“If you’re not enough without another like, you’ll never be enough with it.”
Have you ever noticed that your greatest need can produce your greatest vulnerability?
It seems like a thin line exists between seeking the fulfillment of a genuine need and an unhealthy obsession. It’s one thing to use social media to connect with others and build a sense of community, while it’s quite another to check our social media apps incessantly to see if someone has commented on them.
My Struggle with Affirmation
Speaking of vulnerability, here’s my struggle. I know that my love language is words of affirmation. (To learn more about The 5 Love Languages, check out The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, written by Gary Chapman – a best-seller for 20 years).
I regularly look for opportunities to get feedback on or affirmation of my work. It’s the way I receive love.
Even this week, as I prepare for a sermon, I will put together a group of friends to help me figure out what still needs tweaking and what stands strong within my talk.
Our Need Can Become an Unhealthy Obsession
But, my need for affirmation can turn (and in the past has turned) into an unhealthy search for validation. In seeking to get my need met, I give people far too much power – to validate or invalidate me.
I will check (far too frequently) to see if anyone liked that status or commented on that picture.
I will refresh and refresh, wondering, “has anyone shared my blog post yet?”
“Did I get more subscribers this week? Is my traffic up today?”
“How was that sermon? Did anyone respond? Sure, you said I did a good job, but why do you say that?”
With expressing my gifts in very public settings (church stages, blogs, social media, etc.), I’m putting myself in the midst of this battle on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
Now, my struggle to navigate the line between affirmation and validation is my unique scrap. Others of you have a similar scrap, but each of us have a scrap of our own.
While I believe my struggle is not unique, I don’t think I’m alone in battling the dark side of modern technology.
Many of us benefit from using social media. We get to connect with people we wouldn’t otherwise. We expose ourselves to more of our world than we’ve experienced up until now.
However, the dark side of social media is that likes, comments, shares, retweets, favorites, followers, friends, visitors, page views, and subscribers become a way to measure our value, rather than our profile’s performance. These “vanity metrics” end up deciding the value of not only our work but of who we are if we aren’t careful.
3 Steps to Defeating Our Dark Side Online
If you struggle like I do with the difference between affirmation and validation, then consider these 3 radical steps.
(If your scrap is different than mine, I hope you can consider some radical steps might look like for you in your struggle).
1. Fast from your stats or social media entirely.
Turning off your notifications or going on a fast from social media could a wise and healthy choice. Hitting the reset button on your use of good tools that have become bad news might be wise – painful, yet wise. Without thoughtfully engaging these tools, we become mastered by them rather than being master of them.
I’ve taken consistent fasts from my blog stats and email subscriber stats. I took a 24-hour social media fast recently because I saw some unhealthy habits developing.
A social media fast can reveal a place where we’ve moved from enjoyment to addiction. You could take your social media apps off your smartphone. Then, you can only access it via your browser (a lot more work) or on your computer. You could also use a time like Lent or a specific month to step away. Hitting the reset button on your relationship with social media often gives you the opportunity to develop a more healthy relationship.
2. Identify good sources of affirmation.
We can discern the difference between affirmation and validation based on the source of the words we’re seeking. How close are you to the sources you’re seeking? How much trust and history has been established with these people?
For example, when I realize I’m looking for people I don’t know to let me know if I’m okay, something is off.
Who are the people who matter most to you? Create regular opportunities for affirmation there. Remind them of your need for it.
When you’re tempted to go look elsewhere, remind yourself of what those people who matter most think about you.
3. Recognize that no amount of likes or comments or retweets on social media will ever be enough if that decides your value.
Cool Runnings is inspired by the true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team to compete in the Olympics during the 1988 Games in Calgary, Alberta.
While there are countless lines I could quote you from the movie, I think about one scene often. The scene depicts a conversation with Derice Bannock (captain of the bobsled team) and the team’s coach, Irv Blitzer (played by John Candy).
You can see it here or watch it below.
If you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.
Those words are so powerful.
What is your “it”?
Why don’t you complete the sentence below by filling out the blanks below?
If I’m not enough without ________, I’ll never be enough with ________.
Do you believe that? That if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it?
For me (and those like me), if I’m not enough without another like, retweet, comment or share, then I’m always going to be looking for “just a little more” at every stage of your life. You and me – we’ll never arrive at enough followers, friends or subscribers.
What is your “it”? Are you enough if you never get it?
Finding Security Beyond Social Media
I believe that question “Am I enough?” may be the most important question you ask yourself today.
If you’re enough without it, then I believe you can achieve it and thrive. You can receive it without it destroying you, as it did John Candy’s character, Irv Blitzer, in Cool Runnings.
But if you’re not enough without it, then getting it could be the worst thing to ever happen to you.