Facebook: The Collective Societal Brain Injury

What Filters?

When my sister-in-law, Amber, was recovering from her near-fatal car accident in late 2005, early 2006, we all had some laughs. I know. A violent car accident is no laughing matter. I’m with you there. And her rehabilitation period was pretty painful to watch. But there were some great moments of levity. This is primarily because Amber’s filters were gone.

Since Amber’s head hit a tree at 65mph, her brain was pretty damaged. It’s a miracle she didn’t die on the spot. (You can watch more on her miraculous story here). As a result, her brain took a long time to get back to functioning the way it always had, and one of those effected operations was her speech process.

No, not her speaking abilities. She could still talk, and did plenty of it. I mean, the way her brain processed what she was going to say before she said it.

The neurologists explained it to us like this, and I’m paraphrasing the half dozen or so that studied Amber over many months:

“All of us have filters in our brains. They’re like gates. They measure what we think we want to say against what we actually should say, and prevent us from making logical, cultural and emotional mistakes with our words. Most people employ between 25 and 30 filters to every sentence before speaking. Amber is employing a big fat 0.”

In other words, Amber was saying every single thing she was thinking the moment she thought to say it. She was truly being her most honest self 100% of the time.

It was scary. And crazy funny.

From calling the nurses at St. Mary’s Rehabilitation Hospital “penguins” because she was convinced they were all nuns, to using every four letter word you can think of, to telling a doctor, “I’m pretty sure my mom is trying to kill me,” Amber was the source of much comic relief. And given how stressful the situation really was, we all needed something hilarious.

Bring On The Filters

Over time, Amber’s brain healed. The filters dropped back in place, and her quick wit, humor, and incredibly accurate memory returned. (Sometimes we all wonder if we’re the ones dealing with traumatic brain injuries as she’s so much smarter than us).

This blog post could end right here, praising God for his miraculous power, and I’d be quite fine to let it. My wife’s older sister is alive today, and according to physics and science, she shouldn’t be.

But in the same way that Amber’s speech filters returned over time, I’m watching society’s filters break down. Specifically, in Facebook-land.

Instagram is for appreciators.

Twitter is for intellectuals.

But Facebook is the collective societal brain injury.

Those 25 to 30 filters between our brains and our tongues were put in place by God, I’m convinced of it. They keep us from saying stupid things. Damaging things. Things that would betray our innermost selves. And for good reason: our innermost selves need redeeming. If Amber’s filter-less brain is a reflection of what a stunning, brilliant, Bible-schooled lady can think, you definitely don’t want my brain hard wired to my mouth. Lord, help us.

I could lump all of social media together, and call it all rotten. But that’s simply not the case. And I could and probably should subdivide Facebook into smaller groups, as there are many great users (and great uses for it). But the reality is, if you’ve been on Facebook for any length of time, you’ve experienced some level of filter-less communication. Maybe you were the one saying something you shouldn’t have, or more likely, you received a comment that irked you. That rattled you for days. One little comment that kept you awake at night. And you said, “If I were with that person face to face, I’d…”

You’d what?

And therein lies my point.

The bane of Facebook, and arguably anything that’s not “in person,” is that it’s fake at some level. Not fake as in what’s being said isn’t real. Quite the opposite. What’s being said is too real. It’s your brain with a head injury.

When you’re sitting with your dad over coffee and you want to say the real thing in your head, but don’t—because you know it would crush him—you’re filtering.

When you’re standing in your boss’ office and can’t seem to resurrect that fantasy from the night before where you threw a stapler at his head, and instead you’re speaking with a calm tone to try and reason through a dilemma together, you’re filtering.

When you want to fire an employee but don’t, when you want to ground your child for life but refrain, when you want to slam the phone down, throw the computer, or pull the pin from the grenade but leave it in, you’re filtering. You’re preserving.

You’re loving.

Check Yourself

There’s a myriad of reasons, causes and stimuli that keep us in check, that keep you and me filtered. Some good, some bad, but all working together. Decency, intimidation, loyalty, eye contact, fear, cameras, honor, respect, humiliation, tone, power, nobility, patience, hostility, cultural faux pas, expectations, breathing speed, physical dominance, security guards. As humans, we’re extremely alert creatures. We notice everything. So much so, only 7% of communication is verbal. That means, to convey all the emotions and meaning behind your statements, 93% of what you’re communicating has nothing to do with what you could type.

93%.

