I’m going to start this Lent Devotional for Women with a quote from Pope Paul VI, “Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the occasions of pleasure, but finds great difficulty in giving birth to happiness. For happiness has its origin elsewhere: it is a spiritual thing.”
And there we go, the time and space we now live in succinctly summed up in two short sentences. As much as I would love to have some of these Lenten devotional posts scheduled out in advance, there is a reason they aren’t. And today’s post was written after reading two informative posts.
Articles about our children and technology come across my desk(top) regularly. I read yet another article about our kids and technology; the increasing epidemic of depression, suicide, and bullying all closely related to technology and social media. And this article was written pre-2020 if you know what I’m saying.
It seems like the articles typically come in waves so the very next thing I read was a link shared by a blogger about the new Instagram algorithm, similar to Facebook. I read the two articles in light of each other and was almost sick to my stomach for our poor children in this unruly digital age; again, pre-2020.
I have said from the beginning of 2020, the effects will not be fully known or understood for possibly generations. Generations!
Now, a quick primer for those who don’t know, Facebook and Instagram have algorithms that determine how, when, and who should see your social media posts. Just because someone friends or follows you doesn’t mean they see your posts.
Put this information about the algorithms in the context of our children who may tie their self-esteem and popularity into their social media likes, comments, followers, and friends and you have a recipe for disaster!
Our children may not know about the elusive and ever-changing algorithm. I’m a blogger and can’t even keep up with the changing information about social media! Our children may think they are unliked and unpopular based on the feedback from their posts when in reality, their posts may not have even been seen!
Unfortunately, this isn’t just about our children. Social media and technology can have the same effect on us. If we’ve ever checked our post to see who liked it or if someone has commented on our latest Facebook or Instagram post, and there are crickets…you know what I’m talking about.
And without realizing it, we’ve slowly allowed our self-worth to be controlled, fueled, and determined by others and a stupid algorithm that makes no sense, is controlled by someone (something) else, and constantly changes.
So, how do we recognize pleasure verse happiness? How do we know which one we’re feeling and which one we should be pursuing? I found this explanation and thought it was right on target.
Dr. Lustig offers a rubric for determining whether that rosy feeling you have is happiness or pleasure: “Pleasure is short-lived, happiness is long-lived; pleasure is visceral, happiness is ethereal; pleasure is taking, happiness is giving; pleasure can be achieved with substances, happiness cannot be achieved with substances; and, finally, pleasure is experienced alone, happiness is usually experienced in social groups.”
Except for the last part about happiness being experienced in social groups. As an extroverted introvert and Jesus lover, I can experience happiness alone, but maybe he was referring to time alone with the Body of Christ or the Communion of Saints. If so, “Yes!”
Now examining his points for pleasure verse happiness, consider them in light of social media. The instant gratification we get from social media, the “taking” affirmations based on others’ approval of our posts, etc. Now, I’m not saying all social media or internet activity is bad or wrong…you’re reading my words on my blog and I love my Instagram feed.
But what I am saying is that if it becomes the source of our gratification and affirmations, it has gotten out of hand and needs to be put back into its proper order. So maybe that’s another consideration, is this thing–whatever form of digital media we’re staring at–is this in its proper order?
The Scriptures tell us God is a God of order and we know disorder comes from the depths of hell. So if something in our life is disordered, we need to get rid of it or find its proper place in our life and put it in its proper order.
Ladies, there’s some definite food for thought above. And as with all things, these ponderings and probing questions can become a prayer.
Lord, I want to be happy. Please show me the things that are getting in the way of my happiness. Show me the changes I need to make and then give me the strength to change. Please help me to desire happiness over pleasure and to be able to spot the difference. I’m tired of chasing happiness under the guise of pleasure. Open my eyes, my heart, and mind to see the people, things, and experiences You place before me for my happiness. And at the end of the day, when I may face discouragement and discontent, gently remind me that true happiness can only be found with You and In and will not reach its perfection until heaven. Amen.