I have to admit I am a bit of a nerd. I love to learn. I always have. And as a result I love great teachers.
At the moment my absolute favourite teacher is a guy named John Mark Comer. He lives in Portland, US but because of the awesome invention of podcasts I get to listen to him all the time. He has a crazy gift of taking seriously complicated life issues and making them simple. On top of that he shares great stories and is completely relatable. He has taught me so much about what it means to be human and to thrive in relationships, in sexuality, in faith and in community. Let’s just say I’m a fan.
A few months ago I decided to start following John Mark (yes, I feel like we are on first name terms) on Instagram. Between Instagram and podcasts I quickly knew a lot about this person I admired: what sports he and his wife enjoy, the names of his kids, the fact that they are minimalist and vegan (how cool!!) and that he is obsessed with good coffee (although because he is vegan he has to drink it with almond milk!).
A few weeks ago I woke up before the rest of the household as usual. I made my tea and checked my phone. Something miraculous had happened over night. There was an Instagram notification on my phone which I had to read twice: John Mark Comer has requested to follow you. What? One of my heroes wanted to follow ME on Instagram. I heard angels sing as I screen shot the evidence to send to a couple of friends who wouldn’t think I was a complete freak.
Of course I accepted John Mark’s follow request and started my day with a spring in my step. I could see a double date over almond milk lattes in a downtown Portland coffee shop some day in my future. My husband just smiled and indulged me.
A couple of hours later the dream died. The double date slipped back into the relm of fantasy.
John Mark posted on his Instagram that his account had been cloned and hundreds of fake follow requested had been posted. “This is not me,” he stated on his official page.
It took me a moment to get over my disappointment but soon my girlfriends were laughing with (at?) me and I got on with my life.
But it did get me thinking about the power of social media and the influence it has over our emotions and feeling of self-worth. Let’s be honest, the fact that John Mark Comer wanted to follow me felt pretty good, like what I was doing was worthwhile and impactful, even to someone and influential as him. And when that wasn’t true, it didn’t feel great. And I am a mature, level-headed 42-year-old.
Imagine I was 12-year-old aspiring football player player and John Mark was Lionel Messi? Imagine the emotional rollercoaster in that heart and mind? The feelings of unworthiness.
Also social media makes us feel so connected to people we don’t even know. We admire people from afar, only seeing the polished high-lights reel of their lives.
The fact is I don’t know John mark Comer from a bar of soap. And vice versa. Sure I can learn and be inspired by his teaching and his life, but I have no connection to him and his family.
My connections are with those around me. The amazing husband who indulges my childish excitement and never says “I told you so” when I do stupid things, the friends who understand my weirdness and encourage me in my dreams. The kids who call me “the best mom ever” and leave silly lymerics next to my bed to read and giggle at when I come home late from a talk.
These are the relationships which feed me and in whom I find my significance and belonging. Face to face and in the daily grind. And when I try to find it through social media it will let me down every time.
So John Mark, if you ever read this, thank you for sharing your teaching gift with the world and enjoy your $5 almond latte! I’ll be having my next coffee with my swimming mates at Bike and Bean!