I deactivated my Facebook and Twitter account on October 10, 2016. This morning I reactivated it. Let me explain.

I have a love/hate relationship with social media.

Why I love social media:

  • I am a GenXer. I came of age as digital media came of age. It still holds awe and wonder for me. It is still like sorcery and I am enchanted by it.
  • It is really fun to see old friends and peek into their lives as they post photos from vacation and significant moments.
  • I am a pastor, a teacher, and an artist. All three of these vocations are centered on communication. They require a connection with other human beings in order to exist. You can’t pastor without a congregation. You can’t teach without students. Does art really exist without viewers? So, social media is simply an extension of my pastoring, teaching, and art. It’s a no-brainer.

Why I hate social media:

  • Social media creates an artificial buffer between the true self and others. When you are in real space and real time with people, you don’t have the luxury of backspacing and retyping. You don’t have the luxury of photo-shopping out the big zit on your nose, or your stuttering, or the regretful things that pour from your lips. They happen in real time and people get a better picture of who you really are. Granted, we buffer ourselves with others in real time in a big way. Yet, social media enhances this self-edited, buffered self exponentially. Some have called this the mediated self, and it is not healthy.
  • Given the buffered self, mentioned above, social media fosters a negative sense of comparison and competition among people. When we see only the bright, shiny, happy selves streaming along our friends’ feeds, we think, “Wow, they have it all together. Why can’t my life be happy like theirs?” This is not a healthy pattern for society.
  • Social media promotes LOTS of talking, but almost NO listening. We each have the freedom to spout out our opinions about EVERYTHING, usually with no reflective thought, and we do so regularly. Imagine what social media would feel like in a real room. Everyone is shouting and posing at the same time. Is this communication? Is this learning? No. This is noise and chaos. This is not healthy for society.

Why I left social media

The negative aspects of social media, that I mentioned above, became overwhelming to me. I serve in a public role as an associate Pastor in a local congregation and part of the package of that job is that hundreds of eyes scrutinize you on a weekly basis. Like it or not, people think they know you because they hear you preach. They want to know about your family and get up in your business. That can get very uncomfortable very fast.

This is true of any public position—teacher, politician, business leader, etc.—and it has always been true. The broader your sphere of public influence, the more the scrutiny. Here’s some advice for public leaders: If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen. The heat of public scrutiny turns up exponential when placed into the mix of the digital, buffered, mediated selves of social media.

I have always viewed my social media platform as a place to project positive, God-focused, peace-promoting media (writing, artwork, video, sermons, etc.) into cyber-space for anyone who might find it helpful and encouraging. I never engage in conversations or rant about things I don’t like or argue with people with whom I disagree. Those conversations are best kept within face-to-face, safe spaces. I share, that is all.

In so doing, however, two negative things emerged in my soul:

  1. I created the shiny, buffered projection of myself that is a distorted image of my true self. The truth is that I wrestle with depression and self-doubt on a daily basis. My family is in turmoil, my calling is in question, and I find myself on my knees, crying out to God and hearing very little in return. Yet, I don’t feel that social media is a place to whine and moan and “dump” on people. That is not healthy. So, I get conflicted about using it.
  2. I became addicted to the feedback. When you wrestle with self-doubt, you crave encouraging words. “Words of Encouragement” are my primary Love Language (according to Gary Chapman’s model), and I desperately need them (so pathetic). So, when I share art, or a devo, or my “positive messages” I found that I craved the “atta-boys” and was devastated by criticism. My skin is way too thin for public scrutiny.

So, I took a digital fast. The silence has been expansive in my soul. I would recommend it to you as a spiritual practice.

Why I am Back on Social Media

This is the image Paul created for John 19.

This is the image Paul created for John 19.

I have returned to social media because I have something very exciting to share. Paul Oman and I have become friends over the past year (thanks to Pastor Kevin Doely from Faith Lutheran for introducing us). Paul is a pastor and an artist and has a ministry called Drawn to the Word. He travels around the country creating large pieces of art in front of a live audience while music and drama unfolds around him. It is very cool.

One day, over lunch, Paul and I came up with an idea. We thought it would be cool to create a Paul Oman original piece of art for every text of the Narrative Lectionary. My son, Ethan, and I would video record Paul painting the piece on canvas. Then, we would audio record the reading of the text and speed up the video of the painting to fit the length of time it takes to the read the text. Then, we would post these videos online so that churches could play them in worship as the public reading of scripture.

We’re calling it The Narrative Lectionary Painting Project.

Here is the first sample that we’ve made.

We are going to launch a kickstarter campaign in December to raise the money we need to produce these canvases, paintings, videos, and web-delivery channels. I am SO EXCITED about this!!

So, I have decided to push my conflicted self aside and step back into the social media space. My Facebook and Twitter accounts are nothing more than a digital extension of my calling as a pastor, teacher, and artist. (BTW, when you delete your Twitter account, it’s GONE. I’m starting this one from scratch. Facebook, on the other hand, keeps your account dormant, even though you “deleted” it. I simply picked up where I left off. Should we be afraid?)

I would love to hear what you think about this project. Please share it with your friends and stay tuned for the Kickstarter page to launch.

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