Social Pain and Social Media

Spoiler Alert. This posting about social pain and social media is not lighthearted. In fact, I’m writing because I’m a little discouraged. I even came close yesterday to withdrawing from social media entirely. Who knows? This expression of my feelings may be the last thing you choose to read from me.

Recently we hosted almost 50 of our graduate students in conflict residency on our campus. The week, Residency Session, is a highlight of our work. It brings individuals we’ve come to know in our online courses to Abilene where we have an opportunity to sit with them, eat with them, talk with them. We offer them pointers and instruction. And they teach us much. During the welcome, our Academic Director, Garry Bailey, spoke to the group about the way that we as peacemakers should approach everything we do.  He talked about addressing “social pain.” A little later, I made the phrase a noun. “You’ll be experiencing some intense time with your colleagues in the next week. Don’t be a social pain,” I said. “Be a peacemaker.”

As important issues crop up world-wide and our thoughts are drawn to the building tensions from attacks against Israel and retaliations made in defense, the plight of refugee children at the borders of the United States, the seeming inability of US leaders to address anything of importance, continuing crimes against women and children across the globe . . . I find that a majority of those who choose to embrace the social pain vocation are alive and well on social media.

I favor open discourse. But I’m weary of the thoughtless postings of pass-it-on information. And I’m even more exhausted from trying to save some of my social media friends embarrassment by researching things they’ve posted and quietly providing them with more accurate information. I don’t think they mean to be part of the larger problem. They are simply following a normal human reaction.

We tend to support what we already believe and discount the rest.

It’s true across every spectrum — whether it’s a question of politics, social status, race, and even sports. (Thanks, Lebron James, for helping to reveal how much energy we will invest in the most trivial issues while people’s lives hang in the balance elsewhere.) And it’s true no matter where people find themselves — liberal or conservative, moderate or progressive.

Our constant statement seems to be “I’m right and, even if you agree with me, I’m more right than you are. And even though I have no idea if this particular information is true, it would be good for my arguments if it is.”

As I’ve grown older, I learn more and more that I know less and less. I’m willing to grant that I probably know less on many topics than a majority of people out there. Yet, as I’ve matured, I find myself genuinely interested in knowing the diverse viewpoints of others.

I once worked as a volunteer in a nonprofit organization with a very talented person. He was deeply infected with the need to always be right and the drive to assert himself over others. Over the years, he told me and hundreds of others that we “just don’t understand.” In other words, it was important to him for us to know how ignorant and insignificant we were. He was a social pain and, on top of that, a social bully.

Those who choose to fuel the flames of discord by passing on questionable information aren’t much different. And those who make open attacks are much worse. Particularly those who attempt to thinly veil their attacks in humor. I’m sorry. But jokes about the homeless, the poor, children at our borders, the addicted, enemies of every ilk, are simply not funny.

My guess is that this post will anger a lot of people. I regret that and it is not my intent. However, your anger is your choice.

I’m just asking that you consider rising above your rights to consider your responsibilities and privileges. I’m asking you to leave the social pain status to others. Raise your voice for what’s important, certainly. But raise it in a conversation. When all else fails, ask a question instead of launching an attack.

What do you have to lose?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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22 thoughts on “Social Pain and Social Media

  1. I totally agree with your post. In fact, I commented to my son-in-law just yesterday that I don’t have or want to spend the energy needed to keep up with all the mind battles going on. Let’s just agree to be at peace with each other even though we may disagree at times.

    • Thanks, Jim! You’re right. If we invested as much energy on peace as we do on war, we would be in a much different and better place.

  2. Excellent exhortation Joey! I hope you don’t mind…I am going to ‘share’ this truth in my small circle of social network. Keep speaking truth.

    • Susan, thank for your kind words. I am honored to have you share because I know you think before you do. Miss you. When are you coming back to see us? 🙂

  3. Sheep….and how much, more than ever before, we need the help of wise shepherds. Problem is that we don’t see ourselves as sheep anymore. The american culture has taught us to be something strong, something other than a weak, feeble and dependent animal. My prayer is that we be put into the right perspective and maybe that is what is happening….just wondering. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Share on!!!

    • Indeed, all of this trouble may serve to give us that perspective. Thanks for your kind words! May we all move closer to God!

  4. Joey, I appreciate your posts and am encouraged and amused by them. I do not repost a lot, and as a matter of fact, I “speed read” with my thumb as I bypass most on fb. I love to catch up with friends and their special occasions, not necessarily their rants. Thank you for addressing several issues. Blessings brother!

  5. As a quiet lover of my fellow human beings, I so appreciate a gentle spirit, a gifted wordsmith and the peace makers of our lives. And you, my friend, are all those gifts in one. Thank you Joey.

    • Thank you, Nikki! You are too, kind. Particularly since you know me from way back there. You, too, are a gift to me. Hope to see you again soon! Any more graduations looming in the future? 🙂

  6. Thank you Joey for having the courage to raise such an important issue. There’s never a wrong time to say the right thing. it seems like a lot of people really think they are being cool by what they post when it’s at the expense of others. Even yesterday I saw a woman friend of mine make a post called “jerk alert” showing a registered sex offender was being released. I thought “this man is someone’s son”. What if it was her son? I pray that people’s consciences are not seared off that they no longer have room for sensitivities. Thanks for sharing; you as always are a great leader and shepherd Joey.

    • Thank you so much, Val! I am blessed by people like you who do have those sensitivities. They are God-given, but unfortunately they can become calloused. Thanks for being one who continues to appeal to the goodness in others. So glad you are joined in this great work. Blessings!

  7. “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.” – Proverbs 10:19

    “Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.” – Proverbs 12:18

    “The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” – Proverbs 13:3.

    • Joey, just this morning I was telling someone that you can’t improve on the content and the packaging of the Proverbs. Thanks for sharing.