Sunday, March 06, 2022

Facebook "Likes" and Adulation Addiction

(Plaque, in a store in Cleveland)

It’s our generation’s crack cocaine. 
People are addicted. 
We experience withdrawals. 
We are so driven by this drug, 
getting just one hit elicits truly peculiar reactions. 
I’m talking about Likes. 
They’ve inconspicuously emerged as the first digital drug to dominate our culture.

Facebook, and social media, allow me to communicate ideas (when my blog posts appear on FB), communicate with my Redeemer family, show and receive photos to and from people I care about, and other good things. Social media has a significant upside. It's also creating a world of adulation addicts. I feel the pull myself.

Mike Bickle, in Growing In the Prophetic, writes of a time when he was traveling with John Wimber, speaking regularly before crowds of thousands of people. Mike found that "I enjoyed the attention and honor more than I realized." (143) For followers of Jesus, this is not good. 

Bickle says, "We didn't have enough spiritual maturity to discern some basic warning signals about pride." (144) This is a dangerous spiritual condition to be in! ("O come, let us adore (like) me.") Pride is the oppositional emotion. (See James 4:6.)
We all need affirmation. We don't need to be worshiped. We do need to feel appreciated. We don't need adoration and adulation. 

There is a fine line between affirmation and adulation. The healthy glow of affirming words can morph into self-worship addiction. When we become attached to the affirmation we live for it, rather than living selflessly for God and others. As Jesus hung on the cross, how many "likes" would he have received?

Affirmation-as-adulation can become a drug, and off we go fishing for the next fix. One way to fish for praise is to perform before others. When the presence of God ends, the performance before others begins. At this point all of life's a stage, and we await the reviews.

How can we get off the crack cocaine Facebook offers us? 
Solitude with God can break us of this. By "solitude" I include "Internet solitude," meaning not getting alone with your laptop, but retreating from it. Go apart from persons and media and laptops and texting and tweeting so God can love you even when you are not performing. It is in that quiet place with God that I hear His "well done," and "John, I love you." 

He likes me. When I am discovered by God, and find my life's worth in being His beloved child, I am released to love and serve others apart from any performance review.

Here are Dr. Kimberly Young's Five Signs of Facebook Addiction. (I'm quoting in full.)

In my practice, I have found five key signs of Social Media Addiction that hold true and to illustrate, I am using Facebook Addiction to describe the signs demonstrate obsessive or compulsive behavior:
1. You spend a lot of time thinking about Facebook or planning how to use it. You feel a preoccupation to using Facebook or the immediate need to share. This may result in over-sharing. In an age of privacy, over-sharing stems from saying too much and then regretting what we said. Those who suffer from an addiction do not always judge what is appropriate or inappropriate to post due to their preoccupation with checking and responding, which leads to a constant engagement in the activity.
2. You feel an urge to use Facebook more and more. This means checking out for any updates to your newsfeed or responses to your posts every time you do not know what to do. In other words, the default choice for your free time activity is to be on Facebook. You may leave your Facebook open in the background, switch between work or class assignments to the page every few minutes. Even when you are outside enjoying a drink with a friend, you log in to the Facebook app on your smartphone every now and then during brief moments of non-interactions.
3. You use Facebook in order to forget about personal problems. One aspect of addiction is the ability to use the behavior as a psychological escape from problems. A person may had job or relationship problems and the addiction becomes a convenient way to temporarily soothe the underlying stress created by the problem. When using Facebook as an addiction, the user is distracted in whatever it is he or she is doing and finds it hard to be fully present at the moment. For addicts, they may take a significantly longer amount of time to complete simple tasks or maybe some of their friends may complain that they don’t pay enough attention to what they say. The use of Facebook then becomes a distraction from problems because one’s attention is always diverted with its use.
4. You become restless or troubled if you are prohibited from using Facebook. With addiction, there is an element of withdrawal. We associated with withdrawal from drugs and alcohol and not necessarily behaviors but studies show that people can also go through withdrawal from additive behaviors like Pathological Gambling. When we talk about Facebook addiction, you may start to feel anxious if you can’t access your network. Perhaps you are someplace without cell service, people who feel addicted start to become restless or feel depressed when they are forced to go without access to Facebook.

5. You use Facebook so much that it has had a negative impact on your relationships. As you get used to communicating on Facebook via messaging, sharing photos and posts, commenting and ‘liking’ others, it may come to a point when you get more comfortable socializing online than offline. You become over-reliant on Facebook to fulfill your social needs and may start sacrificing the time spent on real-life meet-ups for coffee with your friends. The behavior becomes unhealthy such that you become uncomfortable or fearful with face-to-face communication, which is a far richer experience than communicating online where one cannot actually see non-verbal communication as in the body language, gestures, and voice tones.