How many hours do we spend scrolling Facebook newsfeeds, retweeting something on Twitter, or posing for the perfect selfie on Instagram, hoping what we post will get likes and comments from our friends and followers? To get those likes, we post what is—according to social media standards—pretty, popular, and acceptable. We hide the messy parts of life, play up the fun times, and even twist the truth a bit so we look a little better, smarter, and funnier. But what happens when people start holding us up to these unrealistic standards? What happens when you realize that who you are on social media isn’t who you really are? Have we let social media steal our identity?
In #Stolen, author Jessica Fralin uncovers our deep desire to be affirmed, valued, and loved and then points to the only place where that desire can be filled: in Christ not social media. She offers creative #FunFact, #GiveItATry, and #WhatDoYouThink callouts containing fun notes, activities, and ideas to discuss with your youth group and friends. As she tackles the issues and insecurities like popularity, body image, and cyberbullying, Jessica shows you how to find your identity in the one voice that really matters, not the million of voices online.
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About the Author
Jessica Fralin is an author, blogger, and full-time college student residing in Lynchburg, Virginia. As a worship leader and aspiring women’s ministry leader, she conveys the message of love, acceptance, and worth that can only be found in the gospel. On any given day, you can find her holding a guitar, a book, or a latte and passionately teaching others who they areand why it matterswhen it comes to social media.
Read an Excerpt
Is Social Media Stealing Your Identity?
By Jessica Fralin
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2015 Jessica Fralin
All rights reserved.
How Social Media Has Told Us Who We Are
This is probably weird, but I like to walk by open laptops in a coffee shop (which is where I spend at least half of my free time). I always peek to see if Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest is open. Almost every time, at least one of them is. Sometimes all three. And smartphones are everywhere. They've become the Mom-I-really-have-to-have-this gift of the century. It's incredible, isn't it? We get to be connected 24/7, to almost all of the information in the world. (Although my greatest talent when it comes to the iPhone seems to be shattering my screen.) If you're not on Twitter, people question your sanity, because everybody is on Twitter. Even my grandma has a Twitter account, and she's eighty years old!
It seems like everywhere I turn these days, social media has entered another part of our world. And I'm loving the way it keeps us all connected. But have you ever been annoyed by it? Has it ever made you feel overwhelmed or frustrated? For all the good we can do with it, there are a few things there I wish we could press the "dislike" button for.
Social media and I have a love/hate relationship. I have a lot of thoughts bouncing around in my head, pretty much all the time. Call it "creative type," call it hyperactivity, call it whatever you want, but I have a lot to say. Funny occurrences, insights I've found, stories that need sharing. Social media provides an outlet for all these thoughts, neatly packaged in 140 characters or less and sent to all my followers with one little click. That's the part I love.
But after I click that button, I wait to see how my words will affect my followers. Will they laugh along at the funny things I write? Will my realizations cause them to think deeper too? Sometimes, after I've hit "send," I'm held captive by my notifications. It's a waiting game, not just to see how my words will affect my friends, but if my words will affect them at all. Part of me fears that after I've put my words out there, the notifications won't come. Social media has trained my heart to believe that notifications are what give my words worth, what gives me worth. It might be one of the biggest battles I face when it comes to social media. And that's the part I hate.
It's not just the notifications, though. My love/hate relationship with social media continues in so many ways:
Love: I can stay connected with my friends who live across the country.
Hate: I can look at my friends' posts and feel jealous that their lives are cooler than mine.
Love: I can find killer ideas for everything from outfits to room decor to recipes.
Hate: I sometimes feel like I'll never measure up to the ideas I find.
Love: I can read a Tweet or a blog and immediately feel encouraged and excited.
Hate: I can read a Tweet or a blog and immediately feel disappointed and defeated.
Love: I can be connected to everyone's thoughts, all the time.
Hate: I can't stop waiting for everyone to validate my own thoughts that I post online.
I could go on and on, but I'm sure you get the picture. If any of those scenarios resonates in your life, take heart, friend. I can assure you, you are not alone. I'm all too familiar with the highs and lows social media can bring into your life.
There was a time when I allowed social media to build me up and tear me down. I let it decide what was important about me, to define me, to tell me who I was. The incessant chatter on my millions of accounts (OK, maybe just twelve, but it feels like millions) slowly crept into my life over time and dug deep roots. I became addicted. And for the longest time, I didn't even realize it. I thought I could quit letting social media control me any time I wanted. But you know what? That was an absolute lie. The first time I tried to take a break from Twitter, I think I lasted four hours. Four hours. Yikes. Can anyone say "addicted"?
What do you think would happen if you gave up your cell phone for an entire day? What would be the hardest part? What might be good about it? #GiveItATry
* * *
Addiction is a word running wild today. It's splashed across headlines and rolls off the tongues of news broadcasters. You've heard the tragic stories about celebrities and next-door neighbors alike who got sucked in by a problem they never dreamed they'd have. Some people are held captive by drugs or alcohol, while others are consumed with shopping or eating or gambling. Whatever their obsessions, you've learned to recognize addiction in people. You've learned to recite the maxim "everything in moderation," and maybe even started to tune out the endless talks you get in classrooms and on commercials about the dangers these things can cause. All the while, some of us are busy feeding our own obsession with pinning and liking and commenting every day. It seems innocent enough, doesn't it? But could this be a whole new brand of addiction — one that's subtle and socially acceptable?
