FamilyLife Today®

Rob Singleton: Overliked: “Connection, Social Media, and Self-Esteem

with Rob Singleton | August 5, 2022
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Social media holds remarkable power over our sense of self. Rob Singleton, author of Overliked, gets real about social media and self-esteem.
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Social media holds remarkable power over our sense of self. Rob Singleton, author of Overliked, gets real about social media and self-esteem.

Rob Singleton: Overliked: “Connection, Social Media, and Self-Esteem

With Rob Singleton
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August 05, 2022
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Rob: When the things you're doing are starting to be characterized—by getting people to like you, getting people to notice you, getting people to obsess about you—then you're one step away from self-worship. If there's one sin that leads to all others, it's pride: “You know, how can I get people to like me?”—then—“How can I get people to love me?”—then—“How can I get people to adore me?”

 

Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.

Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

 

Dave: We live in the most connected generation ever; right?

Ann: Absolutely.

Dave: But are we connected?

Ann: I would say we're less connected now than we have been.

Dave: Yes; we're connected socially; we're connected digitally, but all the stats say we’re as unconnected as we've ever been.

Ann: I probably text my kids more than call them. Would you say that's true for most parents?

Dave: I love texting. [Laughter] I would/I would text every time instead of making a phone call.

Ann: Why?!

Dave: It's the greatest invention in the world.

Rob: Cuts it off; doesn’t go long.

Dave: I don’t need to call you; I just text you real quick. Hopefully, you'll just text me back and we're good to go. And again, it is a real blessing; because you can do that while you're in a meeting.

Ann: That's true.

Dave: You can do that watching a TV show instead of picking up the phone and calling.

But there's something that keeps us disconnected about that.

Ann: Yes; I think there's something we miss when we're only texting.

Dave: Yes; so we started a conversation yesterday with Rob Singleton. He's back in the studio with us today to talk about this world that we are connected but disconnected. Rob, welcome back—

Rob: Thanks. Great to be here for day two.

Dave: —pastor out in Centennial, Colorado—the Summit Church. How many years you been there?

Rob: I've been there going on six now.

Dave: Really?

Ann: And you founded a church in North Carolina.

Rob: Yes, started real small with eight people; and God’s seen an amazing work there.

Dave: That’s hard to do.

Ann: You and Michelle have been married how long?

Rob: Twenty-six and a half years.

Ann: And you have two kids, grown adults.

Dave: Don't you have a daughter-in-law?

Rob: I have a son-in-law.

Dave: Oh, son-in-law; so your daughter is married.

Rob: My son is not married. We don't—he's such a nomad; he's such a gypsy—I don't know if he ever will get married.

Ann: But he's doing stuff that's pretty amazing for the kingdom.

Rob: Oh, he’s; yes.

Ann: Yes, that's cool.

Dave: Yes; in some ways, he's working in this area that you wrote about.

Overliked is your book about this whole connected, unconnected digital world we live in. It's a passion of yours.

Rob: Yes.

Dave: Why?

Rob: The hard way; that's how I learned it. I think I got caught up in maybe what's an easier route of—instead of really opening myself up, and letting people see my own struggles and things I went through—it's just easier, sometimes, to put out there. Through social media, much easier to put out there what you think people want to see, what they want to hear, how they will like you more: “Hey, if I was just a little more like this, I'd have more followers,” “If I said things this way,” or “…wasn't offensive,” or “….never touched on these subjects, you know, it'd be great. I'd have a bigger audience.” That's an easy thing to get caught up in.

Ann: You feel like you did that.

Rob: I'm not proud of that; the Lord’s kind of dealt with that in my heart. And really, a lot of friends I have in ministry, honestly, they've all dealt with it.

Ann: Yes.

Rob: If I could help people to not get caught up in that, that's really why I wrote it.

Ann: I think that, as parents, we’re worried about that for our kids; and we're looking at our kids thinking, “Oh, no.” I think it's a fear that most parents have today of: “How do I deal with this? Because there isn't a generation before me that kind of went through it and they can help me with it.” Because these parents are some of the first ones.

Rob: Yes; we transitioned. I mean, we weren't born with a device in our hands.

Ann: Right.

