark nothingness to seep into our words and relationships. None of us are immune to the shadows of hatred, or a heart hardened by anger.

“…Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters…Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:14b-18, NIV)

What happened in Charlottesville this past weekend is horrifying and unacceptable. That level of hate and anger can only come from those who belong to the evil one (1 John 3:12). If we declare that we belong, instead, to the Almighty Father then we must reside in love. Therefore, let us speak only truth and love, being cautious of what we say, post, tweet, or comment, but let us protect our hearts from the enemy by refusing to judge, discriminate, or look down on others. Jesus calls us to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters, not try to elevate ourselves above them.

But most of all let us love with our actions. If you are appalled by the hatred and violence happening across this country; if you are worried about the future legacy we are leaving for our children; if you are concerned about the quality of people in leadership positions, get up and do something to spread love. Write your elected officials, volunteer at a local hospital or first-response unit, donate to the Virginia State Police Association Emergency Relief Fund in memory of the fallen officers, pray for the families of those who were killed, speak to your children about acceptance, tolerance, and love.

Close your laptop, and power-off your phone. Sit face-to-face with someone who thinks differently from you. Buy them a cup of coffee and have a real conversation. Stop trying to decide who is an “us” or a “them” and instead let it be we who come together to trample condemnation, judgement, anger, and fear.

Love like your life depends on it.

1 John 3:18

photo credit: girl/afraid when life shows you signs via photopin (license)

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Odd mom out

This week I read an article by actress Mayim Bialik about her reasons for not allowing her sons to have smart phones. Actually the article was more about some interesting research by Devorah Heitner, PhD on the child and adolescent perspective of the world, as seen through the lens of technology and social media.

First, let me say this post is not about smart phones or debating how much exposure children should have to technology. Really, there are enough people out there on their soapboxes about that. In my house, at this time, we choose not to let our kids have access to social media or own smart phones because it’s what we think is best for our children. All the other parents in the world must decide what’s right for their children. And that’s all I will say on that topic.

But back to Mayim’s article and Heitner’s research. One of the things that hit me hard in the article was understanding how our children process perceived (or legitimate) exclusion, and how magnified that can be when documented in real-time on social media. Mayim wrote: “[Heitner] gives the example of your 10-year-old watching a slumber party they were excluded from play out on social media. That made me cringe. It gave the 10-year-old inside of me the chills. I would be absolutely devastated to grow up now. I was left out of so much and it was painful enough to imagine the girls I wanted to have accept me spending time without me. To watch it online would be that much more mortifying and so incredibly painful.”

In that moment I, too could remember how it felt for my 10 year old, 13 year old, 18 year old self to feel left-out. How I processed those feelings and their impact to my self-esteem and psyche at that tender age. To think about growing up in this very different, very exposed world? It makes me just want to hug my kids, tuck them under my mama-bird wing and keep them safe and protected forever! That’s right kids, pack your stuff! We’re moving off-the-grid to middle-of-nowhere USA, where I will home school you until you’re 25 and then select a nice husband or wife for you, and you can build a lovely cabin for yourselves right in the back yard!

OK, maybe not.

Of course, I realize sheltering them completely is not feasible or even really healthy. They do need to learn how to stumble and fall, or else they won’t know how to pick themselves up. But then, I remember how much it hurts.

 

One of the great things about getting older is an increased awareness and comfort level with who I am as a person. Which, for the most part, means less concern about how other people perceive me. But somewhere, deep-down inside my almost-40-year-old self is still a 13 year old girl who just wants to be liked and included. And sometimes…sometimes she surfaces.

Like when there is that group of moms that always sits together at the middle school basketball games and never asks you to join them, even though your daughters are best friends. Or there is that woman from the office who walks past you and says hello to your cubicle-mate every day, but never, ever says hello to you. Or those two mutual friends who are always planning girl’s night but never invite you. Or the photos all over Facebook of the party you weren’t invited to, but half your friend-list was. Yeah, those are the moments that 13 year old girl who just wants to belong and be liked comes out and asks: “what’s wrong with me? Why don’t they like me?”

