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Social Media: Rising Above the Social Media Trap Before it Takes Control of You

Social Media:  Rising Above the Social Media Trap Before it Takes Control of You

As the use of social media continues to grow, I have found that many people fall into one of two camps.  Individuals either love social media or avoid it at all cost.  However, there is new group that has emerged in the last few years of people who both love and hate social media at the same time.  In fact, these folks often feel like social media is a trap and at any moment they can fall in.  It’s time we explore some of the reasons people end up in one of these three camps.  It’s also time that we look at some ways we can rise above the trap so it doesn’t catch us in its snares.

social mediaWilliam Iven/ Unsplash.com

Social Media Lovers

There are folks out there who truly feel alive and enriched through social media.  And you may find it interesting to note that the age of the person doesn’t really matter.  We tend to think that younger people use social media the most.  While that may be true statistically, there are plenty of middle-aged adults and seniors who would are social media lovers too.  They may just go online for different reasons.

My husband and I opened our first social media accounts to keep track of our children.  What I didn’t realize is that I would be able to connect with former high school classmates, relatives, and friends.  I was able to rekindle some old friendships and start some new ones too.  I found myself enjoying catching up with people who used to be in my life but I no longer saw regularly.

Human beings are designed for relationships and social media provides an opportunity for relationships to grow.  I have felt part of weddings, vacations, and graduations.  I have also been saddened by the loss of former friends, their parents, and even internet-only buddies.  Other social online things I have been a part of have included bible study groups, and support groups.  Most recently, I have found many like-minded people who are interested in health and wellness.  Yes, I would definitely include myself in the “social media lovers” category!

Haters Gonna Hate

The opposite perspective regarding social media is that people hate it and steer clear of it completely.  To be fair, some of the concerns I have heard are valid.  There are times when social media becomes a gossip-fest.  Other times you can witness temper tantrums as people pour out frustration or disapproval.  And there are times when indecent comments or pornographic material can be stumbled upon.  I agree that no one needs to subject themselves to any of that nonsense.

However, to close the door completely to social media means that you cut yourself off from all the benefits too.  Car accidents happen every day and a real risk we take in life.  In order to protect yourself, you will have to avoid getting into cars for the rest of your life.  That is humanly possible, but not very practical.  Are you going to walk or ride your bike to work?  Walkers and bike riders can be injured too.  And you’re going to need to give yourself a good deal of extra time to travel.

Simultaneously Mixed Feelings

Many people feel conflicted between being a lover and a hater of social media.  They start out loving it but hating being exposed to some of the negative aspects.  Sometimes people start to feel like its stealing precious time from their lives.  We could literally spend all day every day on various social media platforms and still not read everything people have posted.

In response to the mixed feelings that are felt, individuals often feel like they need to respond in some way.  This is when you’ll hear comments about people taking “a break,” or a “vacation” from social media.  These comments may seem like a drug addict or an alcoholic trying to avoid getting high or drunk.  The truth is that for some people it does become an addiction.  Like many other things in life, we can lose perspective and our priorities can get off track.  We should not be spending 16 hours a day engaging in socially oriented online activities.  But I wonder if abruptly switching to zero is really the best way to handle this issue?

Staying Out of the Trap

If you are looking for a way to avoid the extremes of loving and hating but don’t know what to do with your simultaneously mixed feelings, it’s time to look at some strategies to avoid falling into the social media trap.  Here are a few suggestions of things that have worked for me in achieving a sense of balance with my social media time.

1.  Limit Your Time Online

It’s important to decide how much time you are willing or able to give to devote to social media each week.  And secondly, you have to decide what you want to do with that time.  Some folks really enjoy interactive time and prefer environments that let you comment and hit like, love, or sadness buttons.  Other folks prefer to observe and not interact.  .  There are no strict rules on how you should spend your time.  The only rule is that you put some thought into it and decide what is reasonable for your life.  For example, college students may have more free time than single parents who hold down full-time jobs.

