To See, or To Be Seen – Is that the question?

hamlet-notes-and-queries-001

“I’m not on social media or Facebook or anything,” a friend told me yesterday when we bumped into each other at the grocery store. Both of us racing in for a quick-grab (that instantly became not-so-quick) stopped & paused to catch up.

“So,” she continued, “it’s hard to relate to Sam (name-changed teen) as she processes and struggles with feeling left out or less-than.”

“Oh,” I sighed. “I get it.”

She told me how Sam had come home from camp – a week away from technology – and almost instantly started to struggle under the weight of her friends’ photo feeds. One pic-set in particular showed her friends’ selfie action at the pool. The hardest part for Sam, one of the pool-pic friends had only hours before declined getting together – something about being forced to stay home and summer read. – Not –

“It’s not like us when we were kids,” she continued. “Sure everyone has been left out. I certainly was – not always – but definitely not included on occasion. But, when we were in Jr. High, being better-offered and such wasn’t in your face.”

“My heart went out to Sam,” my friend told me. “She couldn’t stop herself from feeling left out, unwanted and alone – like she didn’t belong.”

“It’s brutal,” I told her.

She sighed and shook her head, “I can honestly say – I don’t mind being a social media illiterate. But I’m thinking I need to jump in so I can help my daughter swim.”

My heart went out to my friend.

I get it. I think we all do. Aren’t we all just a flesh-wound away from Jr. High insecurities? And social media, though terrific in many respects, can be ruthless. Usually taking captive our thoughts in not very positive ways.

Earlier this year, Pew Research released a report on social media use. Newsflash: the vast majority of internet users actively participate in at least one social media outlet:

who-uses-sns

And we use it often. According to a couple more recent Pew reports, more than 92% of teens (go) online daily — including 24% who say they go online “almost constantly, 56% several times a day  It’s not just teens. Parents on Facebook are especially avid users: 75% log on daily, including 51% who do so several times a day.

Since social media relies relationship, in the form of friends and followers (sidenote tidbit: adult social media users have an average of 150 friends, younger users average over 650 friends) it can’t help but be personal. Which is good … but can bring with it bad.

Since I might have spent the last year contemplating this subject, here’s a short excerpt from I’m Happy For You:

Social media fuels our existing tendencies to compare. We script a pic to let friends know we’re engaged, married, pregnant. We cover ourselves in memorabilia to let everyone know our kid has been accepted into a university—if it’s a “good” one. We certainly wouldn’t want to share the mediocre. (But wouldn’t that be refreshing if we did?) We tweet about the new job. Instagram photos of our pets. Post stories about our beautiful, intelligent, and talented grandbabies. And on it goes.

Through an incessant parade of pictures and announcements, we all get to compare our lives in real time. According to Shaun Dreisbach of Glamour magazine, “Approval seeking is intensified by the sheer amount of online exposure: 1.8 billion photos are uploaded and shared every day on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, and WhatsApp alone.” Further, women spend an average of four-and-a-half hours a day online, two of which are devoted solely to social media.

1.8 billion photos! Wow. I guess this is where reports of depression that accompany social media come into play.

It’s hard to stay grounded in reality while interacting on social media. In our heads we know the pics are a Glimpse, a highlight reel of sorts. We know that on the other side of a captured and shared moment is regular just like us; but it’s hard to keep those thoughts in check.

Maybe that’s where relationship, again (see last week’s post Taming Technology,) offers a win/win white flag. The way we see friends and followers can make a huge difference in contentment. Our view/perspective defines relationship on social media platfroms. If we remember that people – with regular surrounding each and every pic/post/share – are involved, we can lock away those reflex reactions to negatively assess ourselves. We can walk alongside rather than against.

I’ve noticed that no matter what parental controls we put on their phones, no matter how hard we try to manage their social media use, we can’t stay ahead of the curve. It changes too fast. But we can teach them how to travel the road. When she sees those pics – remember that real people are involved. That each person in the photo feels the same way she does: worried about being included, wondering about next time, aware of likes/shares, dying to belong, and … fill in the blank.

In don’t know the answer, but I share with my friend a life-line that has really helped my kids, “For mine, I encourage them, if even for a split second of a moment, to remember that pic-friends are regular people – just like them, same cares, same worries, same need for purpose & acceptance. Then, let the breathing begin: considering others gets our eyes off ourselves acts like oxygen. It helps us to see, rather than be driven by the need to be seen.”

