- Dan Connors
God is listening- on Facebook
The internet is a dark, black hole of a cesspool and it arguably does more harm than good. Yet we can't get enough of it. Especially Facebook, which gives us customized glimpses of the internet along with news from "friends".
There are two huge reasons why Facebook and the internet are bad for your mental health. The first has to do with the fact that people lie all the time on Facebook, and those with the biggest agendas lie the most. The Russians had our number in 2016 and are working up a nasty encore for 2020.
Even more pervasive than the lying is the fact that even the correct information is incomplete and deceptive. We see things on Facebook that look wonderful, idealized and fun, and we think we are missing out on life. This dreaded syndrome is called FOMO (Fear of missing out.) Teenagers especially are subject to FOMO because at that age what their peers are up to is everything. Almost everybody ends up feeling inadequate and depressed when they believe (incorrectly) that the world is out there having fun without them.
The second reason the internet can be poisonous for your mental health is the Troll Dilemma. In real life, it would be unheard of to say hateful things in public, especially to a stranger. But with the anonymity and safety the internet provides, people's ugly sides can come out without any fear of physical retribution. Trolls are people who stalk conversations and debates looking for outlets for their anger and frustration. They will put strangers down, call them names, and sometimes threaten them, something they'd never dream of in the outside world. The internet tends to reward trolls with more attention because they stir things up, and people flock to read their negative posts out of some dark, deep human survival instinct.
These two poisons are multiplied tenfold because of the addictive nature of the internet, especially with cell phone usage. By becoming absorbed into the dramas that aren't real, we lose touch with our own humanity and the reality around us.
So with that said, I'm always careful when wandering the dangerous corners of the internet and pleasantly surprised when I see safe communities of folks taking care of each other. I was surprised to find such a place last week on my Facebook feed from no lesser place than God himself.
God, (@thegoodlordabove), is a comedian who remains anonymous that has created a following of nearly 4 million people worldwide on Facebook. Many of God's posts have to do with the number one comedic target today, Donald Trump, but once in a while he throws in some interesting polls and questions.
Recently, God has begun issuing mental health checks, speaking honestly about his own challenges to his followers. He asks people to check in with their own struggles and rate their mental health with colored hearts, ranging from a red heart "I'm doing great", to a black heart, "I'm in a really dark place." He then says " Let’s check up on one another and be a shoulder to those who need one!"
The responses that God gets from this one simple request (nearly 9,000 of them last week) are both humbling and touching. It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen on the internet. People share their pain honestly like I've seen nowhere else. And even better, they respond to each other with words of sympathy and encouragement. This is the most therapeutic things I've seen on a public page, with zero trolling. People unburden themselves with things that are going on in their lives, get validation and recognition, and are freely given support from total strangers they will never meet.
Here are some random examples from the last mental health check up in descending order of happiness (identities suppressed):
❤️ "I’ve been unemployed for eight months and start a new job next week. We fostered a senior dog for a week and just adopted him today! I wake up and don’t feel like I want to go back to sleep and stay in bed all day anymore. It’s the best!"
💙 "mostly good. My husband has MS and had to have an MRI today. He's doing ok, but has had a bad couple of months. Worried about the results. But every day is a day to be thankful for."
💛 "same story, different day. Take care of cancer patients and it just makes me really sad. Throughout my shift I stay strong, but let those tears out on my way home. I know i make a difference and most people appreciate me. I wished I could do more for them, like save their lives. Cancer sucks."
💚 "I keep hoping things start looking up, but I feel my strength and my abilities are constantly being tested. I keep telling myself I’m strong enough, but am secretly struggling every single day."
💜 "I lost my mom, who was my best friend, in March. People seem to think I should be over this by now, but I'm not and don't think I ever will be."
🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤 "Dear God we are burying our 2nd child today. If you or a loved one are currently using please seek all avenues to get help to get them sober and clean its a daily struggle you are not alone. How did this happen? When will it stop? Call your Congress tell them to stop the opiod crisis . We had 3 children now there's 1, he saw what these drugs do and what it makes a person do to get them unspeakable things that had they never put that needle in their arms they would never have done but they couldn't see beyond the need for the high.They tried they fought it over and over they were sober for times and prayers this would be the time that works, begging, pleading,tough love and didnt work or we wouldn't be doing this today. 2 beautiful grandchildren are growing up without a Mother and now a Father! the loss is unexplainable and I've run out of tears but this headache is running strong . God I know you only give us what we can bare but I have to ask what is the plan what is going to happen that is so devastating that you have placed all this tragedy in our lives because it has to be terrible and I don't want it because I think it would crush me beyond repair. Hug your kids, tell them you love them, be there for them. "
If you made it to the end of these posts, good for you. Depressing? Maybe. Also inspiring. Real? Probably. Touching? Absolutely. Instead of the glossed-over view that most of the internet gives us, these 9,000 posts are a therapy session before God- both the comedian and the spiritual one. I wish I had time to post all of the responses, but just imagine dozens of messages of hope, sympathy and love.
One things that unites us all is that we are all struggling one way or another. I'm struggling. So are most of the people I know. We all have different struggles- health, family, job, money, relationships. I have yet to meet a person who has it all figured out. Perhaps it is the struggles that unite us and make us human. I am awed by the people who have the courage to share their pain and doubt. I love them all. More than the trolls who hide behind snark, more than the paid propagandists who poison our feeds with lies, and more than the advertisers who tell us we're not enough until we buy their products.
Thank you God. And thanks to all who promote safe spaces online and elsewhere where healing can begin.