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Life online and offline

Title: Life online and offline
Materials: Graphic Illustration
Description: 
Are we reflecting our true selves to others or is the light off our phone screens glowing brighter? Perhaps these 4 points will shed light on what it means to reflect Christlikeness in our social media saturated world.

 

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Do you show virtual empathy or real empathy?

Hitting the reaction buttons on Facebook to express our empathy towards someone or something is easy. But is it real concern? How can we communicate our feelings in a genuine and real way? Instead of reacting virtually to the news of the day, explore opportunities to get involved and serve those affected by the event.

 


 

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Do you capture life or live your life?

Sharing the events of our day on social media can be a fun way of looking back and remembering a moment. But what do we miss when we pause to take a photo instead of just taking in our surroundings? Do we pause to see God’s blessing or just type #blessed for more views? Whether it’s a beautiful landscape, a delicious cup of coffee, or a day at the beach with friends, don’t forget to stop and take in all that God has to share with us in that moment.

 


 

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Do you rant or exercise thoughtfulness?

What’s on your mind? Whether you’re excited, disappointed, or indifferent, social media encourages you to share unfiltered opinions with friends, family, and strangers. Before clicking that post button, do you ask yourself if you would say the same thing out loud? Let’s not be so quick to complain and comment, but instead be slow to anger and exercise thoughtfulness beyond our screens.

 


 

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Do you spend your time online or offline?  

The refresh button is our best friend and worst enemy. Social media has its benefits, like keeping us up-to-date and connected but it also encourages jealousy and ingratitude. How often do you leave your phone in another room and take a break from life online? Giving yourself a limit on how much of your day is lived with curated feeds and grids can be refreshing. Use this time to step outside and spend time with your creator.

 

Why I Went on a Social Media Fast

Written by Phyllis J.en, Singapore

About two years ago, I decided to delete or deactivate most of my social media accounts for a while. Things remained that way for the next six to nine months.

It took much thinking and hesitation before I was able to bring myself to do it. “Can I live without it?” “How do I contact people?” “How will people take it?” After all, social media had become a big part of my life.

But there were two main reasons that propelled me to do so. First, I wanted to go offline to reconnect with people face to face. Social media had affected the way I treated and viewed people. I wasn’t being loving or intentional in my relationships with people. During meal times, I would rather text or scroll through my social media newsfeeds than talk to people and get to know them personally. I found their timelines and posts more interesting than their actual persons.

Secondly, and more importantly, I realized that social media had become an idol in my life. Whenever I did my daily devotion, I would keep glancing at my phone, unable to concentrate on what I was reading or writing. And whenever my phone alerted me with notifications, I would put the Bible aside to check them. It was scary—I couldn’t seem to be able to restrain myself: I had to check my phone immediately. I felt like I had to reply immediately even when it wasn’t about something urgent.

In fact, it was an incident of this nature that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. One day, I got really angry when a friend I messaged did not reply me quickly enough. When I cooled down and reflected on my reaction, I realized that it was irrational and showed how emotionally dependent I had become on social media.

But I didn’t delete or deactivate my apps all at once. What I did was to delete apps that didn’t really matter to me first. Snapchat was the first to go. Next was Instagram, followed by Facebook. The last to be deleted was WhatsApp, which I was the most reliant on, as I used it the most often to contact my friends and disseminate information—I was a subject representative in school and had convey information from my teacher to the rest of the class.

Initially when I “lost” everything but WhatsApp, the loss didn’t feel so apparent. It was only when my WhatsApp was gone that I felt the impact fully. Deleting WhatsApp was the most painful and difficult thing to do, partly due to my dependence on it, and partly due to how people reacted when I told them about my plans.

“Are you crazy?” some said. “That’s so drastic!” “Why must you be so extreme? Don’t you know that’s going to cause a lot of inconvenience to people around you when they want to contact and connect with you?”

But a few affirmed my decision, calling it a “wise” one.

I was hurt by some of the comments. But being the stubborn person I was, I decided to carry on with it. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was how lost and empty I felt. The sudden silence and disconnect was disconcerting. I didn’t know what to do. I found myself checking my phone often—even though I knew that there would be no messages. I even contemplated downloading the app again. I was more addicted to it than I thought.

Although being offline changed my lifestyle a lot, it did not automatically change my mindset. The vacuum created by the loss of social media was filled by other forms of entertainment. K-drama, anyone? I watched so much K-drama that I got tired of it. Then, slowly, I started to spend time reading the Bible and praying. And that’s when I came to the realization that only God can satisfy. None of the other things could fill the emptiness in me.

Deleting my apps also made me realize how much time and energy I had been wasting. With the amount of energy and time spent on social media, I could have been doing more important things such as evangelism, meeting, and praying for others. Going offline made me more intentional about the relationships around me, and improved my spiritual walk. It made me realize that I had not been fixing my eyes on God’s kingdom.

The other thing I learned was about my over-dependence on people. Prior to the “loss”, I would turn to my friends and family for help and advice every time I faced a crisis—and not the Bible. As for prayer, it was usually an afterthought. Don’t get me wrong, turning to friends and family for advice is not a bad thing. They just shouldn’t be the first people we turn to.

So I am really thankful that through this social media fast, God helped me learn how to depend and listen more to Him.