Does it work?

I hope so. Here’s what I saw on the back of Snope’s phone yesterday – a reminder, maybe a life-line of sorts.

quote

Her reminder to herself sure inspired me – and apparently her sister saw it and asked for a copy for her phone:

quote 2

Life found in actually seeing the people around you. Life found in walking alongside rather than against. Life found in traveling together. Because we are together, not alone. Moms at the grocery store. Sisters holding phones. Friends that are more than a number on a social media platform.

Thanks for walking it with me.

-Kay

Taming Technology

“When I was your age… (fill in the blank).” We’ve all said it. It usually involves some reference to hardship.

I said it on a recent drive to my brother’s lake house. Mine went a little something like this: “When I was your age, my brothers and sister and I endured looong car trips every summer. And the air-conditioning was a bit lacking – no vents in the back seats of our blue station wagon. We would fight for a spot in hopes of just a few wisps of coolness to come our way.”

I think my comment was spurred by someone being hot. Or could have been the motel we passed that reminded me of our family’s August car-trip-vacations. It was a scary motel, covered in dark wood siding. Each of It’s 10 rooms had tiny little window units and metal doors that led to the smoldering parking lot. Still, that dinky parking lot did have a pool. Which reminded me of how excited we would get to be able to stay at a motel with a parking-lot pool – especially if it had a slide.

“Yeah, we didn’t stay at swanky resorts when were your age. AND we didn’t have phones or iPads to entertain us on our summer trips. No. … we looked out the window. Or read comic books until we were carsick.”

By this time I’m sure everyone had tuned me out – but I kept going. “Or we made up games. We mostly bothered each other. And listened to music – whatever my mom chose to play on the 8-track tape player.” By this point I definitely sounded Dark Ages. I kept going, “I think I know every John Denver, Barry Manilow and England Dan & John Ford Coley song.”

No one is listening. They’re lost in their screens.

“I think you guys are missing out. At least look out the window.”

At this point, I took every thing away and made them look out the window. Seriously, there is a lot of entertaining stuff on Texas Highways.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 4.33.48 PM

Apparently, kids really aren’t looking out the window – or at anything without a screen. When we got back from the lake, I saw this slightly depressing ad by Nature Valley that is making the rounds. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a quick view.

But, here’s the deal. Don’t let that ad get you down. We aren’t victims. And we don’t have to discipline those devices out of everyone’s hands (including mine! … just sayin’.)

There are some fun ways to tame technology. Nature is one, relationship is another.

Thanks to our oldest child (18!), board games have re-entered our life. This kid is a gamer, but not all games are on-line. And, one thing about kids (actually all of us), even though they might act like everything techno is great – real life is better. Always.

This summer, in our home, I’ve been watching the beauty of human interaction play out – live & in person. And I didn’t do promote it. Our “gaming” kid did. He enjoys games – but has moved beyond the screen and taken over our dining room table. It’s not internet gaming. But, live, in-person gaming.

I’m embarrassed to admit that when asked by my son to come play a game – I had to force myself. I didn’t want to. I had stuff I needed to do. But, I quickly berated myself, reminding me that when they were little, I would stop everything for a mind-numbing game of Go Fish. What was I thinking saying no?! Seriously, whose young adult kid asks their mother to play a game with them?!

I replied YES and quickly pulled up a seat to our dining room table before he changed his mind. We played a new board game that he had recently purchased.

Splendor

Don’t let the creepy guy on the box fool you, Splendor is fun for the entire family.

News Flash: It was a blast.

We’ve since played every night. Now everyone (ages 8 to, well we don’t need to go there!) has joined in.

Board games are SO great. They’re gaming, but in person. Strategy is involved. Conversation occurs. Laughter floats. People connect. Sure it can bring with it the good, the bad & the ugly of family dynamics. But they keep coming back for more – because it’s fun and relationship.

So rather than be discouraged by technology – let’s tame it a bit. If the kids are stuck on a keyboard or selfie-mode, if they can’t dial down the demand for likes/shares/re-tweets/re-pins … gently guide their attention elsewhere. Let them keep their devices close by, but introduce real-live human interaction that’s engaging and fun rather than a dreaded act of endurance.

