Social Media Responsibility

Most of us feel compelled to post only the “best” aspects of our lives on social media. Others post mostly the “worst”.
Those of us who present the “best” parts of ourselves on social media are not only seeking validation and praise, but are inadvertently harming others.
Those of us who present the “worst” are not only seeking validation and sympathy, but are inadvertently harming ourselves by perpetuating pain for temporary relief in the form of pity.
We constantly seek validation for our lives. We need to either feel praise or pity from the masses. We, as a society, are beginning to measure our self-worth based on “likes” or retweets.
I do my best to be honest with anyone who reads my posts. I do not seek sympathy or self-esteem. I view social media as a means to distribute information as quickly as possible to many people at once. Not every one of my posts are meant for you specifically, though I desire for those who do read what I write to know that they are not alone in their pain, passions, or pleasures. Not everything I write lands as well as I would like, and I accept that reality. That does not stop me from attempting to reach out, nor do I re-evaluate my own self worth if I receive zero “likes.”
We are complicated beings with a myriad of emotions and experiences and we can often feel like we are alone and isolated in our lives; like “no one understands” what we are going through at any given moment. We hop on Facebook to see how our friends and family are doing, only to see them living the “perfect” life filled with beautiful family photos and elaborate vacations.
We then internalize the envy we experience, because our lives are not perfect. We cannot afford to pay a professional photographer or go to the beach with the family. We are struggling to pay our bills, while our high school and college classmates appear to have everything going right.
This is why social media is dangerous in an age when most of us lack the ability to self-reflect. We should not covet the “perfect” lives of others. We also should not be prideful. The Bible warns of both of these extremes. Numerous academic studies have been warning of “social media depression” as suicidal feelings in kids younger than 13 has seen a 300+% increase over the last decade.
Adults are becoming more depressed, and our kids are attempting to kill themselves in near record numbers. As both producers and consumers of social media, we need to be more responsible. Seek validation from your immediate family or closest friends, not your extended social network. Most of all, understand that we are all intrinsically valuable and your life matters to someone who you personally interact with. Spend real time with those you love and who love you. You will benefit in ways you never thought possible.
Most importantly, develop a personal relationship with God. When you feel that no one else will be there for you, know that you have a heavenly Father who loves you and cares for you. He will make sure your basic needs are met, and He never leave or forsake you.

Social Suicide and Mass Murder

On Valentine’s Day a 19-year-old kid marched into his old high school and opened fire on students who walked out of their classrooms when the killer pulled a fire alarm just before the end of the school day. Reports have come out giving us some insight on his life. The media (both mainstream and social) is focusing on guns and mental illness. Here is why I believe they are looking at the wrong thing.

In Emile Durkheim’s seminal work, Suicide, he looked at death records from several countries in Europe. He found that there are essentially four types of suicide: 1) Egotistic – when someone experiences a lack of social integration or are isolated (widows, hermits, victims of bullying); 2) Anomic – lack of moral regulation or a sudden change in life where the “new normal” feels overwhelming. There is a sense of “normlessness” where all of the social norms we abide by change and the new rules are difficult to grasp (losing a job or loved one; moving to a new country); 3) Fatalistic – overwhelming oppression and hopelessness (prisoners, terminally ill); 4) Altruistic – for the greater good (soldiers, firemen, suicide bombers).
Durkheim found that suicide is not a psychological phenomenon, but a social one. Changes in one’s social integration is a greater indicator of violence against oneself than any psychological condition.

Now, let’s apply this theory to what we know about the Valentine’s Day shooter.

  1. He was social isolated. Most reports are that he was bullied pretty regularly. He had very few friends. He was kicked out of school and other social organizations. This is indicative of Egotistic suicide.
  2. His adopted father died a few years ago, but his adopted mother died just three months ago. This dramatic social event would be a likely catalyst for anomic suicide.
  3. He apparently exhibited numerous histrionic outbursts – I believe these were to draw attention to an otherwise lonely boy – yet still managed to fly under the radar of law enforcement.
  4. Therefore, he was isolated from peers by choice (making numerous threats) or force (expulsion and bullying), as well as dealing with the death of his last remaining parent (and I have to wonder if being adopted started his feelings of social isolation). He also lives in a country where guns are weaved into the fabric of the nation and are constantly depicted in the media in both positive and negative lights.

It seems to me that this is a social recipe for a disaster. Rather than turning the weapon on himself, he turned it on others. Regardless, he follows a similar pattern to other mass murders, serial killers, and the suicidal. Reports are that the Vegas shooter, Steven Paddock, lost a lot of money before his rampage and was socially isolated from almost everyone except his roommate/girlfriend. The Columbine shooters were socially isolated and bullied. The same goes for the Aurora shooter, the Virginia Tech shooter, and almost all other mass murderers over the last 20 years.

I truly believe that we need to stop thinking of these events as psychological anomalies. There is something wrong with the SOCIAL fabric of the nation right now.

We have been in perpetual war since 2001. We just experienced a major economic recession. Social media and online video games are keeping kids from face-to-face interactions. We are the most medicated society in history. Our social and demographic categories are being constantly challenged and redefined. Religion is becoming less and less of an effective institution. Our electorate is becoming more and more divided.

Basically, we are in a national state of anomic normlessness that is leading to increasing social isolation. As our institutions continue to crumble, so does our ability to maintain solidarity. Without social solidarity and stability, we feel hopeless. We feel socially suicidal.

Some of us develop depression. Some of us do kill ourselves. Some are committing mass murder. The signs and symptoms are all there.

Since Suicide was published in 1897, data continues to back up Durkheim’s theory. I truly believe that we are experiencing social suicide that is beginning to manifest in social homicide.

These shooters are not “mentally ill”, they are socially constructed monsters. No laws can stop the inevitable destruction brought about by social unrest. Medicating the problem like we medicate our citizenry will not solve the problem.