2.  Contribute to a Positive Environment

Have you heard it said that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem?  Most of the time that’s true. If you want to promote a positive environment, it has to start with you.  Post things that will enrich other people’s lives.  Pictures of special events, encouraging words, inspirational messages are all great ideas.  And you may even want to consider defining your uniqueness and doing it regularly.  For example, do you love to share favorite Bible verses, or fitness motivation memes?  Plan to share a few each week or even a few per day if that works better.  Your friends and followers will start to look forward to the awesome things you share.  This way you’ll have a regular plan to make the atmosphere a good one.

3.  Don’t Go There Lil

Years ago, I heard the phrase, “don’t go there Lil,” and have come to love it.  This comes from a true story of a women named Lil who was about to say something unkind.  Surely, if she opened her mouth and let it come out, it was going to stir up more trouble.  A friend attempted to warn Lil not to go down that path.  Honestly, we all need a friend like that.  One who has the courage to tell you when NOT to speak.  If you don’t have one, or if your friend is not nearby, put your name inside the phrase and say it to yourself.  Next time you’re tempted to rip someone apart or tell it like it is, stop and repeat this, “Don’t do it _______.”  You’re only going to make matters worse and your silence will speak volumes.

4.  Unfriend, Unfollow, or Block

Until recently, I thought it was rude to unfriend, unfollow, or block others.  I’m sad to say my feelings have now changed.  I have been victimized by some of the most hateful comments I have ever seen online in the past several weeks and I’m no longer going to tolerate it.  No one has to agree with me.  In fact, I invite opposing viewpoints as they help me grow and stay open-minded.  But, I expect that my opinion and thoughts will be seen as equally valuable.  If someone who is following me or considers me a friend starts verbal attacks, then frankly it’s time for them to go!

I wouldn’t tolerate that behavior in my living room.  Neither would I allow anyone to speak to a member of my family that way.  In my career as a Registered Nurse, I protect my patients in a similar way.  Do you have a significant other acting up?  They’re going to quickly meet a member of our security department.  So, if you can’t be a part of a positive environment, and you think it’s good practice to verbally attack others, then it’s time for me to show you the virtual door.  The only people who I have completely blocked are people who post things that are so offensive I don’t want to ever see it again.  In most cases, I believe a person can grow and change and one day could become someone I would let in again.

Reflection Questions

  1.  How much time do you allow yourself on social media per day?  Is this working out good for you or is a change needed?
  2.  Are you helping to create a positive online environment or do you need a good friend helping you to refocus?
  3.  Is it time that you unfriend, unfollow, or block someone who is being a social media nightmare to you?

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The Fruit of the Spirit Series (Part 3): The Fruit of the Spirit is Peace

The Fruit of the Spirit Series (Part 3):  The Fruit of the Spirit is Peace

When I think of the word “peace,” two images simultaneously come to my mind.  First, I am reminded of the 2-finger peace hand signal used by hippies in the 1960s.  I fondly remember my classmates in elementary school exchanging this peace sign, especially when our teacher told us to remain quiet.  Second, I recall the numerous jokes I’ve heard over the years from people trying to tackle world peace or pointing out how impossible  of a goal it would be.  While it may not be possible to create world peace, the Holy Spirit provides us with a powerful way to obtain personal peace.  Personal peace is highly desirable and within our reach.

peaceKalen Emsley/ Unsplash.com

Hebrews 12:10-12 New International Version (NIV)

10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.

Peace Requires Real Effort

We come out of the womb screaming.  When we don’t get our way we get mad, act out, or bury our anger inside.  We lose our keys, can’t find our cell phone, or the car battery won’t start and a new vocabulary emerges from our body.  Let’s face it; living in a state of peace does not come naturally.

When it comes to nations, there are usually internal disagreements on policies and procedures.  Take it a step further to the international level and we add differences in worldview, the value of life, and religious difference too.  Once again, we see that peace is not the default.

