I’ve mentioned a couple times that I am trying to simplify my Facebook use, especially now during the liturgical season of Lent, when it is appropriate to take time away from ‘noise’ and be silent in order to hear God. I’ve continued to use it for “necessary communication”. I’ve updated the page and groups I administer to communicate information about meetings and important updates. I also found it necessary to inform everyone that we are now on Spring Break and to share the exciting discovery that I am the descendent of a famous Colonel of the Mexican Revolution.
I have not done any random status browsing; scrolling down the home page to see if anyone has done anything interesting in their lives or if there is something I should be aware of or could add my two cents to. This has been harder than I thought and has had good and bad results. I miss captioning my life through status updates and feel excluded and left out of my friends’ lives or other intellectually stimulating discussions that I enjoy so much. It reminds me of the first day or so of the spiritual silent retreats I’ve done in the past. It’s hard to be disconnected when I’ve been connected for so long. God’s voice is suddenly very LOUD, almost deafening.
It’s become so easy to use Facebook to keep up with my friends and family and as a way for them to keep up with me. I heard someone on NPR a few weeks back talking about how we almost don’t need High School Reunions anymore because of social media. By the time you get to the reunion, there’s nothing left to talk about that hasn’t already been shared on Facebook or Twitter or blogs. I’ve noticed this also at a few weddings I’ve been too recently. I had the chance to see a lot of my friends and old acquaintances in real life, yet I observed that many of the conversations and discussions at those weddings felt empty and almost pointless. “Yeah I saw that on Facebook,” or “Well didn’t you see that on Facebook?” and then of course the ever popular, “Friend me! [so I can stalk you but never really talk to you]”.
When I tried to explain that I didn’t use Facebook as much anymore it was like I was saying I didn’t use email or have a cell phone. Facebook and social media are the new email and cell phones. Apparently, if you don’t have it or use it, you’re pretty much a loser and if you don’t use it then you’ll have no real way of being involved in others lives anymore.
My Lenten fast from using it unnecessarily has given me a little more time to live real life, albeit undocumented. I’ve spent a little more time doing what’s called parenting instead of saying “just a minute” so I can finish browsing or updating my status: “is browsing Facebook while her children kill each other before they starve to death”.
Instead of desperately looking for God’s answers and Voice on the Internet, I’ve been looking for Wisdom from the Source and have sat quietly away from the computer, thinking and praying about truly attaching myself to God’s Will.
As good as this time away from Facebook has been and will be for the next 32 days, I’m not ready to swear it off forever. I think it can be a good tool, if used correctly. Pope Benedict XVI’s expressed this in his message for the 43rd World Communications Day message, New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship.
“The new digital technologies are, indeed, bringing about fundamental shifts in patterns of communication and human relationships… These technologies are truly a gift to humanity and we must endeavor to ensure that the benefits they offer are put at the service of all human individuals and communities, especially those who are most disadvantaged and vulnerable.”
“Their popularity with users should not surprise us, as they respond to a fundamental desire of people to communicate and to relate to each other. This desire for communication and friendship is rooted in our very nature as human beings and cannot be adequately understood as a response to technical innovations. In the light of the biblical message, it should be seen primarily as a reflection of our participation in the communicative and unifying Love of God, who desires to make of all humanity one family. When we find ourselves drawn towards other people, when we want to know more about them and make ourselves known to them, we are responding to God’s call – a call that is imprinted in our nature as beings created in the image and likeness of God, the God of communication and communion.”
“The desire for connectedness and the instinct for communication that are so obvious in contemporary culture are best understood as modern manifestations of the basic and enduring propensity of humans to reach beyond themselves and to seek communion with others. In reality, when we open ourselves to others, we are fulfilling our deepest need and becoming more fully human. Loving is, in fact, what we are designed for by our Creator.”
He reminds us though that what we say online is real, and we should pay attention to how we communicate.
“It is important to focus not just on their undoubted capacity to foster contact between people, but on the quality of the content that is put into circulation using these means. I would encourage all people of good will who are active in the emerging environment of digital communication to commit themselves to promoting a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship.”
So yes, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and social media can be helpful and can lead us to God if we allow it. But we can’t get lost in it or forget to continue living in realspace. Social media is part of our lives now, but it is not life itself.
“Life is not just a succession of events or experiences: it is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful.”