A number of years ago, an acquaintance of mine was heavily involved in political discussions on social media. Her entire life, it seemed, was filled with complaints about the other party, thoughts about the doom and gloom, and how corrupt the leadership was. She was the mother of several children and I observed that her children came second to her addiction on facebook. I often wondered how her ranting would influence those in political power. She and I discussed what she could do to make changes and her response was that she really could not influence those in the top, no matter what she did or said. Even so, she continued to “live” in what Stephen Covey calls the outer circles of influence. What was happening to those whom she could influence? They often were left to fend for themselves.
Where is the greatest impact a person can have on others? Often it is stated that a person can change the world, but can they really? The only people an individual can impact are themselves, their children, close family members, and friends. Or in other words, they can change only their small corner of the world through choice, influence, connection, and example. Stephen covey wrote, “The place to begin building any relationship is inside ourselves, inside our circle of influence, our own character.” Over those things, we have great power and influence. The power of individual influence increases significantly through connection, purpose, and truth when the individual focus is on the inner circle of influence.
A lack of true social connection affects everyone from the young to the very old. Many turn to anything that can satiate the pain whether it is social media, screens, drugs, alcohol, porn, shopping, or binge eating. Widespread loneliness and despair is on the rise. The BBC conducted a poll recently and found out of 55,000 people, 40% of adults between ages 16 and 24 reported feeling lonely often or very often. US suicide rates have increased by 33% between 1999 and 2017. What is causing the loneliness? A strong social connection causes the release of naturally occurring hormones that help us feel good. On the other hand, the lack of it disrupts that balance and lands the individual in a deficit; confused, lonely and unstable, they seek to fill the void with anything other than human connection such as social media, drugs, etc. It is a double-edged sword because the more they turn toward those things, the more they eclipse the true connection of human contact and connection. Those troublesome obstructions cause us to “see through a glass darkly,” and block out the warmth, the comfort, and the necessary relationships that bring hope. Neal A. Maxwell said, “When we draw other things too close, placing them first, we obscure our vision of heaven.” Jennifer Nicolaisen says, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is genuine, meaningful interactions and authentic connections and experiences with ourselves, each other, and the world around us.”
The motive behind an incessant relationship with social media, screens, and all other distractions either closes or opens the door for meaning and purpose. I am not at all against technology for making connections, communicating, or self-educating. Personally, I have been engaged in some of the best discussions within the Great Conversation on Facebook. On the contrary, using technology to distract one from responsibility, or to compare lives, or to seek cheap advice leads some away from purposefulness toward aimlessness. What is your motive and drive to seek screen time? If distraction from life is your course, you may find you have wasted a day, a week, a month having accomplished little to nothing. Or you may feel depressed, anxious, and disengaged. Craig Mod said of social media, “I am firmly in the camp that believes technology is generally bending the world in a positive direction. Yet, for me, Twitter foments neurosis, Facebook sadness, Google News a sense of foreboding. Instagram turns me covetous. All of them make me want to do it—whatever “it” may be—for the likes, the comments.” As one wakes up to the fact they depend upon the comments and likes to fuel or fizzle their emotional and mental energy, they realize they have been stuck in the drama triangle of victimhood, blame, comparison, and distraction. Mod continues, “I can’t help but feel that I am the worst version of myself, being performative on a very short, very depressing timeline. A timeline of seconds.” The way out is to check your motive for screen time; balance the best things with a little of the good things and do away with the bad things. Individuals who focus on the inner circle of influence and who want to impact their lives and those around them find meaning and purpose to guide them; they seek to tell themselves the truth.
The draw on society to engage in moral relativism or the “your truth, my truth” syndrome is prevalent. Debates on social media of what is true or not true, what is right or wrong has turned into a surplus of rancid non-judgment and decaying acceptance to the destruction of Truth. The good news is eventually, in the end, on any given issue, all things will be bound by truth. Natural law or the law of human nature has always existed and governed man. Thomas Reid said, “First-principles [or the laws of human nature] have been written by the finger of God on the very hearts of men.” J. Budziszewski confirms there is “a law written in the heart of every human being” and this could very well be described as the Light of Christ. The essence of the moral being is inseparably connected to truth. It is only when an individual suppresses or ignores their conscience that they lose sight of the truth. Suppressing conscience is like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner who kills the albatross, killing truth and not being set free. Thus, being enslaved. On the other hand, telling oneself the truth, living in truth, and acting on truth results in a powerful influence on self and all those in their circle of influence.
Back to my friend; after years of fulminating on Facebook, she woke up to her fruitless situation and turned toward self-education. She not only has improved her life through the empowering principles but has opened her eyes and her arms to see and love her children. She has found much satisfaction turning toward her circle of influence, is making meaningful connections, and living life with purpose and truth.