Rob: Let's see: my kids would have got to probably about six or seven when it was beginning to appear everywhere. Now, kids born today, they know nothing of how we grew up; they know nothing of: “Hey, go outside and play, and come back when it gets dark.” [Laughter] I mean, there were no helicopter parents. It was a different world. We knew what it was like to not have people staring at you, spying on you, reading everything you wrote/just your whole world out there on front stage.

They don't; this is just more natural. I think the trap is far more dangerous today for kids growing up.

Dave: Yes; we know, as parents, that there's positives/there's good—it's not all evil—but you have a lot of stats in your book that I had not seen. And we've covered this many times, here, at FamilyLife Today. One of them was just this simple statement from your book—and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this—“The more time a person spends on social media, the lower their self-esteem”; really?

Rob: Absolutely. Sometimes, when something is presented, it sounds like: “Oh, this will work; this is the silver bullet.” And when we start doing said thing, and it doesn't work, we don't say, “Okay, this was bogus,” and give up. We try harder; we press in even more. It's a definition of insanity: doing something over and over again and thinking you're going to get a different result. I think we do that with social media.

I think I heard that you can have like 50 authentic relationships, at the most. As far as deep, best friend types, it's something like seven. And when you—

Ann: That even seems like a lot to me.

Rob: Yes, but when you're talking about thousands—I look on my Facebook® page, I don't know 98 percent of those people—I don't know them. Sorry if that hurt your feelings if you're on mine. [Laughter] I have no idea who they even are; how can they really be a part of a category they're calling “friends”? Push came to shove—and they said, “Who is this person?”—you can't even answer that.

Dave: And yet it's crazy that we could walk around, thinking, “I feel better about myself because I have 10,000 Facebook friends,” or “…1,000…” or “…even 500…”—it doesn't matter—a number that sounds significant and yet, like you said, we don't know hardly any of those. What is in our DNA that makes us feel good about that?

Rob: I think, when you really want to change a culture, or you really want to shift control, I think it starts with words: change the definition of words. And when you look at what friendship—Jesus said this to the disciples—“You are My servants; you were My followers; I now call you friend.” When He said: “To follow Me, you got to take up your cross and follow Me.” 

Here's two words we use today: “friend” and “follower.” And Jesus is going to the cross and saying: “We're so close that you’re My actual friends,” and “To really follow Me, it's not light. It's going to be like taking up a crucifix/real cross and dragging that around in life.”

How does that compare to clicking a button and becoming a follower? How does that compare to putting a thumbs up? They could not be further apart. The definition of friend and follower has just completely changed almost 180 degrees. That's why it doesn't deliver, because it doesn't even mean the same thing anymore.

Dave: And yet, to cultivate a real friendship is really hard work; to get a follower not so hard.

Ann: Like how many people would you say: “They really know me. They know all my deepest stuff”; do you have some?

Rob: —a handful.

Ann: Yes.

Rob: A handful.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Yes, I don't think it's really going to be much bigger than that for anyone.

Ann: Me too.

Dave: It takes real hard work. I mean, people would come up to me, as a pastor, in the grocery store—you name it—and go: “Oh, I really know you.” You just think: “You don't know hardly anything.

Rob: “You have no idea.”

Dave: “You only know what I've shared in a sermon.”

But you do need—don't we?—three or four men in my life. You [Ann] need women in your life.

Ann: I need, at least, one that knows everything going on in my life. And you [Dave]—like I have you for sure—kids; but if I didn't have that, I'd feel incredibly lonely, no matter how many followers I had/no matter how many likes; because I'm just portraying, as you guys said, a surface of who I am; it's not the real me. And the fear is: “If they really know me, will they like me?”

Rob: Yes, and to really know you, you're going to have to be vulnerable.

Ann: Exactly.

Rob: And that's something nobody really wants to do. They're afraid: “If I'm vulnerable, that means telling you the truth; and once you know that, you won't like me.”

Ann: Exactly.

Rob: You asked earlier: “Why is this such a big problem? How did this happen?” Offline, again, we were talking about some other interviews of stuff I've done. It is typically parents and grandparents that’ll buy the book: they're worried about their kids; they're worried about their grandkids.

They'll hand this off, and they'll say, “Now, how can I make sure they really study this or that this really works?” I'll tell them something they don't always want to hear; which is: “Read it first, and go through it in your own life, and deal with these issues. Don't act like this is not a problem. It is a problem; it's an age-old problem. It goes all the way back to the garden and Adam and Eve. When you think about the serpent, the temptation there was: ‘Don't follow God; there's something better. Do this one thing you're not allowed to do/one thing; eat of the one tree that is forbidden and you'll actually be like God, knowing good from evil.’”