That’s why a book, the Bible, can never be the fourth person of the Trinity. That’s why Jesus had to come in the flesh to get across what we’d been messing up since the dawn of time. And that’s why Facebook is so good at fostering environments that propagate rhetoric and not relationship.

The filters are gone, the nuance is lost, and we’re trying to have conversations with 93% of the information missing.

We’ve all been taught that being afraid of certain people, and therefore not saying “what we really want to,” is bad. And to a certain degree, I agree. There’s something to be said for confidence, for standing up for what you believe in. But there’s also an argument that certain type’s of fear are healthy. It’s a filter. As is not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings, not wanting to disrespect someone’s age or position, and not wanting to offend.

I know, imagine that.

Anytime someone types, “I don’t mean to offend you, but…” what they’re really saying is, “I would never say this to your face in the same way I’m typing this now, but since you’re not here, and I don’t feel responsible to you, I’m going to say it anyway.”

Reigning It In

In a world where everyone is entitled to their opinion, everyone is empowered to share their opinion sans filter, and further, everyone thinks their opinion is the right one, people’s statements lose their relevance because they’ve abandoned cultural sanity.

I’ll give you an example. I’m a clergyman. I’m paid to know and study scripture, to counsel people, to lead a community. It’s not my hobby on the side. It’s my profession. And I’ve been at it professionally for almost twenty years. And yet I find it ironic how easily people can argue with me over theology. Not that they can’t, or shouldn’t. But that it’s careless. Can you imagine arguing with your doctor as he’s making an incision during an operation? “Hey, doc, maybe a little more to the left.” Or how about with your mechanic. “Are you sure that’s the wrench you really want to use?”

In a virtual world, everyone’s an expert, because everyone’s opinion matters. But opinions rarely sway people; more often, they tick them off.

No one ever wins a hard lining liberal to a conservative position in a comment thread. Nor does an atheist get a Christian to disown Jesus. Yet those attempts, and many less polarizing ones, are representational of the countless I’ve seen on Facebook. Sports, scriptures, television shows, recipes, the weather. It’s insane. It’s a collective brain injury.

The Face Test

In the absence of filters, people say what they never should.

While I could give you “10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Posting or Commenting on Facebook,” the chances are, you’d never remember them. Especially in the heat of the moment.

So here’s my cardinal rule that I try and follow daily, sometimes breaking when I hit my forehead too hard on a desk:

First, if I wouldn’t say my criticism to someone’s face, it shouldn’t be typed, and if it is, it’s private; and second, I must consider whether I have an actual physical audience with the person in real life.

The first part is hard enough, and I think it’s self explanatory, arguably solving the large majority of public Facebook issues that arise.

But the second is more intense. Meaning, if I don’t actually know the person, or the likelihood of me seeing them within the week is non-existent, I refrain from commenting. If it’s outside of my relationship, it’s illegal.

If the Bible calls this gossip and a loose tongue, I’d call it modern gossip and being an idiot. It’s why you don’t see me lambasting celebrities online. It breaks both parts of the cardinal rule: first, I wouldn’t say it to their face, and second, I don’t know them. (Read Matthew 18:15-17 on how to handle offenses).

All this stems primarily from how I want to be treated as a person. When someone easily says something to me online that I know that they’d have a much harder time saying to my face, and when someone acts like they know me when they really don’t (listen to Creativecast episode 3 on familiarity and transparency), it demeans me. If I don’t like it, why should I subject others to it? That’s hypocrisy, and unChristlike.

Picking A Home for Content

The second measure I employ is selective posting.

Facebook: The only things I post on Facebook anymore are announcements, general updates and pictures that are linked from my Instagram account. I still have 8,000+ followers on Facebook, and the majority of them are awesome, so it’s a great way to get information out. But the reason that the majority of what I post is pictures is simply because it’s hard to argue over pictures of someone’s life, especially when my goal in posting to Instagram is to give meaningful glimpses into what Christian life can look like. It’s a tool. That’s all.

Because Facebook is such a varied audience, and the nature of long-form posting there requires a thorough and sometimes exhaustive explanation in order for people to get your point without having a brain hemorrhage, it gets the least amount of critical information from me. I don’t need the headache, and users should spend their time doing better things. I had one famous theologian private message me on Twitter and confess, “I treat it very differently. Facebook is the devil.”

(As a humorous but no less intentional example, you won’t find a link to this post on Facebook, at least from me, because too many users there would freak out that I’m critical of the platform. You will find it on Twitter, however). 

