“No one looks at our social profiles more than we do. ‘We’re constantly self-monitoring,’ Prof. Marshall says. Despite the name, social media isn’t so much about socialising with other people, it’s about ourselves. We may tell ourselves that we post online to help spread information, or to have a laugh with friends, but the number one reason we share online is to seek approval from other people.”
Prof. David Marshall
“Called men and women can come from the strangest places and carry the most unique qualifications. They may be the unnoticed, the unappreciated, the unsophisticated.
Look again at the men Christ picked: few if any of them would have been candidates for high positions in organized religion or big business. It is not that they were unusually awkward.
It is just that they were among the ordinary. But Christ called them, and that made all the difference.”
“We are infatuated with the splendor of space, with the grandeur of things of space. We know what to do with space but do not know what to do about time, except to make it subservient to space. Most of us seem to labor for the sake of things of space.
As a result we suffer from a deeply rooted dread of time and stand aghast when compelled to look into its face. To understand the teaching of the Bible, one must accept its premise that time has a meaning for life which is at least equal of space: that time has a significance and sovereignty of its own.
The answer to the problem of civilization: not to flee from the realm of space; to work with things of space but to be in love with eternity.”
Abraham Heschel: The Sabbath
If you want to create one of the great challenges you will face is criticism. The simple act of creation contains within it an implicit critique. The person who is truly satisfied with the status quo will not feel the need to create something new. Thus creation inevitably creates a reaction, sometimes awe and appreciation, but often jealousy, envy and fear. You cannot create without some form of conflict. Therefore no matter how awesome you think your creation is, there are going to be people out there who think that it stinks, and who are prepared to tell you so.
Negative feedback is especially painful for the creative. The sheer act of creation is taxing. Even when it is life-giving and fun it still requires energy, focus and determination. Creativity is your passion being brought to life in tangible forms. So when someone tells you that they don’t like your creation, it is inevitable that their critique will feel personal.
In the past we were a culture of creators and producers, we are now a culture of consumers and critics. In our socially networked world today, there are millions of ways that people can tell you that they don’t like what you are doing. Anyone with a smartphone can bang out a negative comment about your creation in the time it takes them to wait for their coffee. The difficult thing is that most of this feedback is anonymous and distant. Anyone with microbe of the paranoid in their body can be turned into an anxious mess by such feedback.
When we truly examine our culture of criticism, we discover that behind most critics there is actually a frustrated creator. They are simply holding up your work to their view of the world, their passions and values, the only difference between you and them is that you had the courage to put it out into the world. Yes there are some genuine and skilled reviewers out there, but as an author I have discovered that most reviews tell you far more about the reviewer than they do about your book.
Whilst we have turned into a culture of anonymous criticism, we are also simultaneously a culture which is afraid of offering constructive feedback to those close to us. This is what makes try outs for reality singing shows so funny as we laugh at tone deaf people who have been told that they can sing by friends and family. Behind the awkward hilarity there is a truth, we will critique those we do not know, but withhold needed criticism from those we know. To further confuse things, sometimes those near us will critique us from a place of jealousy, our act of creation will cause them to question their place in the world, the implicit critique of creation will feel as if it is pointed at them, and therefore they will turn on the creator.
So how do we find the balance between the tsunami of criticism which will paralyses us, and the feedback that we desperately need which will enable us to be better creators and human beings?
Here are a few ideas for getting the balance right when it comes to criticism.
Ignore critics you do not know. Don’t listen to those who are outside of the audience you are creating for, you did not make it form them so why bother listening to them? Seth Godin says “Don’t punish yourself by listening to the mob.”
Ignore the criticism of those who lace their critique with agendas. Block out those who parasitically live of your work to further their own agenda. Instead define and then understand your audience and those who you are creating for, do this and you will discover a truly beautiful relationship.
Listen to those who you trust. Go to people who you admire, who have character, who are not prone to jealousy, who have your best interests at heart. Those who love you so much that they are willing to tell you the hard stuff. Even when it is painful, seek out their critique of your work and your life. (See Proverbs 12:1)
Get a bit tougher. Destroy the myth in your mind that everyone is going to love your stuff all the time. Negative feedback will always be there until the day you die.
Understand Grace. Root your identity and security in Him. When you secure your self understanding in the truth that the God of the universe died for you because he loves you so much, everything will be ordered in its correct place. Your identity will not be tethered to your creativity. Once you understand this you will no longer live in fear of criticism, you will be truly free to create.
Social Networking can be a fabulous tool for leaders to advance the kingdom. However like so many other things it can also lead us into dangerous territory if unexamined.
Below are some tips on how to use social networking well in our celebrity obsessed, image based culture without falling into the sin of pride. I have probably broken several at times, but hopefully they will be of help to you.
1) Avoid being a fame-vampire. Just because you had coffee with someone well known doesn’t mean that you have to tweet about it. We tend to do this because sub-consciously believe that if we broadcast the fact that we are associating with someone well known, that their fame/influence will rub off on us.
Would you be willing to tweet that you just met with a person who had no influence or social capital?
2) Don’t add to the Hubbub. We live in a culture of incredible distraction. Just because we can broadcast to thousands the first thought that comes into our head doesn’t mean that we have to. Just communicate the important stuff.
By refraining from the cacophony you just might give others space and silence. Is your broadcasting of the mundane robbing others of the silence they need to encounter God?
3) Real life Followers>Online followers.
4) Platform never beats spiritual authority. Lot of people talk about platform these days. Platform sells books, generates hits and followers and results in speaking requests. However platform doesn’t always equate with spiritual authority.
You can have a massive platform with little spiritual authority, and you can have significant spiritual authority and a terrible Klout score.
5) Promote resources not yourself. Beware the thin line between selling books, resources, events, Churches, others you wish to champion, ministries you believe in and selling yourself.
Do your social networking patterns push people towards resources that will build up their faiths, or are you allowing some of the glory to bounce off onto you?
6) Avoid humblebrags. Don’t ever use the hashtag #humbled. My friend Amy said to me the other day that if someone uses the hashtag #humbled there is a 90% chance they are bragging.
We know deep down that social networking naturally tilts towards self promotion, so we try and self promote whilst trying to be humble, check out the humblebrag feed on twitter to see why this approach doesn’t work.
7)Ask the dangerous question ‘why?’ Before posting always ask yourself ‘why am I posting this instagram pic/tweet/status update?’ Deeply search your heart for your true motivations. If you struggle with this find a social networking accountability buddy who will ask you the tough questions.
8) Take breaks. Take regular technology sabbaths. This is one of the best ways to ensure that you keep social networking as a tool rather than an idol.
9) Be Patient with God. God will advance your ministry if he so desires in His good time. Just because we live in a time where it is easy to push our own carts does not mean that we need to. Both the bible and history is littered with the tragic tales of people whose influence exceeded their spiritual development.
10) Track your time. Keep a track of how much time you are devoting to social networking. Not just in real minutes and hours but also in mental energy. Do you find yourself thinking about what you could say online when you are even off line? Are you robbing your family, friends and neighbours of your complete presence and attention? Sit down and plan how much time you wish to spend a week online and stick to it.
“No one seems to have noticed, that a loss of a sense of shame means a loss of privacy; a loss of privacy means a loss of intimacy; and a loss intimacy means a loss of depth. There is, in fact, no better way to produce shallow and superficial people than to let them live their lives entirely in the open, without concealment of anything.”
Theodore Dalrymple: Our Culture, What’s Left of it