Saturday, March 11, 2017

Social Media

When I was a teenager, I read a book called The Keeping Days. It focuses on a deep, insightful girl named Tish who lives in Yonkers around the turn of the century. Keeping days are those days when everything aligns and you feel a strong awareness of unity and good.  This was a very important book for me.  So important that I bought it for my own girls.

I have keeping days too.  I had one at Christmas. One of the girls' friends came to stay with us a week. She is Jewish. It was Hanukkah. She asked if she could light the candles and pray, and we agreed. All evening, this makeshift menorah, a combination of tapers, votives, and tealights, sat on the dining room table. All of my children were home, Bradley was home, no one went anywhere. It was a rare moment.

It's hard to know what to do with those moments. Tish drank it in, recited it to herself, wrote it in her journal. I took a photo and put it on Instagram.

Funny thing about social media. We use it to be heard, to communicate, but our most meaningful thoughts tend to get lost in the flood of everything at once. Scroll, scroll, scroll.  It's a strange combination of loneliness and togetherness. Although, I suppose no one was reading Tish's journal, either.

Myself, I love social media. People are comfortable there, they reveal more, perhaps more than they intend. I learn a lot about a person's true nature by following them.  It's much easier than meeting them in person with all their noise and energy coming at me.  I take what I know of them in real life, pair it with what I see on social media, and gain a better idea what kind of human they are.

Plus, I find it easier to respond to people on social media. Real life conversations move so fast and only skim the surface. A lot of social media only skims the surface, too, but I tend to limit myself to people who go deep.  I've found good conversationalists online, and by that I mean people who listen as well as speak. Social media is a mixed bag, but if you edit your feeds and limit your time, it can be great.

I want to feel connected to others. I don't get that very often in real-life social settings. I connect when I'm one-on-one with a person, no one else there, they are focused on me and I on them and both of us on the task at hand.  A task is essential to good communication, seems like. For instance, in piano lessons. I learn so much about these individual souls that show up fierce and expectant.  Kids are such people. I love one-on-one teaching.

Group activities/tasks are a much bigger challenge for me. Needs and agendas clang against one another, it seems almost impossible to move forward without stepping on someone.  I hate stepping on people.  If we took enough time and went deep enough, I think we could negotiate outcomes that meet everyone's needs.  But people don't. They check off lists and go to the next thing, encouraged by the powers that be.  Stinking powers. I want a slower life. That's hard to find in a group.

I'm still deliberating about social media. I've thought all along that it simply magnifies what people already are. It remains to be seen if that magnification is healthy or destructive. Social media gives a voice to those who are trapped in real-life power structures.  There is a lot of pain in the world, beautiful rowdy people with something to say. We can learn a lot from those who are different. Lively online debate will certainly improve the accuracy of the picture, despite the false news that inflames peoples' fear and anger. If we exert ourselves to listen, we will hear the voice of the oppressed. This is a good thing.

Think of Martin Luther King, Jr. A lot of people wanted him to shut up. But fifty years later, we are so thankful for him and his ideas.  We realize, oh my goodness, he was right, and we couldn't see it. He said some very uncomfortable things. People told him to stop, he was making things worse. He upset the status quo, but in a good way. I hope we can use our social platforms the way he used his, with patience and grace and stalwart dedication to truth. For good.  He just kept speaking, not quiet, not shrill. He just kept speaking and would not go away, even when they arrested him.

There is beauty and there is truth. There is justice and there is mercy. Social media can magnify these things or it can diminish them. Depending on us. Me, I'm going to keep posting, praying my barbaric yawp is true enough, balanced enough, redemptive enough, and refining my choices as the picture becomes clear. Meet me there.

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