A Cautionary Trail: Social Media & the De-Construction of Relationships

This past week, country music artist Joey Feek lost her battle with cancer. I had never heard of Joey Feek until a few months ago and likely still wouldn’t know her were it not for a widespread social media campaign surrounding her illness. I struggle for a better word, because campaign sounds so strategic and exploitive. But it’s clear that her husband, Rory, was both transparent and intentional about sharing their struggles and victories. A jaded media professional might see this openness as an attempt to sell records, to garner fame. But I believe it was a grieving husband’s desire to see his bride encouraged, celebrated, and, yes, healed. Joey Feek lived her last months well. Her struggle was painful, beautiful, and inspirational. Her husband’s love and attention, noble. She leaves a legacy that the public is allowed to share in because of the power of social media.

But this post isn’t really about Joey Feek. It’s about the power–and pitfalls–of social media. We’re all aware that social media allows us to paint the sort of picture we choose, realistic or not. I have no reason to believe what we witnessed in the Feeks was anything but genuine. Their love was real, but hard. And if I’m being honest, I would rather read light-hearted, funny, or even–dare I say–bumptious posts from my social media friends. Whether it’s gushing over a child’s achievement or sharing photos from a picture-perfect romantic getaway, I’m a sucker for a positive spin.

But there’s a darker side to social media. It’s often where we first learn that our favorite celebrity has died. Or we’re made aware of someone’s suffering, as in the case of Joey Feek. And sometimes, it’s where we have a front row seat for the destruction–or “de-construction”–of a relationship.

It can take on many forms, this cautionary digital trail. Maybe a sudden uptick in posts linking to articles on marriage. A few extra “Girls Night Out” photos. Cryptic posts about love, trust, betrayal. Selfies of Dad and the kids, minus Mom. Urgent requests for prayer with little or no explanation. A sudden decline in mention of husband or wife. Perhaps even silence. Or, most telling, a change in relationship status.

Please understand that I don’t mean to be flippant about this. Rather, this post is a call to action. Recently, our pastor was speaking from Philippians 2, and expanding on what it means to encourage one another and look out for the interests of others. He made a bold, poignant statement: “Be nosy for the right reasons.” Yes. This.

When you see something troubling or amiss on social media, step up and speak out. Show your concern. Offer a friendly ear. Not so that you can get fodder for gossip. Not so you can live vicariously through someone else’s drama (’cause we all know someone who thrives on drama, am I right?). But so that we can encourage each other, carry each other’s burdens, and yes even hold each other accountable.

I recently learned of the death of one of my high school classmates. It would be an exaggeration to say we were friends, as I hadn’t seen or spoken to her–other than on Facebook–in over 25 years. She didn’t leave a decipherable trail of digital clues…only a few posts over the last year or so…growing concern over her father’s failing health. Nothing too telling. But it does make a person wonder…Did anyone reach out? Take an interest, shown concern? Did anyone know the depths to which she was sinking? I certainly didn’t.

Don’t ignore the cautionary digital trail. Let’s all start being nosy for the right reasons. Let’s follow up and check in with our friends, maybe even face-to-face (novel idea, I know!). Let’s encourage one another, spur one another on. Ask the tough questions, point each other to the Scriptures. And let’s remind each other that now matter what we’re facing today…it will get different.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” –Philippians 2:1-4

 

 

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And so it begins…

Because I have these thoughts in my head…these things I just *have* to share…because I love words and pictures and music and expression…I simply cannot stay away from blogging.

This is actually the third blog I’ve created. My first one, “Val’s Mom Blog”, was mostly for my mother and a few close friends…I think I had about 5 regular readers–and that may be stretching the definition of regular. “Val’s Mom Blog” died a natural death due to neglect, much like a plant or goldfish.

Somewhere in the midst of mom blogging, I started planning Disney vacations. At first, I was just planning our Disney vacations. But I realized I was doing a lot of research and helping a lot of friends plan their trips, and I thought, Hey, if I put all this information on a blog, I could just tell all my friends to go read it, and I wouldn’t have to keep repeating myself. That brilliant deduction birthed “Affording the Mou$e,” first at BlogSpot.com and later at the dot com my husband purchased for me as a gift. “Affording the Mou$e” had actual readers…quite a few of them. Like, people I didn’t even know. In fact, the Facebook page it spawned still has nearly 1000 “likes”–even as I neglect it. (I realize this is by no means a giant readership…but consider my original 5 readers of “Val’s Mom Blog” and it’s quite a leap.) Last year, I realized that updating ATM was creating a great deal of pressure on me, and with no real return on that investment. In fact, every year my lovely husband was paying some theoretical entity a hefty fee to maintain ownership of said dot com. (I have never quite understood how the internet works…but that’s a post for another day.) And so I made the bold decision to let it go. (Cue Frozen montage.) I parked the content back on the BlogSpot site and never looked back. I do occasionally post deals to the Facebook page, and I retweet stories from my favorite Disney sites (follow me at ValerieBGibbs), but I no longer maintain a web presence.

Until now. ‘Cause I’m back. And this time it’s personal. (I just really wanted to type that.) I don’t know exactly what this will look like, but I’m diving in and not pressuring myself to perform. (Cue laughter.) No, really. I’m doing this for me. And you. And a little bit just because I need to feel like I am somehow participating in the world outside these walls. I will likely post a lot about my family and include photos of my darling daughters (Reagan, 10, and Presley, 7) and tell you some of the funny things they say. There will probably be lots of posts about Disney World, because I am a bit obsessed. And other travel, too (I write reviews for Trekaroo.com–check it out!). Oh, and homeschooling. (I could write a BOOK on what I don’t know but am constantly learning about homeschooling.) Maybe some music and theatre stuff (my girls love to perform, and so do I). Or coupon deals (I dabble…I never pay full price, but you won’t see me clearing a shelf of mustard, either). And there will most definitely be some posts about my faith, ’cause that’s really what defines me.

BTDubs (as my tween daughter would say), you’ve probably noticed that I tend to write in the scattered, babbling way that I talk. That’s probably not going to change, so–and I mean this in the nicest possible way–deal with it.

Finally (well, the final thought of my inaugural post…not the final word on this blog…that would just be crazy), about the title, It Will Get Different: This is a saying of a dear family friend. Whenever someone is complaining or lamenting, particularly about something a child has said or done, this friend responds with, “It will get different.” And isn’t that true? We can’t know if it will get worse before it gets better, but one thing we are guaranteed in life is change. Personally, I find that thought incredibly encouraging and equally challenging. Encouraging, because the tough times never last. Challenging, because neither do the precious moments.

A colicky baby who rarely sleeps at night…It will get different.

A child who wants your every moment’s attention…It will get different.

A teen whose friends eat you out of house and home…It will get different.

It kind of puts all those moments into perspective, doesn’t it?

 

I hope you’ll read. And enjoy. And like me. Please like me! (Too needy?) And, hey, if you didn’t particularly enjoy this post, check back for the next one. Don’t worry: It will get different. (See what I did there?)