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What happens when you mix equal parts family crisis, a comedic coping mechanism, and an insatiable desire to be an internet star? Well, according to Twitter funnyman Sammy Rhodes, not a recipe for happiness.

Popular comedy Twitter-er Sammy Rhodes is a pastor hailing from the Midwest who nabbed the twitter handle “@prodigalsam” back in 2009. At first, like all Twitter beginners, he began tweeting the standard stuff.  That he’d attended a barbeque and hoped his potato salad turned out OK. Eventually, he upped his Twitter game and joined the gospel–centered tweet crew. You know, pithy statements about grace that make you go “hmmm”.  Then, on the recommendation of a friend, he decided not to take himself so seriously and began tweeting more comedic material. This started to get people’s attention, and before he knew it, he started to amass a whole lot a followers. Followers he couldn’t not count. Mix in the stress of a young daughter diagnosed with a rare medical condition, the aforementioned comedic coping mechanism, and the psychology of I’ve-got-to-be-a-somebody, and the wheels start to come off.

@prodigalsam’s story has all the trappings of celebrity success. The pressures of having thousands of sets of eyes on you, waiting for you to deliver the goods with talent, and the pride inflation that comes with popularity. There’s a marked difference, though, between “real life” celebrity and the internet variety. Says @prodigalsam, quoting another Twitter funny person: internet stardom is “like being a best selling author in Narnia.” One of the dangers of getting sucked into the internet stardom hunt is, you end up chasing something that’s only “perception, not reality”. In Sam’s own words,

The other danger is looking to the internet for your identity, instead of the other way around. That’s why Jaron Lanier likes to say, “You have to be somebody before you can share yourself.” The internet cannot hold the weight of your identity; only reality can. Twitter became a place for me to be someone else, someone I struggled to be in real life. It’s what I call pulling a sad Batman. You change into your alter-ego at night, but instead of fighting crime you’re fighting for retweets.

Like most things in life, social media isn’t inherently good or bad; it’s neutral. It’s a matter of what you do with it. The problem is, few of us can resist the allure of instant gratification or the desire to truly speak our minds in ways we might not in person:

The great thing about Twitter is that it’s a safe place to say those things you often think, but rarely feel comfortable saying out loud. This is also the terrible thing about Twitter. Which is why one of the most profound parts of Louis CK’s most recent appearance on Conan is when he talks about the difference between calling someone fat to their face vs. online. When it’s face to face you’re forced to watch what it does to the other person. But when it’s online you’re solely concerned about what it does to you. And it feels so, so good. It’s porn but with words.

Youch.

Not all of us have fully succumbed to the allure of an online life or persona like @prodigalsam, but consider this: have you ever gotten anxious when your social media BFFs have gone silent on your smart/funny facebook posts? Silly you, your privacy setting were messed up and no one was seeing your posts. Phew!

Huh. Turns out we’re not all as immune to the need to be liked as we’d like to think.

So you might be shaking your head at how social networking could ever cause someone a nervous breakdown. But this isn’t about if we’re like @prodigalsam, but how and to what degree.

Fortunately, there was and is grace for @prodigalsam, and for the rest of us posers too:

If you went back to Facebook around the time we found out the hard news about our youngest daughter, and when I started finding comedic solace in Twitter, you would find the following quote from Marilynne Robinson on my wall: “That is how life goes–we send our children into the wilderness. Some of them on the day they are born, it seems, for all the help we can give them. Some of them seem to be a kind of wilderness unto themselves. But there must be angels there, too, and springs of water. Even that wilderness, the very habitation of jackals, is the Lord’s.” It was a line I desperately clung to for her. Now it’s become a line I desperately cling to for me. By the way, my mom read the article [an article where he’s skewered for plagiarizing another comedian’s material]. She told me she has always been so proud to be my mom. The wilderness is still the Lord’s.