Twitter: In contrast, Twitter, by virtue of it’s short form context, allows small, poignant statements that invite users into a larger dialog, stimulated by their own experiences and pursuits. While there may be intense discussion, users are limited to 140 characters at a time, which means you’ve got to know what you’re talking about (and if you don’t, everyone can tell).  The large majority of my posting happens here, and I love the Twitter community for that very reason.

Instagram: Posting to Instagram became a daily discipline over two years ago, when I realized it forced me to view my life intentionally. There are thousands of visual moments that make up my day; by pinpointing at least one, it’s made me savor the richness of life around me, and promote the things I see God doing in my world. It is, simply put, a form of visual evangelism.

Communicate Where and What You Love

Listen, if you love Facebook, and you’ve found a niche there where you can have a positive impact, I salute you. I genuinely admire that. It’s simply not something that’s healthy for me; I prefer Twitter, my blog, and Instagram. But regardless of where you spend most of your time, remember to filter. Avoid virtual brain injury syndrome (VBIS). Guard your words. Filter your statements. Be selective on where certain content goes. And for the love of God and all that is holy, make sure to breath. People do need our love more than our opinions.

Christopher

REDACTED: [All the other things he wanted to say].

Advice for Teen Girls When Talking To My Wife

IMG_1832-0.JPG

My wife, Jennifer, is an amazing woman. And she was an amazing teenager.

Yes, she was in a relationship too young. And got out of it. And was in a second relationship with a guy who needed serious counseling. And she got out of that one too.

She also walked the talk as a Christian.

She did her first 40-day juice and water fast at 15 years old. (And still was first-string on her soccer team). When her other friends were off partying at midnight, she was laying on her face next to her flag pole, praying for revival in her school. She was devoted, outspoken for Jesus. And was still Homecoming Queen.

She was a rockstar.

As a teenager.

Because of this faithfulness, she addressed thousands of her peers in arenas around the country. Multiple times. And sang in front of 25,000 teens on the Mall in Washington, DC. All to give glory to her one true love, King Jesus.

God rewards those who pay a price to follow him.

Ladies, if you have my wife’s phone number or are friends on Facebook, don’t text: “So, can I ask you a question?”

Listen, I love that you admire her. So do I. Either ask your question, or don’t. Pretending like you’re weighing your options when you’re stepping up to bat with a Titan of faith is unbecoming.

And if you’re going to ask for her pearls of wisdom, please mean it. In other words, don’t insult her by throwing them in the mud after she gives them to you. Her time and her testimony are valuable. They’re gold, and then some. If you really value her, decide in advance that you’re going to model what she’s modeled for you. Or don’t bother asking. You’ll be wasting your time and her’s.

Ladies, you have this sneaky way of so desperately wanting her advice when you don’t have a boyfriend, conveniently throwing yourself into Jesus. But the moment that cute boy comes along, you suddenly vanish off the map for six months.

Here’s my advice: don’t expect to get the life she has without paying the price she paid to get it.

Wisdom is purchased, not transferred.

Start saving early.

“Wisdom is supreme. Get wisdom. Yes, though it costs all your possessions, get understanding.”

King Solomon of Israel (Proverbs 4:7 WEB)

Do you want to know why she’s such an amazing woman? Because she sought wisdom, and chose to cling to it even when other things seemed more enticing. This was hard. She was not proven faithful when life was easy—she became great in the midst of adversity. I could not ask for a more remarkable, more intelligent, more steadfast, more beautiful, more passionate woman than her. She paid for every one of those attributes, and more.

If you want role models, true female models, they’re out there. Most aren’t on the covers of magazines, and most won’t give you the answers you want. Just make sure you’re really going to do what they say before you ask for their pearls; they get tired of being insulted as soon as your fancy changes.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 7:6 ESV)

To those of you who have listened to Jennifer, and in turn, listened to Jesus, you know who you are, and I applaud you. Thank you for treating my wife’s wisdom with the honor it deserves. Your lives are testimonies of God’s faithfulness to those who pursue him at any cost. I love you for honoring the Jesus in my wife. Carry on.

Christopher

How Do They Get So Much Accomplished?

Aside from trying to answer my children on why I have more hair on my chest that I do on top of my head, one of the questions people ask me the most is, “How do you manage to do all that you do?”

While I’m always honored that my conduct is worth asking about, the question has a few inherent flaws. One of those is assuming that I’m faithful to all the things I need to get done. For every one thing someone sees, there are dozens more that need attention. And I carry that reverently, as everything worth doing has a person on the other side of it.

But with regard to the question itself, we need to make sure we break it down more accurately.

