Social media is a pretty broad term – it used to only mean things like MySpace and Facebook. Now it means MySpace, Facebook, twitter, tumblr, blogs, Flickr, foursquare, text messaging, gchat, …and on and on ad nauseum. I, obviously, am no stranger to how addicting these media can be – I’ve held at some point in time a Xanga, MySpace, and tumblr, and currently “communicate” using Facebook, twitter, texting, gchat, and blogging.
Five tools of communication.
Writing it down is actually embarrassing for me. I’m not quite sure why, considering that this is a norm – I’m not technically doing anything wrong by connecting with other people on these platforms. But the fact that we sometimes feel that we need to use these platforms to connect with other people is worth considering.
There’s a certain dependency on Facebook that is fascinating to me. Why do I feel the need to keep it up in the tabs of my internet browser, even though I don’t use the chat function? Because I’m waiting for that entirely-too-gratifying number in a set of parentheses – “Someone saw what you posted and has something to say about it!” or worse “Someone commented on something you commented on five years ago!”
I’ve talked with several people about how amazing it is that upon pulling up the internet, our fingers are automatically drawn to two things – our email and our Facebook accounts. Load those up and we’re good to go. Never mind if we’re actually looking at them. It’s important that they’re there and waiting for us.
Only just recently have I caved into joining the twitterverse. I follow several of my close friends, one of my favorite sports teams, and few humorous catch-all twitter-famous profiles that provide a good chuckle every now and then. While it is nice to be able to control whose posts come up on my home page, I often find myself scrolling mindlessly through hashtags and shoutouts. Before creating an account for myself, I thought twitter was the most narcissistic excuse for social media that had ever been invented. I still think that. So why do I have an account now…? Why do I keep following more people if I’m not even reading some of the ones I follow now?
While I will not be abstaining from texting during Lent, I will be abstaining from gchat to a reasonable degree, namely while doing work, purposefully checking email, etc. I’ve found that a lot of conversations on instant messaging programs can lack substance and depth, and consistently fall into a dangerous realm of misinterpretation. These programs are undoubtedly intended to improve communication and conversation, but all too often end up damaging its significance, allowing us to become lazy and invest only some of our attention on the quick lines of text while we focus the rest of our attention on Facebook, twitter, and maybe the reading that’s due for class the next day.
Blogging has become a recent favorite of mine, from reading other people’s to writing my own. I admit proudly that I’ve cut down my Blogs favorites tab from about 10 or 15 to only 7, 3 of which I check daily. While there is nothing inherently wrong with blogging, I do find that it’s easy to get absorbed in several posts and lose track of time. More notably, I’ve noticed a negative relationship between reading blogs and my attention span – as I read blogs more frequently, my attention span dwindles, and I find myself quickly glancing over posts, and moving on if the post seems to be “too long” (often meaning a paragraph or more at a time without picture interruptions). That is horrifying to me. Especially when I’ve read several books that criticize this generation, our generation, for being the laziest, dumbest, most intellectually-distracted generation yet. I want to stand up and shout, “No, we’re not!” – but are we? And what can do to fix it if it’s really true?
Ultimately, Lent is not a time to make “New Year’s Resolutions”. It is time to unite ourselves with the suffering of Christ as we prepare our hearts for the joy that is the Easter season. Fasting should not be about what we can do to test our willpower, but rather what we can do to strengthen ourselves as members of the Body of Christ. What will draw us nearer to God and push us further from the world?
This year, I’ve decided that fasting from social media is the best way for me to achieve this. Too often I find myself engrossed in things that are ever-changing, unpredictable, and yet flat, boring, and static. Why not become engrossed with something never-changing, steady, and yet complicated, exciting, and dynamic? Why not lose ourselves in a Love so amazing that words escape its description? Why not find the time to sit and reflect on why we have such a privilege as to celebrate the Lenten season?
My favorite Christmas carol (but technically Advent song!) is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. Emmanuel has indeed come. During this season of Lent and throughout Easter, we journey with Him in an intimate way, reliving His last days on this earth, before He laughs at death and wins our salvation. He conquers our darkest fears and seals our hope in His heart. He holds us in a closer walk with Him, as we travel further up and further in to a Love that is unfathomable.