When I think about Paradise, and all the things they were allowed to do, and the one thing they weren't allowed to do, it's like a five-year-old kid—only thing he wants to do is have that cookie or touch that dessert—and that's how Adam and Eve were. But the promise was the one that Satan himself had broken. He was the worship leader in heaven; he directed worship to God. As he deflected worship to God Almighty, he began to want to absorb it. He began to receive that worship and think: “I want this”; you know, “Why shouldn't I be God?” And when that failed, that's basically what he tries to get everybody to do throughout history: get you to worship yourself.

The reason I wrote this: the real hidden sin/the big temptation is as old as the garden; it is: “How can I get people to like me?”—then—“How can I get people to love me?”—then—“How can I get people to adore me? How can I get people to obsess over me?”

Now, I understand people hearing this might be going, “I don't do that.” Well, maybe you're not at the adoration phase; but if you get frustrated because someone un-likes you or un-follows you, then sort of the tentacles of that trap are already there.

People go: “Well, what's too many likes? What is the over in overliked?”

Dave: Yes.

Rob: And I tell them: “It's not a threshold; it's more like a foothold. It's not like 10,000 likes means a warning sign is going to go off: ‘You're approaching overliked.’” You're not; it's a mindset shift. When the things you're doing are starting to be characterized by—getting people to like you, getting people to notice you, getting people to obsess about you—then you're one step away from self-worship. Then, if there's one sin that leads to all others, it’s that—it’s pride—it’s getting people to making life all about you.

Dave: As I'm hearing you talk, I'm thinking, “Man, it's like it almost can determine your mood: how you feel about life, based on likes.”

Ann: I think I'm old enough to know that that could easily happen. I was thinking about when our first book, Vertical Marriage, came out. Fox News—we didn't know it—they ran a piece of our book in their media for the weekend.

Dave: Fox News Opinion, I think, it was called.

Ann: Yes, and it ended up getting a ton of people reading it. As a result, there were a ton of people that commented on it. You know, we're coming from a biblical viewpoint of marriage. One of our sons called and said, “Whatever you guys do, do not read the comments.” [Laughter]

Rob: That’s smart.

Ann: Because some of them were really nice and some of them were really mean. I know me—and this is where I feel like there's a spiritual battle going on—it's not the nice ones that I'll hang on; it's the negative ones. And if I don't/if I'm not careful, that will play with my mind. It's like it was as you said: it can be a foothold for the enemy to start whispering lies.

So now, as I've gotten older, I didn't/I didn't read any—the good or the bad—because I want to go before the Father and say, “Father God, what do You think?” And for me, that's my safest place to be.

Dave: I've never gotten into it; you know? It's like I knew, before CJ—our oldest son, who's really tech savvy—before CJ said, “Hey, don't look at the comments,” I'm like, “I'm not going to look at any of these comments, because I know what's going to happen. People love to fire shots at people that they don't have in the room right in front of them”; so I didn't do that.

But I know that, as I watch our kids and other/the next generation, this is the world they're living in. They're like, “Of course, I read the comments. Why wouldn't I read the comments? I want to learn from the comments.”

So I can watch—and again, I'm not saying I'm above that—I didn't grow up with that. Like you said, we were handed a phone when we were adults; they've been handed a phone since they’re one/two years.

Ann: They watched us handle phones.

Rob: Yes.

Dave: Yes, so they've had to live in that world. It's a different reality for them.

As a parent, how do you help them navigate that? Because you're watching them—especially middle school/teenagers—try to navigate this social world: likes, not likes; thumb-up, thumbs-down world. How do we lead them? How do we help them?

Ann: And as parents, we’re tempted, just cut it all off, like: “We're done!”

Shelby: That’s Dave and Ann Wilson with Rob Singleton on FamilyLife Today. We'll hear his response in just a minute.

Sure, you're probably still frying in the heat; but doesn't that get you excited for the fall? It does for me; there's that snap of crisp air at last. And after all the weird schedules, and not seeing your people, the kids go back to school; and small groups start up again, which is great because God made us for community.

Now is a great time to check out FamilyLife’s small group studies at FamilyLifeToday.com, where you can use the code, “25OFF,” to save on all small group kits; that's promo code, “25OFF,” at FamilyLifeToday.com.