Reading It Right

Don’t confuse productivity with capacity and support.

It’s dangerous to compare ourselves to others. But analyzing peoples methods can often be thought-provoking, informative and convicting. So it’s worth investigating when you’re able to rub shoulders with someone whom you admire.

How Much Can You Carry?

It’s important to recognize that some people are born with a higher natural capacity to produce things than others. They have certain gifts and natural dispositions that lend to high output lifestyles. My senior pastor, Kirk Gilchrist, has a natural gift of leadership. I try and emulate it as best I can, but what I have to work for, he has naturally.

You can work toward having a greater natural capacity but, ultimately, capacity has to do with how you’re put together.

The greatest thing you can do to increase your capacity is allow yourself to be stretched. And this isn’t exactly a warm-fuzzy process. It will test the limits of your patience, stamina, stress thresholds, memory and relationships. This doesn’t mean you take on fifty things, just the next thing. This means that you’ll operate within your own natural capacity, not someone else’s, and then look to the next step that makes you uncomfortable, not the next thirty steps.

Who’s On Their Team?

Very often, we see what’s attributed to one person when in reality it was created by many people.

Most people who produce a lot have amazing support systems in place. Movies are great examples of this. The main actor or director usually gets the red carpet treatment. But sit through the credits of the next film you enjoy, and really think through all the faces that go with each of those names.

These key supporters allow producers to offer more than what they’re able to do on their own. This is a quality of leadership, and should not be confused with someone’s natural ability to create or carry something. One of the only reasons I’m able to appear to do all that I do is because of those who’ve partnered with me. Accordingly, it’s become of one of my personal goals to shower them with as much praise and recognition as I can. They deserve it, and so much more.

Be a Voracious Learner

The best that we can do is glean from people’s habits and try to apply them to ourselves where possible.

What time people get up and go to sleep, how they treat their bodies and what feed their spirits, what they’re reading, how often they take breaks, interact with others, deal with stress, they lead their teams, take criticism, delegate, craft, adhere to timelines and engage in the creative process are all examples of things we can learn regardless of our natural capacities or current support structures.

Forget productivity.

Monitor your capacity and honor your supporters.

ch:

Learn Like You Eat

20140118-092846.jpg
[Image from The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers]

Teaching people is a lot like feeding people. Since I’m familiar with the idea of feeding people in our restaurants, the analogy works well.

Some people hate your food. They don’t like it, and won’t have it again. Others didn’t like it before, but they were forced to see you a second time because a friend dragged them in. They actually hate your food so much, they’re prone to throw some back at you. Like a monkey that throws poop. Or a spitting llama.

Other people enjoy your food, and really appreciate being at your establishment. But you’d never know it by the way they talk. Nor do their faces give anything away. They’re a hard read with no kickback. The only reason you know that they like your food at all is that they keep coming back. But even this could be because of neophobia.

The people you really want to see are those that down-right love your food. They walk in with wide eyes, they eat on the edge of their seat, and always ask you for more. If you’re a buffet, they’ll bankrupt you; if you’re a fine dining locale, they’ll bankrupt themselves. And then die of fat cancer. (Hopefully they tell all their friends about you before they die).

•••

I do a considerable amount of teaching. And imparting, demonstrating, coaching, counseling and mentoring. In fact, as a pastor and a geek, I’m in the business of passing on everything I know and everything I do—it’s a prerequisite for the position. And while any one of us in key places of teaching others could be and should be spending long hours perfecting our craft, there’s something to be said for asking our students to perfect their craft.

Of learning.

To me, the “eaters” that are the most frustrating are actually not the first group I listed above. People that hate my instruction are at least being honest with me. As long as we can get past their personal attacks, we usually end up having a decent and civil dialog in which they express they don’t want to hear anything I have to say. And I don’t want to share anything with them (citing the pearls before swine algorithm), so we’re cool.

And the third group is certainly not the segment that frustrates me the most either. Eager learners? Frustrating? Come on. That’s like being upset that the state fair just have you 100 free VIP tickets to see REO Speedwagon with all your friends.

The people that are the most confusing, most disconcerting and most draining are those that you can’t tell if they’re excited to be learning from you or not. They showed up, which is a good thing. But you’re fairly sure they’re thinking about baseball while you’re talking. (Which is great if you happen to be a baseball coach. Not so much if you’re teaching them about marriage, audio mixing or writing technique).