It's dangerous because we live in the loudest time in history. The voices are constant, and there are so many of them. Even in our most silent moments, we allow a multitude of voices in, letting them speak deep statements in our lives — statements about who we are, what we are worth, and who we should measure ourselves against. Words bombard us all the time. Comparisons. Criticisms. Compliments. And we don't even have to speak to anyone to hear them. Do you think maybe we've become addicted to the noise?
All too often, I've let the chatter become my measuring stick. I let all those voices on social media define me. I crave validation from them and feel depressed when I don't get it. Does that sound familiar to you? If so, I'm glad you picked up this book. Turning the chatter off and tuning it out are two of the hardest things I've ever learned, but they are also the most rewarding. I'm excited to dive in with you and explore how we can do that in the world of social media. I may not know you in real life — I don't follow you on Twitter or have coffee with you every other weekend — but I feel like I do know you in a small way because we're hanging out in this social-media — dominated world together. And we all hurt the same when our identities get stolen by this "little" addiction. It's worth the effort to fight this obsession: your heart matters way too much to let social media tell you who you are.
PROTECTING YOUR IDENTITY
This social media problem is a two-in-one deal. On the surface, there's the problem of dealing with the noise. Maybe you've just become immune to it. You expect it, and maybe even crave it. (Stay tuned for the next chapter, because it has a lot to say about how that noisiness affects your life.) But there's a deeper problem underneath all the chatter. It's not just that you have voices constantly speaking to you. The problem is that those voices will try to define you.
I'm sure it stinks to have your financial identity stolen, but I don't know a thing about it. The kind of identity theft I'm passionate about preventing can't be found in a serial number or a bank account. Your identity is far more complex and cool than that, because it's intangible. It's in your heart and your soul. It's been carefully crafted. It's one of a kind. Do you know who you really are? You've already been defined. As beautiful. As unique. As loved.
Don't let social media tell you any different. Somehow, simply being human seems to walk hand in hand with insecurity. It's weirdly comforting to know that this struggle is universal: no age, gender, race, or financial situation is immune to the insecurities that can wreck us. We all struggle to know the truth about who we are — and even more so, to believe it. There's something deep within us that craves security, love, and worth — we're wired for it. Just glance back through your history books and you'll see that in every generation, humans have been desperate for these things. And you'll also see that people have always struggled to believe that they are good enough, loved enough, and beautiful enough. The lies that whisper to your soul didn't pop up out of nowhere. It's a struggle that's existed from the first recorded days and continues as you're reading this page.
But while this isn't just a "your generation" or "your gender" problem, your search for significance and acceptance does show up in a unique way. Before we dive any deeper into this book, I want to reassure you of something.
Your desire to be loved is okay.
Cling to that truth. Hold it tight when you hear those incessant voices whisper things like, "You don't need anything. Or anyone. Just be independent." Maybe you've listened to those whispers and tried to silence those needs, to become self-sufficient and independent and strong. I've sure tried before. But I learned that it doesn't work. Because it isn't supposed to. Our desire to be loved is more than okay — it's part of what makes us human. Take a moment and let that truth sink in.
Of course, sometimes we fight that truth because it hurts a lot when that desire for love is unmet. But what if that desire was woven into your soul by someone who already desires you? What if it really is possible to be satisfied and whole? Isn't this exactly what every generation has longed for? Maybe reading the words on these pages has caused something in the secret parts of your heart to sigh with relief that you are not alone in this. Maybe there's been a vague, dull emptiness in you, and you just can't put your finger on why. Maybe you're restless or discontent or tired. I know how you feel, because I've felt it, too.
We're all walking through this together. Every girl, for all of time, has walked through those voices that cry out to define us, to stamp value on us, to compare us to one another. But even though that's true, you and I are standing on a new battleground today. Because our generation is up against voices that scream louder and more often than ever before.
LIFE BEFORE SNAPCHAT
Just think for a minute about the voices that influenced generations in the past. Before social media, your options to communicate hurtful words or gossip were limited. You could use your home telephone to call the other person's home telephone, which another member of their family might easily answer instead. If that felt too risky, maybe you could write out your rant and send it in a letter. Yes, an actual letter — a piece of paper that takes several days to get delivered to a mailbox. Or, if you were patient, you could just wait to talk to your friend in person.
How many of the comments that you see online every day would actually make it if they had to go through one of these options instead?
How about comparing your beauty to others? Before the Internet, you could go to the store and buy a magazine. You could flip through the few local channels you have on your television. Or you could go to the mall and look at what other girls were wearing and shopping for.
What about getting to know what the cute guy in your class was up to? Well, that's too bad. Unless you knew one of his friends who would tell you all about his life, or you creepily followed him around, you would just have to actually get to know him. Oh, the horror. Can you imagine?
