A few weeks ago, I read an article about my generation. I stumbled upon it while scrolling Facebook, the beloved news source option of my generation. When I’d finished, and put the paper (ahem, iPad screen) down, I felt so understood, so vindicated. I had been named.
According to the author, my peers and I belong to a unique group; we’re called “xennials,” and we are “the microgeneration between Gen X and Millennials.” We were born between 1977 and 1983, and we are not as tech savvy as the millennials, who have always grown up around technology, but we are as cynical as Gen X’er’s, whatever that means. We experienced an “analogue childhood, and a digital adulthood.” Basically, we played outside a lot when we were little, were rock stars if we had Nintendo, and now we’re trying to cope and keep up with constant tech inundation. Basically, as adults, we are over-stimulated cynics. Yep, that’s about right.
I laugh every time I read this descriptor “overstimulated cynic” because it rings so true in my life. Is there a Facebook status for this? And if I had to pick an emoji to depict it, which would I choose? I also think that the two words are deeply connected. I’ve realized lately that my social media habits have a pattern. I pick up my phone when I feel empty, bored, and when I am wanting to avoid the adulting requirement of the moment. I pick it up instead of picking up dirty dishes; instead of picking up the hundredth roly poly of the day outside with my little girl. I come away from my various screens too stimulated to face my actual life well, and far less hopeful that my life can be rich because it doesn’t look like my Instagram feed. I’m an overstimulated, cynical mom, friend and daughter.
For some reason, I believe the lie that social media stimulation is neutral. I believe that I can check out without any consequence, and after shifting my pointer finger from bottom to top of screen for five minutes, that I’m going to come away at best revived, and at worst, totally neutral. Yet, the moments I’m scrolling, looking at the beautiful, are usually the moments I’m sitting in the not-so-beautiful.
This is probably true for most of us, in the sense that every one of us has written into our DNA the longing for Eden. Longing is directional; we’re all trying to get back to this place of peace and beauty. A place where we deeply rest, assured of receiving what we need, assured that our work and movement will bring about visible, good change. We are wired to live in this, this garden of connection, without fear or uncertainty. Instead, we are trying to make it through here. And the glittery images of media would have us conclude that some people out there (just not us) have managed to get back in, back into the garden.
Life lived and felt honestly here in the day to day, is going to hold emptiness, boredom, and a ton of uncertainty. Day in and out, this is the feel of life on earth, sprinkled, by God’s mercy, with moments of brilliance, laughter, impact, rescue, and undeserved connection. But emptiness is where we will be drawn back. Even as I write this, I wonder how depressing this blog post will be to read. What will you do with me when I remind you that empty is where you are going to land, at least for today?
By necessity, we are meant to feel the unresolved Story, but with the help of social media, we run far from this. If I were to drop the constant stimulation, I would first feel the irritability of withdrawal. I often don’t get past this stage, opting instead for more stimulation. Withdrawal would be followed by maybe some vague loss or dullness in looking at my current view.
It doesn’t have to end here though. I could keep going, directing my eyes to seeing tangible beauty around me. Beauty that isn’t filtered, frozen in time with happy expressions. Yes, it almost always returns to chaos, but it is beauty nonetheless. When I actually pull my eyes away from “feeds” that don’t ever feed me, I can actually be fed. If I could keep going, I may actually have the capacity to sense the Spirit leading kindly. I may be fed by my child’s laughter, by the trees in front of my house, by sights and smells I’ve done nothing to deserve.
All these signposts pointing me to my ultimate landing spot, a renewed and perfectly resolved Home. All worthy of my noticing, weary engagement, and gratitude. And me, the overstimulated cynic, in the middle of it, quieted and hopeful.
Meredith joined The Barnabas Center staff in January 2009, upon completing her Masters in Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and her Bachelors in Religion and Psychology from Furman University. She counsels, leads women’s groups and teaches a seminar called “Hope in the Darkness” for those walking with individuals suffering from depression or bipolar disorder.