You’re probably going to learn something today. It may be by accident, it may be because you’re paying to be in a class. But either way, the chances are that one person or another will be involved in the educating process, intentionally or not. So try this on for size:

• At least act like you’re interested. If you’re not interested at first, sometimes the acting bit influences your reality, especially when a bad attitude is getting the best of you.

• Take notes. Copious note takers are the quintessential markers of eager learners. Having a notebook says, “I came prepared, expecting to learn something worth writing down, and because I’ve written it down, I’ll most likely look at it again.” Fewer things tell a teacher that you value their knowledge and experience than taking notes does. (Oh, and be sure to look up occasionally too; nothing makes a teacher curious as to whether or not you’re drawing pictures of ligers than zero eye contact).

• Ask genuine questions about the situation. Not edgy questions, not baited questions and not barbed questions. Ask honest questions that you’re interested to know the answers to. The best teachers are those who love dialog. So resist the urge to sit there stiff and mute, and say something.

• Thank your teacher twice. Once when the lesson—accidental or otherwise—concludes, and a second time a few hours later. I spent a few hours pouring into two different guys yesterday in two different meetings, one on media arts, the other on his life-course. Both guys were thankful for the meetings as they left my office, but by the end of the day, both had sent me a meaningful text message, thanking me for specific aspects of my investment. Guess who’ll be getting follow up meetings with me.

•••

You have learning opportunities all around you. It might be an argument with your wife, where you look eagerly to see if you’re wrong, take a note on something she’s asking you to do, and followthrough with a text later in the day, thanking her for what she revealed in you. It might be a run-in with a boss or a co-worker. Or maybe you’re in school and recognize you’re not on the edge of your seat, and you never even thought about thanking your professor.

It’s your proactive response to these moments that dictates how much you value the wisdom and life experience of others. You just don’t owe it to your teachers, you owe it to yourself. Because it’s you’re own time you’re wasting if you don’t appreciate them.

Eat up,

ch:

Unexpected Happens Fast

20120129-115541.jpg

These two photographs were taken within about one mile of each other on Rt. 12 North yesterday.

One moment the roads were wet from a light rain, grass on both sides of the road; the next, visibility was reduced to about 200 yards and traffic was moving at 20mph.

Life has a way of changing gears on us.

Fast.

But there are some practical steps for navigating its turbulent conditions:

1.) Get intel from those who’ve gone ahead of you. Jennifer called me just as I was taking my normal route home from church. “Don’t go the back way. It’s bad.”

Being old does have its perks; and the perk of being young is the blessing of listening to people who’ve driven the road ahead of you.

“He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.” -Proverbs 15:32

2.) Respect good equipment. The snow tires on my front-wheel drive Matrix are killer. But I tend to delay changing tires out. For a time-sensitive guy like me, it’s a hassle. An inconvenience. But getting in an accident it a bigger inconvenience. Fortunately for me yesterday, I put my snow tires on two weeks ago.

And I was three cars behind a snow plow.

While the oncoming lane had two inches of snow to navigate, I had smooth sailing.

Preparing yourself emotionally (by measuring your responses and keeping everything in perspective), physically (by taking good care of your body while you have the opportunities), and spiritually (by actively growing your faith in God) can often be the difference between making your destination and sliding off the road.

Learn to follow people better equipped than you are; you may move a little slower, but success is usually guaranteed when compared with the alternatives.

3.) Pray simple prayers. The late Elizabeth Austin – by far the most spiritually mature woman I’ve ever know (and the most successful evangelist to ALL the nations I’ve ever heard of) – used to tell me her most spiritual prayer ever was, “Help!”

We can have all the wisdom and preparation in the world, but without a relationship with Jesus we’re bankrupt in a snow drift just waiting for a tow we can’t even afford.

(Praise God that He’s quite good at pulling us out, too).

I think that was the secret to the success of the people mentioned in Psalm 112:7:

“They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.”

What things in your life have helped you prepare for and cope with the unexpected storms of life? (You could be a real blessing to someone by sharing).

Thanks for reading. Thanks for sharing. ch:

Placenta Marketing

One of the things you learn early on about communicating in other countries – especially as a keynote speaker – it’s many anecdotes just don’t translate.

Especially your clever acronyms or Christianese scriptural devices.

Likewise, some marketing ideas ought to be left in their country of origin.

Jenny texted me this pic with a caption left to the imagination. (Keep in mind she just gave birth).

Before you go announcing your next big idea, or spouting of your new opinion, do everyone a favor and remember who you’re speaking to. Effective communication begins with intentionally acknowledging your audience.

Mothers around the world will thank you. ch:

20111008-070425.jpg