The Compassion Project

compassion-wordA question has been rolling around in my mind lately. Did social media create my growing cynicism or just amplify it? Either way, it’s having a huge impact on my attitude.

I remember when jumping on Facebook or Instagram was a fun way to keep up with friends. I would like their posts and make a witty comment or two. But somehow my care-free “that looks fun” attitude slowly morphed into a spirit of “just who do they think they are?!” The more I scrolled the more judgmental, snarky and dismissive I became.

Is that a pic of your feet on the beach? How original. Tell 2009 I said hi. 

Is that you standing in front of a really cool place on vacation with some witty hashtags? Nice. I was hoping to get a play-by-play of your #entire #family #vaca.  

Your kid did something really average and you’re super excited about it? Good. Try adding a few more exclamation points to show your enthusiasm!!!!!!!!!!!!

You’re grilling out, fixing a salad or sitting down to a nice meal in a restaurant? Ooh, ooh, can we see a pic of it first? Please! We’ve never seen food before.

Completely unoriginal posts about holidays or the weather. Just stop. We know it’s hot and every other person in my feed has wished me a “HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY PEEPS!”

Cryptic posts about unknown hardships and unspoken prayer requests. Wouldn’t it be easier to just ask people to “like me” and “show me some love” in the comment section? 

“15 years ago today I met the most wonderful woman and she’s the best wife in the world and I love her more than anything and I want to let the world know.” Hmm, I wonder how things really are at home? Must be bad.

You’re at the lake? Good for you.

On an airplane? How impressive.

At the gym? Bravo. 

And memes? Don’t get me started on memes (especially political ones that ignore all vestiges of nuance and tact).

Whew, just writing all that puts me in a more cynical mood. Never mind the fact that I post some of the exact same pictures and comments. That’s besides the point! It’s cute when I do it and annoying when you do it. I have the best of intentions while you’re just being pretentious. At least that’s what I often think (but never verbalize) as I scroll.

But is this social-media-inspired cynicism on you or me? It’s on me. It reveals what’s broken inside me. The sinful nature in all of us that makes us want to compare ourselves to others and criticize them as a way of masking our own insecurities. We use cynicism to protect our feelings, but it has the opposite effect. It keeps us from feeling anything.   

Social media is supposed to be a fun way not connect with others, not an exercise in judgment and self-pity. So here’s my plan going forward. I’m calling it the Compassion Project and it’s a challenge to myself (and all of us) to bring a little more positivity to the social media experience. Whenever I see pics, posts and comments from friends I resolve to respond with compassion rather than cynicism.

Compassion for pictures of feet the beach? Yes. They’re having a good time and want to celebrate with others. Compassion for the overly proud parent? Yes. They love their kids, they did something good and whey want to share their excitement with friends. Even compassion for those sappy “I love you” posts between spouses? Yes. A man loves his wife. Is that something to snark about?

Let’s eliminate all the negativity and criticism. Both for us and the people we interact with online. Like them, congratulate them, pray with them, encourage them, look for the good and celebrate it with them. Let’s choose compassion over cynicism. It may not be the easy way, but it is the better way.

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” Phil 4:8 (MSG)