I know that all sounds archaic to you. But your parents and grandparents actually conducted their lives that way. And the further back you look, the fewer voices each generation before you heard. Today, our lives are filled with voices that teenagers years ago never even dreamed of.
Today, if you have something hurtful to say, you can post it, text it, Tweet it, or better yet, subtweet it. The options are endless.
Comparisons? Just hop on Pinterest. Or Tumblr. Check out any fashion blog or store website. TiVo any reality show. Everywhere you turn, you find the world's standards of fashion and beauty staring you right in the face.
And that cute boy? You can just follow him — not in real life, but on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Almost every personal detail of his life will be available to you. You can decide whether you're "in love" or not before you even speak a word to him.
That's the world we live in. But can you see how dangerous it can be? We can spend so much of our lives staring and comparing on social media that we start to view the world through that little screen. We start to view the truth that way. We let the voices of social media define us. I've seen it happen. And I hope you see it, too. When we realize that our identities have truly been stolen, we'll start to fight to get them back.
Can I tell you something? Your life is interesting. You are interesting! Your life is so much more beautiful and complex and wild and wonderful than you could ever fit into 140 characters. You know that Dr. Seuss line, "There is no one alive who is youer than you?" I know you're way past nursery rhymes, but there's actually a lot of truth in that silly little sentence. You weren't created to live just like everyone else. Comparison is a game we were never wired to play. But when you neglect your real life for the manicured one you present on social media, you start to become that online persona instead of the real person you are. Do you really think the number of favorites you got on your last Tweet matters very much? Do you really think the girl whose Tweet has one star beside it is worth less than the girl who just reached 500 of them? I'll bet both of them have a unique and wonderful life to live, regardless of what Twitter has to say. Social media doesn't define you.
Unless you let it.
That brings us back to the truth bomb I dropped on you a couple pages ago: Your desire to be loved is okay. And you don't need to deny that need. Your job is to find out where you were designed to have that need met. There's a way to fill all those voids and insecurities. There's a way to enjoy social media without letting it steal your identity. I'm living in the reality of it. And I want you to live in that reality with me. But it's not easy.
To get to the truth, we have to stomp out all the lies that we've believed, both the obvious ones and the subtle ones. It's tough, but it's worth it. Are you ready?
Let's think about social media lies as fires. Not the innocent campfire kind. The lies of social media are unwanted and dangerous fires, and they have to be put out right now. As you read this book, some of the pieces that social media has stolen from your heart will become clear to you. When it comes to those, we can just take a bucket of water and drown them out in the blink of an eye. But some of those lies will be sneaky. Some lies you might not even see at first, like embers from a fire that land on your skin and glow for a moment before you even realize they burn. Left unattended, though, one of those embers can burn through a whole forest. All of us have been burned in one way or another by the identity games of social media. So we have to search for those hidden lies that are hurting us. And we have to put those out, too.
Putting out fires is never easy. I can't promise you that insecurities and lies will stop trying to wage war on your heart after you finish this book. But I can promise that you'll know where to turn when you need to fight them. There's freedom and victory to be found on the other side of our stolen identities.
Just picture a forest after a fire. Even after the most devastating fires, something crazy happens. Growth. Growth in insane proportions. All the burned pieces create rich soil that's ready to house new plants. The dead has been burned away, and new, green life explodes everywhere you look. I think our hearts can look like that — full of new life. When we stop letting social media tell us who we are, we're free to find our identities in all the right places. And as someone who has experienced both the devastation and the new life, I know it's worth it.
Years ago, I heard the phrase "you are better healed than well," and it really bothered me. I didn't want to be healed from anything because I didn't want to be sick. None of us chooses to be sick, do we? And I'm not just talking about physical sickness. I don't think anyone wants to see sickness in their lives emotionally, spiritually, or mentally. But after walking through some battles and gaining some wisdom along the way, I've come to love that quote. I cling to it. I rest in it. Because now that I've learned to stare into the face of my sickness, I understand what victory looks like. And I've learned what love looks like because I've been loved even at my darkest.
Excerpted from #Stolen by Jessica Fralin. Copyright © 2015 Jessica Fralin. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
What's the Problem?
1 #Stolen: How Social Media Has Told Us Who We Are 7
2 10 Percent Remaining: Sucking the Life Out of More Than Just Your Battery 23
The Comparison Game
3 Double Tap: When Likes Define Life 41
4 Selfies and Spray Tans: When Our Bodies Become Our Gods 53
5 Pin This, Need This: When Materialism Fights for Our Hearts 67
Words, Words, Words
6 "A Little Bird Told Me": How Words Get Tossed Around 81
7 Screenshot: Moments Can Be Captured 93
8 Misery Loves Company: When We Feed Our Feelings 111
9 "Oops, Wrong Person": When Words Cut Through a Screen 123
Redeeming Our Time (Our Tweets)
10 Breaking the Cycle: Learning to Be Instead of Do 145
11 Gone Viral: An Identity Revolution 157
Appendix 1 When Pain Runs Deep 169
Appendix 2 Grace 173
About the Author 179