Technology/social media isn’t going anywhere. The platforms aren’t so much the problem as our relationship with them is. So why not throw a little live/up-close-and-personal relationship to counter on-line versions. Don’t give up. Then, see what happens. And ask the question (in a nonchalant, genuine sort of way, after the fact): “Which makes you feel better? on-line relationship, where you watch every like and share and try to say or post just the right thing? OR interacting in person?”

The answer has been fairly consistent around our house. From the kids … and from me. Human interaction wins almost every time. (Almost :)

Anyway, thanks for walking the road with me. Here’s hoping we can do it over coffee, in-person some day soon – maybe over a fun game of Splendor or Rummikub.

-Kay

Here’s what we’re playing at our house. PLEASE share what your family loves. (I’ve included links to Amazon for you convenience, but fun games are available everywhere.)

FullSizeRender

Splendor, Rummikube, Mexican Train Dominoes, Mille Bornes Card Game, Hedbanz, (there are 2 versions: kids or adult – ages 14+), Sequence, & Chess. The last game – I can’t seem to master. Jack (8) consistently beats me. (I’m not sure what that says about me. Probably that I donated my best brain cells to all these kids, leaving the tired ones for me!) – so, I’ve included puzzles in the picture above. Because I love puzzles for many of the same reasons we’re loving board games.

Torn Seats and All

“There’s a side to you that I never knew, Kay Wyma,” my friend Brooke smiled. We were last to leave the morning gathering.

“Yes,” she continued, “I learned a few things about you last week – from your car.”

New things about me from my car? My mind raced to grab hold of anything tangible that might give me a clue.

Then I remembered.

Oh my goodness. My car!

She had been so super nice the week before to run to my car and grab something for me. I had been on deck to lead our Tuesday summer Bible study on heaven. Being the flake that I am and never pretend to not be, I had left the book we’re studying on the passenger seat of my car. Introductions of the morning had been made, the make-shift recording started, I realized I didn’t have the necessary materials, saw Brooke and loud-whispered Hey, could you run to my car and grab my book?

Johnny-on-the-spot she jumped right up and turned for the door. Then realized, “What do you drive?”

“The dented white Sequoia parked on the far right.” Yes, still dented from the time nice-young-man Eugene crashed us a few years ago.

She slipped me my book upon returning and off our group journeyed on the very interesting, challenging, hope-filled road of considering life In Light of Eternity.

So as I stood in front of Brooke this week and my mind raced to put together the “I’ve learned a few things about you” pieces, it didn’t take me long.

She’d seen the inside of my car. The outside has issues of its own, but the inside – now that’s raw. I mean it’s summer. Kids, kids and more kids have been in and out of that thing. [Sidenote: One of motherhood’s job perks is the ability to share the mess-blame for kitchens, bathrooms, back or front yards, living rooms, AND cars.]

The torn seats, the wrappers, the slurpee cup that may or may not have sat in a cup-holder for a week, the swim towels, the extra shoes (one waterproof pair which came in extra handy at Costco the other day when a storm blew in and I didn’t want to ruin my new sandals), … the list really does go on. Collectively the inside of my car added a new dimension to her knowledge of me.

I guess she learned that I’m not lying when I say I haven’t got it all together. She got to see up close and personal our very regular life. Some days we’re holding on by a thread. Others, we’re just a family of 7 that comes with lot of stuff – apparently much of which has been left to fester in our car. In reality, we come to the show regular – regular with lots of love and little expectations of perfection … sprinkled with a dash of procrastination for good measure.

Yes, my car said much to my dear friend Brooke. “The torn seats?” I asked her.

“Yeah,” she replied. “And a little more.”

car lifeJust a peek at the front seat in all its glory – setting the bar high.

Brooke’s nodding smile warmed my soul. And all the wonderful aspects of authentic friendship – even friendship that is relatively new (we’ve only really known each other a couple of years) – washed over me. And I melted into vulnerably and acceptance. She was meeting me in the midst – not running away or gasping or whispering. She wasn’t judging me.

And so, I refused to judge myself. I held tight to the thoughts that tempted me to freak out. You know the ones.

She saw our – MY – mess! What must she think of me? Everyone else has their stuff together. What’s wrong with me?

“I love you even more,” she announced.

There you have it.

Then, later as if on cue, another friend emailed me Ann Voskamp’s post from this week:

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 9.33.44 AM

There could be Key Women who turn to their sisters and unlock everything with their own anthem coming like a freedom song:

I won’t judge you for dishes in your sink and shoes over your floor and laundry on your couch.