Alright; now, back to Dave and Ann’s conversation with Rob Singleton.

Rob: Our kids: they were the last to get phones; they were the last to get any technology; the last kids in school to get to have a Facebook page.

I think there's too many parents trying to be their kids’ friends instead of being their kids’ parent. They want to be liked so much instead of loved and honored. Take your shots, early, as a parent: you know, hold back on that as long as you can, giving them a phone. When you do:

  • Monitor it: make sure they don't go to bed and take it with them, and stay up till two in the morning, going through Instagram®, or TikTok®, or something.
  • Teach them Scriptures they can recite and put in their heart before they even go on.
  • Limit the time.
  • Filter it.

All these things that you can do that/it'll probably make you Public Enemy Number One for about two years; honestly, maybe not even that long. Parents are so afraid of that,—

Ann: Yes.

Rob: —but those are the same parents you talk to—five, six, seven years later—who feel like they've lost their kids entirely, because their kids are falling—it's the old thing: “If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for everything,”—and their kids are falling for everything now, because the parents didn't stand for anything. So monitor it, filter it,—

Ann: talk about it.

Rob: limit it, talk about it. Talk about—here’s something crazy—talk about the positive ways you can use it. Again, I feel like I have to say this over and over again: I'm not some cave-dwelling monk, who's saying, “Throw out all the technology.” I use it. One of the things we're probably going to do, as I do interviews—it’s so ironic—as people: “Alright, tell me where people can get ahold of you. What's all your social media?” [Laughter]

Dave: Exactly.

Rob: I'm the last guy that—and then you say it—so let me just say it: I've got some decent platforms to proclaim God's Word with and I love it. I love getting good news out there; I love helping people. As long as you're using it for that, it's fantastic. It can just be used for good or bad.

Dave: Speaking of parents, we had Jonathan McKee on. He is one of the best, I think, in helping us understand social media and coaching us, as parents, on how to help our kids. We're going to play a clip of what he had to say, and I'd love to hear you respond to it, Rob.

Rob: Awesome.

[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]

Jonathan: I think sometimes, as parents, we feel this pressure to block out all the bad stuff.

Ann: Yes.

Jonathan: Parents will sometimes walk up after my parent workshop—they walk up to me; they’ll hand me a device—and they'll be like: “Show me how to stop all the bad stuff from being on this. This is my daughter’s phone.”

Honestly, it's like we get sometimes so thinking we need to block—and I’ll confess; I think that's where I messed up as a parent—I think, sometimes, I was so worried about blocking out the lies, where I should have been more concerned about telling the truth, like: “I've been crucified with Christ; I no longer live but Christ lives in me,”—such a contrast to anything else they’re seeing at the time; which is, “Look at me. More likes/more followers.” It's like: “No, no, no; here's what matters: Christ in me.”

[Studio]

Rob: Wow; first thing I thought of was: “Greater is He that is in me than he that's in the world.” And by the grace of God, both my son and daughter are following the Lord with their whole heart, going after it. People do ask me, and that's a little bit of an awkward moment: "How did your kids turn out so great?”—as though we had no problems, and we did; we had our fair share of problems—but I do know that we talked a lot. We talked about everything, and we prayed together. We almost didn't miss a night, from being in the womb, and me praying over them all the way through their elementary/junior high. We prayed every night; we talked about things.

So yes, I can remember them showing me what's on their own Facebook or showing me what's/you know, what they're seeing. Thinking back now, you know what's really cool? They were never really afraid to come to me and show me or Michelle, my wife. They would talk about it; that must have come from just years of being open to that.

So now, when I say filter or limit, I'm just saying: “Use common sense.” And when something pops up, and says you're spending an average of eight hours a day on social media, something's got to give; that you are what you think, like you were saying before. So you've got to balance that, and there's some kind of hard parenting that goes with that.

But as long as they know that you love them, and you're talking about this with them, and you're on this journey together, I find that's a whole lot easier to do than swooping in, as the dad—who never had time for them, didn't pray with them, and saying you have all the answers—there's a lot of resentment that's probably built up. All they're going to be thinking is: “Why didn't you do this sooner?” or “Why you acting like you care now?”

