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 this morning.
Just this morning 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 the very next thing I read was a link shared by a blogger about the new Instagram algorithm, similar to Facebook. I put the two together and was almost sick to my stomach for our poor children in this unruly digital age.
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. Now put this 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. They may think they are unliked and unpopular based on the feedback from their posts when in reality, their posts may not have 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 saw it, or if we’ve wondered why no one has commented on our latest Facebook or Instagram post, you know what I’m talking about. We’ve slowly allowed our self-worth to be controlled, fueled and determined by others and a stupid algorithm.
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 introvert and Jesus lover, I can experience happiness alone…unless he means with the Body of Christ or the Communion of Saints.
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. But I’m saying, 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. And so maybe that’s another consideration, is this thing–whatever form of digital media we’re staring at–is this in its proper order?
So, 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.
More Lent Devotional for Women posts.