Although I’ve since reactivated my Facebook account and reinstalled WhatsApp, these platforms don’t appeal to me as much as they used to. In fact, I send mostly text messages to my friends; WhatsApp is reserved for those friends who I know have limited number of text messages they can send out every month.

But even though the temptation is not as strong these days, addiction in any form will always be an ongoing struggle. What I find very helpful is to keep praying and asking God for wisdom and depending on Him daily. Also, having an accountability partner helps!

Sharenting: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

You must have seen it: Parents sharing photos, updates, and other information about their children on social media platforms.

It’s a practice known as “sharenting” (a portmanteau of the word “share” and “parenting”). The word even made it to the Collins English Dictionary in 2016.

I’m one of those “sharenting” parents and my journey began on my blog. You see, it was lonely spending hours alone at home with an infant who could not yet interact with me, so writing became an outlet for the emotions I was experiencing. I would pour out my woes about motherhood and people would comment, give suggestions, or write personal messages. That encouraged me greatly in the first few weeks of becoming a parent two years ago.

Then it evolved into a convenient way of documenting my daughter’s growing up years. I began to post monthly updates of her physical progress, significant milestones, our outdoor adventures, and so on. Before long, the readership grew and readers began to request posts about specific parenting topics. These ranged from what books we read for bedtime, to how we prepared her meals and what we did on holidays etc.

But soon, I experienced the downside to “sharenting”. On one occasion, while we were at the supermarket doing our weekly grocery run, a stranger came up to us, called my daughter by name, and then proceeded to try and carry her. Shocked, I quickly and courteously declined her request. The lady insisted she knew us and revealed that she was a follower of my blog and an ardent fan of my daughter, who was then barely a year old.

Despite that rather unsettling incident, I continue the practice of “sharenting”—now slightly wiser and a whole lot more careful. For one, I no longer put up my child’s personal information on a public sphere. I am also selective about whom I allow access to my blog, as far as possible.

After speaking with a handful of fellow blogging mums, I’ve come up with a few guidelines for myself which I now also try to reflect in my posts.

 

1. Keep it recent

I try to write about events within the same month, week, or day, if I’m able. The memory of the event might get fuzzy and the sharing inaccurate if I take too long to record what happened. The experience ought to be recorded fresh, such that authentic emotions, expressions, and so on are reflected.

 

2. Never shame your child

Naked baby photos, embarrassing birthday party surprises, and falls are fun to record, but these ought to be for personal consumption alone. Let us remember that like us, our kids will one day grow up and would want their privacy and integrity intact.

 

3. Spend more time offline

In this day and age, it is so easy to be caught up in the digital world. You plan to upload one photograph, but you end up scrolling your newsfeed and tapping on various links. And before you know it, a whole hour has passed. I know it because it happened to me too.

Let’s take great care to protect our time with our children, because that time is precious. While capturing moments on camera is important, your child would rather you go through the experience with them, rather than just having a pretty snapshot of himself/herself. Be with them in the moment and you won’t regret it later.

 

The greatest takeaway for me in my “digital” parenting journey so far has been having like-minded parents to interact with—fellow Christian mums whom I liken to allies in this battle to raise a generation of selfless (rather than entitled) individuals living for the cause of the Kingdom of Heaven. Young mums who share my struggles and older, more experienced mums who empathize with me and give me valuable advice.

I may not profess my Christian beliefs explicitly on social media, but I’d like to believe every choice and every parenting “theory” I share is centered on God’s love for me.

Behind Happy Social Media Posts

Written By M. Tiong, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

Whenever I scroll through Facebook or microblogging site Weibo, I will always look with envy at the lovely photos of my friends’ travelling escapades, their new branded products, and delicious food that they enjoy. Based on these photos, I have to conclude that their lives must be going swimmingly. And I can’t help but wonder: Why is my life so boring compared with theirs?

One day, however, a friend who frequently shares awe-inspiring photographs told me that she was in fact very stressed. Life, she said, had little meaning. It was only when I heard this, that I began to realize that the people I envied were no happier than I was. It led me to ask: “Are people really as happy as their social media posts suggest?”

Why does it seem that none of us are ever happy? The Bible notes that man will never be satisfied nor content with what we have; we will always pine for something better. “Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes,” says Proverbs 27:20. King Solomon, the wealthy and author of Ecclesiastes, had everything, yet understood this dissatisfaction. He said, “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

Why is this so? Perhaps it’s because our possessions cannot truly fill the emptiness in our hearts. Although we constantly seek to fill that void with different things—be it wealth, love, fame, or other people’s admiration—we will never find true contentment in them.

It is not necessarily wrong to desire achievements, success, and affirmation. However, it is more important to realize that these cannot be a measure of our worth. They do not have real substance, because they will not last.

Our fulfilment, worth, and meaning of life must come from God. Only our Creator God can fill the void in us, His created beings, because only He knows what we truly need.

So we do not need to envy what others have. Proverbs 14:30 says: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” And Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

I thank God for reminding me about the things I ought to be paying attention to—the needs of people around me, obeying His will, and living a life that pleases Him. I pray that our lives will no longer revolve around how frequently we travel, how much we spend on branded goods, or how much our food costs. Rather, may our focus be on God.

May we all find and share the true joy that comes from being in God’s presence. And may we become followers of Christ who seek to please God.