And I admit, even now, sometimes it just plain sucks to feel like the odd-mom out.

Of course I recover much faster these days. I do a better job of reminding myself that exclusion is not always intentional or personal. I can do that, now. I’m almost 40 and I like this version of me. I know who I am and what I have to offer. And I know I have some pretty darn-friggin-fantastic friends who love me.

But my girls? My son? At 10 and 13? I don’t think they’re there yet. So I may continue to protect them just a tad bit longer. I may choose to limit their exposure to social media. I most definitely will continue to tell them Whose they are, and how they have been made in His image. I will do my best to build-up their self-esteem and confidence while I still have some influence. Because one day, no amount of mama-bird protection will keep them from feeling excluded or left-out.

However, if they already know who they are and are happy with that person; if they believe wholeheartedly that their value comes from their Creator and not from their number of “likes”, then maybe it won’t take them almost 40 years to learn they are not the odd-one out.

Luke 12-7

 

 

#100HappyDays

If you are on any sort of social media platform then you know that this time of year there are lots of “thankfulness challenges” happening. One of the things I love most about having a public holiday that is all about thanks and giving in the U.S. is that it makes most of us stop and count our blessings. While giving thanks and praising the One who made us is something we should do every day, sometimes we need a reminder to stop and really appreciate all that we have.

Back in August I decided to start a little experiment called #100HappyDays after watching a colleague complete the challenge a few months prior. This is actually a global movement that started in the middle of 2013 and to date has seen over 1,000,000 participants. The concept is simple: Try to find something to be happy about for 100 days in a row, snap a picture, and post it to social media with the hashtag #100HappyDays. When you’re finished you can even have a little book printed with all of your photos.

The foundation behind the social challenge claims that over 70% of people who start the challenge don’t finish. But those that do finish walk away feeling more content, grateful for what they have, and optimistic for the future — pretty much what you wold expect, right?

For me it wasn’t finding something to be happy about that was challenging — I try to thank God for at least one thing every night as my head hits the pillow anyway — it was the slowing down to acknowledge and delight in the happy moments that I struggled with. Many times I went through the whole day only to realize in the final minutes before sleep that I forgot to capture a happy moment. Upon reflection there were often many little moments of joy I could recount, but I had rushed from one thing to the next without stopping to savor or enjoy them  — whether with a my mobile phone’s camera or my mental camera.

In the end I only managed to post pics for 62 out of 100 days. But that’s OK because I am savoring this record of 62 moments of joy and happiness from the last three and a half months. Sure, some of it was big stuff I would have remembered or captured pics of anyway, like my twins turning 9, or my trip to New York with my youngest daughter and step-mom. But those other moments — the photo I took while reading on the porch one afternoon, the rainbow that appeared over our house after a storm, the night my kids, my mom and I giggled silly while playing a game of “Beat the Parents” — these are the moments I likely would not remember a week, let alone 100 days later. But because I stopped to savor these moments, to record them on my phone and in my brain, I can go back and remember with a nostalgic smile what was good about that ordinary Tuesday back in September.

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Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence,  rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” (Proverbs 8: 30-31).

This is my greatest desire, to be constantly at His side. To find delight in something each and every day. To rejoice and praise Him for every little thing. To find good and happiness in all that surrounds me. Even on an ordinary Tuesday in September….especially on an ordinary Tuesday in September.

Tomorrow we will pass the turkey and eat too much pie and list the things we’re thankful for. And that carb and thankfulness-induced bliss may carry us through a few days. But come Monday when the kids won’t get out of bed, the inbox is overflowing, and traffic is at a stand-still, I want to stop and seek out something to delight in. Something to be my happy for that day. And I hope I will remember to take a mental picture and turn to the One who is by my side to offer thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

For more information or to sign-up for the #100HappyDays challenge, visit their website at www.100happydays.com.