Thanks for Following Me???
-Moses, Jesus, Paul, Muhammed, Joseph Smith, Uncle Kracker
I don’t know about you Android folks, but sometime last year my iPhone graduated from auto-correct to auto-suggest. Whenever I’m typing an email on my phone, Siri starts to insert suggested words above the keyboard, generously offering to complete my sentences. I do not find this appealing; perhaps I now know how my wife feels when I do the same with her. (I apologize, Jenny).
What I find most annoying is how often the three Siri suggestions are completely off. No ma’am, I was not searching for the word “toga” when I entered the letters “t..i..” Was Siri just watching “Animal House?”
M’lady’s mistaken suggestion yesterday, however, was more than annoying; it was a scary testament to life in these selfie times. I was crafting a reply email to a new contact, and I started to type the words, “Thanks for following up on our conversation last week…”. Only, when I typed “Thanks for f…” the middle suggestion popped up and offered, “following me.” I hadn’t even typed the vowel after the “f”, and Siri guessed that, surely, I was thanking someone for following me. On social media, I’m guessing.
I don’t believe I’ve ever typed those words, so it couldn’t have been some scary learning algorithm based on my prior texts. I can only assume that “thanks for following me” is a very common phrase among iPhone users.
Thanks for following me? I’m not sure what about that statement bothers me the most. On the one hand, “follow me” is a ridiculously bold invitation—too bold a phrase to be thrown around as a self-esteem measurement. Those are the words of prophets and apostles, whose supreme confidence in their divine calling beckoned them to lead others in radically new ways of living. Somehow the solicitation to ogle one’s cat pics or “like” one’s duck-faced selfies feels a little less than holy.
On the other hand, “Thanks for following me,” as Siri believes is a natural thing to say, is a ridiculously insecure statement. It sounds nice, because you’re stating your gratitude, but thanking you for following me gives the impression you’re doing me a favor, and I need you to do so. This is especially true among folks like me, who offer ourselves up as the world’s thought-leaders and change agents; as the current American political race is showing us in spades, leaders who need you to follow them in order to validate their message are sad, insecure creatures indeed.
Of course, as I’m writing this, I’m conscious of the fact this email is going out to almost 30,000 of you. That is a list of “followers” we at ScreamFree have worked to build up over the past few years, and a list for which we are deeply grateful. But what I hope I never convey is “Thanks for following me.” That would be too bold, and yes, too insecure. It would also be too inaccurate. I have never been a lone agent, calling people to follow me as a singular individual. From the very beginning, I have been part of a courageous and talented team, each playing a vital role in developing, producing, and promoting the ScreamFree message and method. If anything, I would like to thank you for following us. What I’d rather do, however, is invite you to join us and teach us, as a movement of struggling parents and teachers and leaders trying to calm ourselves down, and grow ourselves up, to become the mature adults the worlds need most.
There is a crisis of adulthood in our world, and that’s the tragedy happening on our phones, and through our social media. We are flippantly begging people to “follow me,” as if we’re really asking them to emulate our lives when truly we’re needing them to make us feel valuable…But, we’re also childishly asking people to “follow me,” as if we are not the product of a team, a family, or a community of support, without whom we would not exist. That’s okay for Jesus, calling followers to a radical humility the world has rarely seen, even unto death. That’s not okay for any of us, or our children, trying to build little islands of celebrity on Instagram, hoping to stem the tides of our own insecurity.
I apologize for the length of this blog post (I know what you’re gonna say, Jenny!), so I’ll end it with just one more thought: What if we paid less attention to who’s “following” us, and more attention to who we’re really following, in the truest sense of the word? Who beckons you forward? Who in your daily life is showing you a better way, calling you to your higher self, and leading you toward joy, perhaps without even being aware of it? Let’s all think about it, and then think about how much of our time is spent trying to learn from those people, vs. how much is spent chasing “likes,” or “following” cat video leaders.
Then, when we’ve humbly answered those questions, let’s think about asking our kids the same.