Awhile ago I posted about taking a sabbatical from Facebook due to its formative qualities pushing me in directions and putting me on trajectories that I didn’t think were very healthy. This Lent I have decided to do the same. (Inside info: my wife placed this thought in my imagination Inception-style.)
Here are some of the tendencies I have noticed within myself due to Facebook and Twitter:
1. I am being conditioned for the immediate.
As soon as something is posted on either one of these sites, I find myself immediately wondering who has read it and how have they responded. Did they “Like” it? Did they “Favorite” it? Did they “Share” it? Patience is swept aside in lieu of a constant search for a red Notification number or an email telling me of a ReTweet.
I’ve also found myself thinking in Status Updates and Tweets. When sound bytes, quips, and aphorisms are easily put out there for public consumption, my thought processes are shortened. Again, it is much easier to share a context-less thought than to write a thoroughly developed, contextualized string of thoughts.
I want to press back against this need for the immediate.
2. I am constantly hoping for an affirmation of my thoughts.
My ache for the immediate is rivaled only by my hope for the affirmative. We all seek out those who will praise us, typically to the pushing away of those who will not. An unhealthy attitude begins to creep in and if I am not careful, it shows its face in my actual relationships with people in my actual life. This is a haunting reality that kills real-life community.
3. Because of the coupling of these two, the fight for my attention usually ends up with me spending inordinate amounts of time engaging with Facebook and Twitter.
I love to live in my head. Many of my habits involve activities that can be solely engaged in my internal life. Many of us live life this way and if we aren’t careful, we can get stuck there. And isn’t it so easy? It is much easier to get the immediate and the affirmation I want in the world of pseudo-relationship. The messiness of real life – with pain, sacrifice, and love – demand things from me that my online life doesn’t.
I also have come to firmly believe the following: we have forgotten how to be present with the other. This includes other people, the created world around us, and most importantly, the Divine Other, God. Many factors play into this, but, I know for me, social media have become the most prevalent sources of distraction. I believe we can determine our levels of presence by our levels of attention. So that which you most attend to reveals that which you make yourself most present to. The results of asking attention and presence questions are as vital as they are vulnerable.
So this Lent I will be blogging – along with other Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, community, etc. – instead of spending time updating my Facebook status or Tweeting and the responses to them. (However, I will probably still promote the upcoming Missio Alliance gathering via Twitter.) Through constant writing, I hope to clear some space away from the immediate and the affirming in hopes of struggling through the fuller-thought-inducing practice of composing blog posts. I plan on engaging with the books below and reflecting upon them (hopefully) daily on here. The themes of the books are all areas that challenge me to a “thicker” life of reflection, community, and place. The books are the following:
Lent for Everyone: A Daily Devotional Luke Year C by N.T. Wright
The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of The Spiritual Life by Joan Chittister
Becoming Human by Jean Vanier
Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life by Henri Nouwen
Where Mortals Dwell: A Christian View of Place for Today by Craig Bartholomew
I hope that you join me over the next 40 days as I (we) prepare for celebrating Easter and the new creation Jesus initiated. It all begins in two days with Ash Wednesday. See you then.