To share a personal story with you, when my first child was born she was a talker.  She was always making some type of noise.  A few years later when my son was born, he was super quiet.  I thought something was wrong with him because he seemed so content.  Twenty some years later, they still have the same tendencies.  But we shouldn’t confuse quiet for peace.  Even my quiet child caused quite a bit of trouble of the years.  Needless to say, our home was not always a shelter from the storm.

You Can’t Get Away With Murder

Some people mistakenly think that they can do whatever they want in live and still reap the rewards of hard work.  I hate to break it to them but that isn’t going to happen.  The majority of us don’t get handed things on a silver platter and we can’t get away with murder.  We can’t expect to obtain inner peace unless we’re willing to pay the price for it.  In case you think you’re immune to this problem because you would never commit murder in the first place, think again.  There are tons of times in life most of us try this without even realizing it.  Consider a few of my examples.

But We Think We Can

  1. Did you ever think you could eat and drink whatever you want on a two-week vacation and not gain weight?
  2. Wait until the last minute and expect to acquire the hottest gifts for your family at Christmas?
  3. Postpone scheduling an appointment and then think they’ve saved the most popular time for you?
  4. Forget to shop for a new outfit and then find yourself with nothing to wear on the day of the special event?
  5. Not make doing your taxes a priority and end up with late fees because you didn’t submit them on time?

None of the things on the list above is horrible and they probably won’t land you in jail.  Nevertheless, you can see how easily they can happen.  They happen because of a lack of planning and not making them a priority.  I must admit, I tend to forget things easily because I quickly move on the next thing.  My lessons have been learned the hard way.  So, I need to write things down if I don’t want to forget.  I also set up reminders so that I’m not doing important things at the last minute.

The same is true when we seek peace.  We need to plan and remind ourselves that we can’t expect peace if we’re not willing to work for it.  A great example is how easily we can get stressed out from being overly busy.  The cure to schedule related peace is setting clear boundaries and saying no.  Recently I had to tell someone that I could not participate in something very worthwhile.  There was just no way that I would be able to make the time to do it, even though I thought it was a great thing.  Paying the price of possibly disappointing someone and feeling left out was a price worth paying in order to have peace.

Strengthen Your Feeble Arms and Weak Knees

Take notice that the Bible verse above from Hebrews 12:12 tells us that we need to strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees.  There is no misinterpreting this verse, God is telling us we need to get stronger.  We get stronger by “working out” in a physical sense.  But we also need to work out in a spiritual sense too.  Spiriting working out is done through repeated practice.  And you know what they say about practice; practice makes perfect!

While I’m certainly no body builder, I do lift weights.  I lift because it makes me stronger and as I age, the odds are against me.  I don’t want to be weak and frail if I can avoid it.  So I choose to lift weights.  I also choose to take on spiritual challenges from time to time too.  Not because I want to, but when I get stronger spiritually, I am able to find greater peace.  After years of studying God’s word and having plenty of practice applying it to my life, I now do some spiritually difficult things with ease. But I am still learning, growing, and getting stronger every day.

Finding Peace in the Midst of the Storm

Another area where we are easily fooled is in thinking that to have peace everything in our lives needs to be calm.  That’s ideal but not always possible.  We don’t have the ability to control other people or many of our circumstances.  But we can still find peace in the midst of the turmoil around us.

In Matthew 8, we read about a time when Jesus was sleeping in the middle of a storm.  Even though everyone else was afraid, Jesus stayed calm and peaceful.  He simply rebuked the winds and the sea calmed down.  When you are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, you too can perform miracles and do the impossible if it the Lord’s will.  Knowing that, how can we be anything else but peaceful?

Matthew 8:23-27 New International Version (NIV)

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Reflection Questions

  1. On a scale of 1- 10, with 10 being complete peace, how peaceful would you say you are today?
  2. How do you respond when your circumstances change for the worse?
  3. Are you ready to be more disciplined and to strengthen your spiritual arms and legs?

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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