I've been feeling a vague sort of stress for the past few months. I couldn't put my finger on it, but it wasn't like a circumstantial stress, but rather a dull ache that is ever on the periphery. It's become so much a part of my every day life that I almost feel like I've just adapted to it....like a lingering injury pain that one accommodates.
But this morning, as I was thinking about the noises that fill my environment (sales people, service people, blogs, Twitter, Instagram, etc..); the source of the stress became clearer. You see, I was all set to write about the voices, being accosted at the mall every few steps with someone trying to sell me something. Or purchasing an item in a store and the clerk continually trying to upsell me. But unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. It's on my Twitter feed. On my blog roll. My Instagram. Email. Pinterest. There is just NO END to people wanting to influence me, in one way or another.
So that's where my head was going, but then I couldn't help but think, would Paul use social media if he were alive today? What about Christ? Would He tweet deep thoughts about law, sin and love? Would the apostles use social media to "get the message out"? As I was following this line of thought, I thought about Paul writing to the churches. Churches with whom he had a relationship. Then I thought of Jesus. Jesus, taking to the hills and teaching those who wanted to hear; but also, even more so, His apostles, men with whom He had a relationship.
And that's when it hit me! That's what's going on! So many people are vying for my (and your!) attention. Wanting to influence me to buy this or to believe that. But the problem is, I don't have any kind of relationship with them. And so these messages don't come off as concern, they ring in my head as noise.....a constant dull clamoring for my attention or time. If my husband or children or sister or dad or friend says something to me, the words are precious. And even if it's a disagreement, it's a balm to my soul because there is genuine care there. But these quotable quotes that pepper Twitter, even from the most well meaning sources, become brain confetti. They're like having 50 parents all telling me what to do, what I should think, feel, buy. How I should behave, dress, talk and evangelize. It's exhausting and it's stressful.
No one, but I, am to blame for this. I control my social media. I decide who and what gets in most of the time. But thinking on this has really made me check myself. Do I take shortcuts to influence others? Am I more interested in the influence than I am the relationship? Have I found it easier to tweet than to listen? Even the wisest words often amount to nothing if they are said where no relationship has been planted.
Our world today is filled with minor celebrities, and the pull to be one is always there. We have websites that measure our "influence". There are specialists who will tell us how to get more "followers" to our various accounts. But are we side stepping actual relationships and fooling ourselves that our influence lies in our quips rather than our actually caring?
As I'm writing this, I'm coming to the conclusion that I can't really see Christ using social media to get His message across. He truly didn't seem interested in "numbers", but rather went person to person and getting to know them. And the people whose lives He touched went further than any tweet ever could.
I'm about ready to turn off the voices, to quiet the din. I'm also about ready to spend more of my time focusing on up close and personal relationships and then letting my "influence" fall where it may. If it's genuine and worthy, it'll move forward. If it's not, it needs to be stopped in its tracks anyway.