How you treat others is a function of how you feel about yourself. Hurt people hurt people by projecting their pain. They criticize in others what they don’t like about themselves.
There is a third dimension to the Great Commandment that is overlooked and underappreciated. We get the love God part. Same with love your neighbor. But notice the nuance: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you don’t like yourself, it’s hard to love others! And when I say “like,” I don’t mean “likes” on social media.
Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen made headlines by testifying before a United States Senate committee on the negative impact of social media. Thirty-two percent of teen girls who feel bad about their bodies said that Instagram made them feel worse. Is it any wonder? When our feeds are filled with filtered pictures of superfit people doing amazing things in exotic locations, we do a subconscious comparison. All of a sudden, we don’t feel as good about what we see in the mirror. It’s called upward counterfactual thinking.
The tendency to negatively compare ourselves with others never goes away, but it is an epidemic among teenagers. “Every time I feel good about myself,” said one teen, “I go over to Instagram, and then it all goes away.”
According to a recent survey, 64 percent of Americans believe that social media is having a negative impact on our country. This isn’t shocking, is it? It’s been said that we shape our tools and then our tools shape us. In the case of social media, distance demonizes. We say things online that we’d never say in person. We’d probably get punched if we did!
If social media has such a negative impact on us, why do we spend so much time and energy consuming its content? The answer is a phenomenon called doomscrolling. It’s an ever-increasing appetite for doom and gloom. Like moths drawn to a flame, we’re psychologically drawn to negative news. Did you know that 90 percent of all news stories are negative? Headlines that use negative words like bad or worst are 30 percent more effective at arresting attention than headlines with positive words. And the click-through rate is more than 60 percent higher. That negativity bias is a bigger deal than we realize. It was a negative news report that kept Israel out of the Promised Land. Ten negative people set a nation back forty years!
I’m not advocating Pollyanna positivity. We need a negative feedback loop to survive. Without it, we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. But we need a positive feedback loop to thrive. Simply put, celebrate what you want to see more of. Paul promoted this approach in his letter to the Ephesians:
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
This rule of thumb applies whether you’re talking or texting, whether you’re in person or online: Don’t say anything about anyone that you wouldn’t say to their face.
We have just released a 8- week study on the topic: Please, Sorry, Thanks. It does not go chapter by chapter through Mark Batterson’s book by the same title. Rather, it deals with similar themes. You can get it on Amazon. It is also available as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking.