Lately I have been struggling with various forms of media, and more specifically with the amount of time I spend scanning online news, and social media feeds. Fortunately I think I am too old to “get” Twitter though I do “tweet” new blog entries or very occasional items about ministry.
A dear old friend, who is no longer with us, used to describe what he observed of the bland, calming demeanor of funeral planners as “almost lifelike.” Though his assessment is not fair or politically correct, I like to borrow his words when I think of social media, in particular Face Book (the favorite venue for the “older folks” like me).
I began using Face Book, when I went to seminary (much communication with new students happened this way). It has been great fun to share photos and observations with friends near and far and to reconnect or even connect for the first time with family around the globe.
Other forms of technology have proven to be incredibly convenient, even efficient. That I pay for unlimited texting speaks to my use of this tool, and being able to read and send email messages from my phone has gone from being a luxury to being essential.
But with hundreds of “friends” and undoubtedly thousands of messages a month (given all the electronic venues), I am feeling overexposed. And isolated.
The most life-giving, meaningful exchanges for me, over the past 6 months even, have not occurred online. Travelling to Honduras to reconnect in person with my dear friend Spencer; unexpectedly meeting and sharing with my new friend Atticus; and spending a week with my friend Leonor – these inconvenient, time-consuming mostly one-on-one encounters are what feed me and enliven me (far more than dozens of electronic “likes” from people whom I love dearly). Having coffee with Evonne or Bill or dinner with Kate or Laura; walking in the “hood” with Jill or grilling burgers in the backyard – this is where I am renewed. The “pause” is critical to spiritual health. Truly being with ourselves and with others – this is what we are wired for.
I will continue blogging and using Face Book, email and Twitter to share ministry information, to help enlarge and enrich this community of presence that only and finally becomes real when we physically come together and gather. (I am reminded of my dear friend Dorothy who is unable to gather due to physical limitations – but her ministry and friendship are lived out on a body level as she prays daily and sends gifts of journals and pens.) But, I will not be spending time scanning “newsfeeds” and “liking” stuff (hoping I don’t need a 12-step program to live into this…).
I still love my friends, even those to whom I am connected but whom I truly do not know. I would much rather talk to you directly, best in person. I would much rather know you in a real way, in real life.
At first glance it may seem my world is getting smaller. But, already, I can feel it opening up.