On November 20, Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, shared a beautiful message about gratitude during these difficult COVID-19 times. He thanked those who have put their lives on the line to fight the virus and as a former heart surgeon, he made it clear that he believes in the science. That we must wear masks, practice social distancing, etc. All good stuff that I can fully get behind.
Then he issued a challenge to the members of the church: During the upcoming week, use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) as a personal gratitude journal, posting each day what you are thankful for using the hashtag #givethanks. On paper, it’s a nice thought. Spread some positivity during these COVID-19 times, share what you are thankful for, and remind everyone that even in the hardest of times, there’s a lot to be thankful for. Once again, on paper it’s a nice thought and should be a good thing.
I shared a #givethanks post on Saturday and then later found out that the reason I was seeing all these other #givethanks posts is because of the challenge issued by Nelson. I went back, listened to his message, and decided that I too would join in on the #givethanks movement. I even had six additional messages all teed up, ready to go in my notes. I figured if other people were doing it and the prophet asked us to, I should do it as well.
I posted one more #givethanks post on Tuesday, thinking I had just five more to go. But then, I started seeing more and more of these posts and found many them to be rather self-congratulatory. Posts about how great their job is, how perfect their family is, how amazing life is going for them, etc. You know those annoying Christmas letters that families sometimes send out about how amazing everyone in the family is doing? A lot of these posts were like that.
Even worse, I found some to even be insulting. The worst one I saw was one that essentially said, “I’m so blessed I was smart enough to avoid student debt and anyone who has student debt is a fool.”
On top of that, these posts are coming in the middle of a pandemic when people have lost jobs, family members, and in general are really struggling. If you are having a rough 2020, the last thing you probably want to see is how everyone else is doing well but you.
Now, this isn’t to say that all of these #givethanks posts have been bad. Many have been uplifting and have come from well-intentioned people who sincerely are trying to follow the prophet and join the challenge. Many have also shared how they’ve been uplifted by others’ posts, all good.
Still, I’m personally glad I stopped posting #givethanks posts. I just didn’t want to add to the over the top, fluffy, and cheery mood on social media that quite honestly felt to be mostly boastful and sometimes vain. Anyone else have a similar reaction to the #givethanks posts as me? Anyone have a positive experience with it?
Note: The article posted below by The Salt Lake Tribune I felt did a nice job of capturing the complexity of the #givethanks movement.