Thursday, September 19, 2013

On Social Media and Service

We try to switch up our blog between accounts of our life and writing about our hearts. Here's one from the heart.

For a long time, I've struggled with how to deal with Facebook. It is certainly a blessing, and I don't think that I'll ever delete mine. To me, there exists no better way to keep up with friends, reconnect with old ones, or to simply check in with anyone in the whole world. Yet, I believe that there are dangers - better yet, temptations - that come along with having what can be considered a place to present a personality and life to the public that is entirely up to our choosing.

When my friend Ryan and I discuss it, he calls it "creating our narrative". Facebook and similar social media sites carry with them a chance to create what one could call an alternate self - a person that we carefully control how to present to the world. There exists a temptation to create a more ideal online person and to rely on likes and comments to give ourself worth and meaning. And I would venture to say that anyone can fall prey to these temptations - from high school students, to middle-age housewives, to Peace Corps volunteers.

It is because of these inner struggles that I did not blog or Facebook much for my last few years in the states. But when I joined Peace Corps and moved to the other side of the world, I hoped to share and update friends and family about my already difficult to explain journey by using social media.

Yet, I've found that for people engaged in overseas service, these social media temptations only grow greater. There is always part of me that feels the desire to present myself on the web as one doing something remarkably meaningful and to try to prove to the world that what I am doing matters. There is constant tension in my heart about these motivations. I sympathize with those, and it draws me even further from this kind of life, who live off of monetary support from churches, friends, or family. I wonder how they deal with this pressure to present their work and their hearts to people who, in reality, are literally paying them to perform "meaningful service."

Sometimes, I find myself jealous of the missionaries of old - and even Peace Corps volunteers who served 30+ years ago. They got the chance to embark from their homes to far away lands, unencumbered by the world of cell phones and Internet. While yes, having these means of communication is such a huge blessing, how refreshing it would have been to be able to return years later and share only face-to-face with friends and family about their indescribable experiences. How I long for the chance to sit down with everyone who has followed and supported us and talk face-to-face for hours on end about our experiences. And better yet, how I long for each one of you to ride on one of the little boats to our tiny island and to meet and talk with every person in our village. For they, and nothing else, are the reason that we are here.

At the end of the day, I rest and remember that it does not matter in the slightest how many likes, comments, or messages we receive. It does not matter how we present ourselves to the social media world. What matters are the little choices we make every day to choose to love everyone around us. What matters are all the decisions we make on a daily basis to turn our hearts either towards or away from God.

Continuing to deal with struggles and temptation,


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