When the hard things happen in life – the failures, the losses and defeats- social media has become a spotlight that few can stand in for long. The struggle most of us already have to know the right and polite thing to say gets stretched. We not only want to say the right thing but also want the thing we have said to be judged as good – to get as many “likes” as we can. Our posts have become our vanity plate.
For the hurting, the wounded,the one whose hopes and dreams are now shattered and scattered like dry fall leaves there is the conundrum as to whether it would help to bare their soul or to simply disappear. How does either make them look? And the fact that we worry about how we look in the eyes of others is most disturbing because at times it seems to override all decisions.
The concern about how we look, how we present ourselves is based mostly in facade. The political arena is perhaps the most obvious place, but it happens in our jobs, our schools, our churches and sadly even in our homes. There is nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward or choosing to try and put the best authentic face on something that you can. Social media, however, has become a new gauge of benchmarks. It is a lie.
Social media is subjective. It is driven by the users, their culture, their sense of right and wrong, and their own life experiences. Who has not cringed when they have heard the words they hated coming out of other’s mouths now coming out of their own and to make it worse they are typing them and inflicting them on others.
When Jesus squatted and drew in the dust sitting alongside the women caught in adultery whose accusers stood armed with stones to kill her, he averted his eyes just long enough to give the accusers the time to retreat. He knew that by not looking them in the eye they also had the opportunity to raise their stone against him in their anger and indignation. The question I have always had in this scenario is where was the man with whom she committed adultery but it was a dominate male culture – that Jesus recognized and stepped in to avert.
On social media you can just imagine how that story would have been handled. Misogyny, discussions of adultery, who was her paramour, would the children suffer, who was wronged, who was right -hit like, love, wow, angry. The point about forgiveness and understanding that there was not one person anywhere who had not committed something either outright or in their heart that convicted them also of human crime would be buried under reaction. We are a nation that reacts and spews opinions without even recognizing the stones we are throwing as we hide behind our keyboards.
Watching “The Durrells in Corfu” last night on PBS there was a character portrayed – a prisoner that is befriended by the youngest Durrell boy. His wife had died when he shoved her in anger and he had gone to prison for it. The wife had fallen and hit her head when he shoved her. He stood by her grave and confessed that within him flowed a river of tears.
I read the posts on social media. I see a lot of fluff and I wonder what is flowing underneath it all.
For me there is a constant current that sometimes threatens to flood my life – the loss of my son is a part of every day. Friends have lost husbands to health issues, friends have lost friends to suicide, accidents and the host of parents who have lost a child or children are a part of my network.
All these events no can do a thing to remedy – to bring back those who are lost to us or to rewrite he days that lead to their demise. What is strangest to me is that few outside of this group and some within it have not learned how to offer condolences. We are expected to get over it as others do the simple bumps and bruises of life.
Yet give them a political, economic or military situation that they disagree with and they release a diatribe without any intention of putting their warm body in the front line to change it. Nor will they physically give the grieving a hug and say “I am so sorry. I am sorry that your son is no longer in this world. When did we become so stunted, emotionally and lacking empathy. When did we growto believe that the face we put on for everyone else is the real thing.
In the scene with Jesus we are never told how many men were there poised to stone the woman. We are never told who was first to put their stone down and walk away. We are not told if Jesus or anyone else put an arm around her shoulders as she kneeled there sniveling and shaking expecting her life to end. We are not told how she was treated by the community afterwards, whispered about and held at arms length – talked about behind her back perhaps never again embraced. We don’t know. We can’t ask.
Today, with our social media we can ask. We can use it for good as well as evil. We can ask after those who we know are hurting, hiding, depressed, suffering, drowning in the river of grief that flows through them though they post only the things that others might want to see. Sincerely asking does not make grief worse. By giving it a name, by acknowledging the pain we actually gain strength. Pretending that the posts of sunsets and kittens, balloons and birthday parties really represents what is going on in a life is a lie.
Soon enough all the swords drawn to do political battle will be sheathed and put away again. Just words without action to back it up or to make any material difference for a suffering neighbor. “You who are without sin, cast the first stone.” Jesus said and knelt to draw with his finger in the dirt.
If all you can do is drop your stone and walk away it is possible that that might be enough. But you might want to learn how to take those few steps, offer a hand to the ones kneeling waiting for the blow to fall and help them. Look into their face if you dare because you might just see your own face mirrored there.