I always feel like I have to be careful when I say this; because there could be grandparents or parents, going, “Wow, I'm having trouble now. My kid’s 18; I already blew it.” Honestly, through the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s never too late. It is never too late to right that ship. Be honest: “Why don't you talk to them and tell them that you feel like you messed up? That you really do love them and you're/this parenting thing you're learning, too; but you know, ‘Can I have a fresh start? Can we spend time together?’” They'll probably honor that if it's just honest.

Dave: You said it earlier; it's: “What are we modeling?”

Rob: Yes.

Dave: I've done this—I'm embarrassed to say this—but I've been sitting at a park, and looking over, and seeing maybe teenage/middle school girls doing the selfie thing. You know,—

Ann: —posing.

Dave: —just walking around the park—I remember this—snapping this; snapping this; and then they’re—you know, I'm assuming they're going to be posting that. Here I am—you know what I'm doing?—totally judging them: "Look at them. They're so into this; they think their world’s going to be better if they get this picture out and everybody likes them.”

And then, less than three months later, I'm with my granddaughter in Colorado; and she says, “Poppy, you're always on your phone.”

Rob: Oh, wow.

Dave: She just drops that. And you know, I look over, and Ann's shaking her head, like, “I've been telling him this forever.” I mean, it stung. When she said that, I would love to sit here and say I went, “You know what? Thank you. That was a/that was a word from God.”

I just looked at her like, “No, I'm not!” She’s like, “Yes you are Poppy. You're always looking down at your phone”; and she just walks away.

Rob: Out of the mouth of babes.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: I felt like God was saying, “Yes, you're judging others; and look at you. You're not posting Instagram photos, but you're doing the same thing. You're missing life right in front of you because of a wonderful device I gave you, called digital.” And it's awesome; the Word of God is getting to places it would never get, but it can be a dark valley if you're not careful.

It's really easy to even think about: “How do we help our kids?” when we got to look into the mirror and say, “I’ve got to start here.”

Ann: As I've listened to our conversation, the thing that really has struck me was—because both of my parents have recently passed away—but my greatest memories were all of us, sitting around the table. I'm the youngest of four kids. Man, those conversations were amazing; because my parents asked us what we thought. My parents asked us: “How are you doing?” My parents asked: “What's going on in your life?” and “What's going on in your friend’s life?” or “What are you feeling you feel pressure about?” My parents weren't even walking with Jesus at the time, but there was something that happened around the table that I felt like: “I really matter to them. I want to please them, because they love me; and they want to know me.”

And I'm thinking for our listeners—with families, of blended families, single parents/like there are so many different families—but sitting around the table and asking your kids: “What do you feel about social media? What's going on? How do you feel if you get likes or you don't get likes?” Or maybe if you have your little kids: “When do you guys think is the time a kid should get a phone?” Those conversations build unity. They make your kids realize: “This matters to my mom and dad; it matters to God; and so it's going to matter to me.”

I like that, Rob, that you said your kids came to you and asked you things/asked you questions that you thought, “Wow, this is pretty amazing.”

Dave: To that—yes—I was just thinking that conversation could start tonight.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: I'm sure there's a lot of families that haven’t had a conversation like that in days, weeks, or months. It could start tonight.

Ann’s dad just passed. I'll tell you one thing I noticed, every single day of her life, he called her; till the last breath, they talked daily. And watching that, as his son-in-law, but now as a dad, I'm like: “That's a model I could copy. That's the gift of a cell phone. You can communicate, not just through text, but you can make a call; and it's probably the most important call you'll make today.”

Shelby: You've been listening to Dave and Ann with Rob Singleton on FamilyLife Today. His book is called Overliked: Crippled by Social Media. You can get a copy at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 800-358-6329; that's 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Also, all this month, when you help reach more families with God's truth by giving to FamilyLife, we want to send you a copy of Jennie Allen's book called Find Your People. It's our thanks to you when you give this month at FamilyLifeToday.com or when you call, with your donation, at 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

We are so connected as a society; yet people are lonelier than ever. What is going on and what should we do? Well, next week, Dave and Ann are going to be talking about just that with Jennie Allen. It's going to be a great conversation. We hope you'll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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Episodes in this Series

Rob Singleton: Overliked: Crippled by Social Media
with Rob Singleton August 4, 2022
Social media can do a lot of goodâ€"yet hamstring authenticity. Rob Singleton, author of Overliked, builds out a new way of thinking about social image.
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