Overdosing on being online

Ah, technology. Isn't it great? We have unparalleled opportunities to connect with family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, co-workers, and all manner of fellow humanity. All online! Twenty-four hours a day. Need a job? Send up your own personal bat signal on LinkedIn. Planning your kid's birthday party? Pinterest abounds with inspiration. Oooooh, I have a free moment--I think I'll check Facebook and see what's up. Technology = progress = better lives. Isn't that how the equation should be? In reality, it seems like all this "connection" feeds thoughts of pettiness, insecurity, and jealousy.

As people, we all want to feel an authentic connection to those around us. It's how we're wired. However, there's a fine line between sharing too much and not sharing enough. Have you ever scoffed to yourself about someone's too-perky status update? I've found myself thinking, "Oh, please. You're not the first person in the world to have a kid," or "You're on the beach. I'm hauling out the trash in the middle of January, wading through the snow. Thanks for rubbing it in!" And when a thought like this occurs to me, I don't like the way I feel.

Several of my close circle have decided that they need to delete their Facebook accounts. Some have come back into the fold cautiously after purging their friend lists. Is the solution unplugging from it all? I don't think so. After much introspection and some serious conversations with smart people, I have formed my own simple social media policy.
  1. I will accept friend requests only from people I know personally and to whom I want to be connected.
  2. I will not allow online pressure to govern my decisions. 
  3. I control how much time I spend on any given social network.
  4. I control how I react to others' postings.
Honestly, I think number four is key and it's the one on which I've spent the most reflection time. A recent issue of Psychology Today featured an intriguing article called What Happy People Do Differently. One of the sub-sections was titled The Unjealous Friend, where the author says, "What's precious and scarce are those people who can truly share in others' joy and gains without envy." In other words, people who are happy for others are more likely to be happy themselves.

Of course, this isn't a new concept. Take a look at Phil. 4:8: Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Even the most optimistic person in the world still has bad days. You might not talk about them, but everyone has them. No one is exempt. For some people, it may be a coping mechanism to write about the good things to get you through the bad things. Instead of assuming that your friend is trying to prop herself up, assume that she is cultivating an attitude of gratitude.
I like the saying, "Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." A little gentleness, online or face-to-face, goes a long way. So, go ahead. Share the joy in your life unabashed and rest assured: I'm rejoicing with you.