I won’t judge you for choosing not to spend your one life  weeding the garden or washing the windows or working on organizing the pantry.

I won’t judge you for the size of your waist, the flatness, bigness, cut or color of your hair, the hipness or the matronliness of your clothes, and I won’t judge whether you work at a stove, a screen, a store, a steering wheel, a sink or a stage.

I won’t judge you for where you are on your road, won’t belittle your offering, your creativity, your battle, your work.

The key to the future of our communities, our culture, the church is whether there are Key People — people who will not imprison with labels and boxes but will unlock with key words, with key acts of freeing.

A lovely non-judgmental morsel for thought (maybe a manna-morsel).

I think the key for most women is not only ditching the judgment of each other, but slowing down the often misguided/overly harsh judgment of ourselves.

I’m determined to train my kids to self-assess in the light that God sees them. To focus their attention on striving for excellence as it relates to their best (not THE best), to let the Lord’s (rather than society’s) light inform the image/reflection they see in the mirror, to consider perspective rather than latch onto a glimpse … and on it goes.

But it’s almost impossible to impart training on a subject of which I am not intimately aware myself.

So – Here’s to helping each other. Thank you Brooke for living-out-loud in light of eternity, for using your keys to unlock an even deeper friendship. And, as always, thanks to all of you for walking the road with me.

-Kay

Metaxas and Modern Day Hansel & Gretel

hansel & gretel

Yesterday, I was listening to Jay Richards on the Eric Metaxas Show. They were chatting about economics, about U.S. domestic issues and about Greece.

Quick promo: Eric is SUPER nice to have me on his show today. He’s a terrific host – fun, thoughtful, smart, hilarious – a great listen ANY day, but would love it if you tuned in HERE today. I’m on live at 1pm CST, but you can link and listen any time.

mataxes

Greece’s situation could almost be a case study on human nature. Left to oneself, free of restraint, absent key components of a common language based on decorum (specifically those related to character – doing what is right, considering others interests ahead or even equal to your own), ultimate demise is eminent.

Not to over-generalize, but watching the story unfold reminds me of Hansel and Gretel. It’s as if the country came upon a candy cabin – or better yet, a money cabin – where they entered and ate and ate and ate. Then spent and spent and spent, without so much as a care in the world. What does it matter? The money is all there for the taking. Someone else will fix the problem. What problem. There are no problems. You’re the problem.

And, in all the eating and spending, they failed to see the boiling cauldron in which they now find themselves. Things are not going well with them, no matter how loud they yell at the world: NO, we will only play with OUR rules.

I’m reminded of the Lord’s directives to the nation of Israel as He outlined the Law. “Tell them to do these things so that it may go well with them,” He said to Moses. The logical result in not doing them?  => not so good.

Today, Greece sits in the not-so-good. Though they’re doing quite the job of convincing themselves otherwise (a tactic I see often play out in my home).

Unfortunately, none of us live on an island. We actually live life together. Even more so with modern day technological advances. Countries are connected at the core. The actions of one absolutely affect the other.

In order to live together, we have to speak the same language. The common language, since our spoken word differs, has always been an internal language – where a yes means yes and where the concerns of someone beside yourself are considered. It’s the common language of propriety and decorum that keeps relationships in tact. How can the interrelated connectedness of a global economy work without it?

I’m not sure it can.

The common language seems to be getting lost, tuned out, in society’s obsession with relativism, narcissism, and philosophical existentialism.

But all is never lost. Chuck Colson said it best – and seemed to almost always say it whenever he spoke– “Culture doesn’t change people; people change culture.”

I’m convinced; those people are the ones in our homes. We can’t look to society to do it for us, we must carry the banner at the onset. Bringing back propriety and decorum starts in our homes. And if other-centeredness, honesty and hard work can play out at home amidst siblings – let’s just be honest – it can happen anywhere.

So as our kids are tempted to live and spend to their hearts’ content – enjoying today without so much as a care for tomorrow (“because everyone else is” and “it all works out in the end”) come at them hard with Tomorrow. Because Tomorrow works itself out when Today is lived with propriety.

I have the conversation often with my kids: You don’t live on an island. Your actions/inactions affect others. Character matters. Always be honest. Always consider the interest of others. Your integrity matters more than any grade or accomplishment or victory, never compromise it.

Yes – they often roll their eyes. But I keep saying it. Which I know you do too :)

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay