On Praise for being “Out of the Loop”

By Brett McCracken:

The technological structures of our Twitterstream, iPhone-ready, newsticker, push-notification culture have made “being in the loop” as natural a thing for us as breathing–and almost as important. These days, it’s seen as essential to know what’s going on in the world–what’s trending–and not only to know about it, but to comment on it. If something is being buzzed about or going viral, we must chime in: unleash a quick Facebook update, add a Tweet to the chorus, throw up a blog post with “Thoughts on ____” before anyone else can.

And it all must be done expediently, because to wait or be late to the conversation is to admit–heaven forbid–being somewhat out of the loop. You see this a lot when people post something on Twitter/Facebook with the caveat, “I know I’m late to the game on this, but…” Who cares if you’re late to the game? As if the quality of comment is less vital than its timeliness.

I’m troubled by the value we place on quickness in our culture. The rush to “join the conversation” doesn’t necessarily help the conversation. Frequently it hurts it. Sometimes our quickness perpetuates the spread of misinformation. When the urge is to comment first, research later, the conversation becomes scattershot and unreliable….

I desire to be more out of the loop. I want to go a day without knowing what the Twitterverse is talking about. I want to let trending topics come and go without ever knowing they happened. I want to be like Marilyn Hagerty, who didn’t know (or care) that for the rest of the world, Olive Garden was “old news.” I don’t want to care about something just because it’s hot right now and everyone is talking about it; I want to care about something because it is interesting, important, worth thinking about. I don’t want to blog, tweet, or talk about things I haven’t mulled over or wrestled with first. I want to resist the idol of quick-to-the-draw commentary.

And while I’m at it, I want to focus more on my own challenges: the right-in-front-of-me conversation, the local issues, the everyday battles–rather than injecting myself into the global so urgently and ignorantly. Sure, I want to care for the world. It’s important to know what’s going on. But it shouldn’t take precedence over being present in my own life, and being attentive to the needs of my own community. I’d rather be out of the loop than disengaged from the world right in front of me; though I suspect (and hope) there’s a way we can balance both: being plugged in to there and present here, and thoughtful in each sphere.



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  • Amen! Sometimes just looking at my laptop or cellphone makes me anxious thinking about what I’m possibly missing and really not wanting to care. It’s a messed up reality when it feels healthy to simply breathe deep, slow down, read an actual book with actual pages to turn, … think … Sounds really good to me.

  • Aaron J. Kunce

    Was pondering whether I should “like” this or tweet it.

    But seriously, you piece is one of the reasons I write poetry. Poetry will always have an unstable relationship and be indifferent to trends and the twitterverse.

    This is also a reason I value my time spent with senior citizens.

    And part of the reason I am secretly glad our senior pastor is not part of the “loop” you describe.

  • Kel

    If an individual desires to stay out of the loop, fine. But as someone who is building a career brand and in charge of marketing for a public university, full engagement with social media isn’t an option; it’s a necessity. So I read something like this and think, “Okay, as long as you don’t have to.”

  • As with everything else, you have to know yourself, to understand who you are and what you are about.

  • MatthewS

    I think it’s partly that social media was made for humans, not humans for social media (sabbath was made for man…).

    It’s a tool to be used and for many of us, it’s best we neither avoid it nor be controlled by it.

  • …which is why I don’t Tweet, nor do I Facespace. One has to know one’s priorities and potential addictions. Agreed, balance is again key, but more than anything I long to be still and *know*…

    Well said, Scot.

  • Rick

    Yes. I cannot stand the commercials where the main characters keep saying “that was so 15 seconds ago”?

  • Robert A

    There is something deeply helpful in disconnecting.

    Granted, I don’t do faceboook or twitter (I do have an RSS feed I check often) but even with the omnipresent cell phones there is a necessary step to unplug and turn off.

    One of the most pleasurable experiences I’ve had over the past several months was taking a 6 hour trip to an engagement. I turned off my phone, kept the radio off, (it was in the south) rolled down the windows and enjoyed an amazingly warm day. Six hours later I arrived and was really settled and happy to commune. I hadn’t missed anything significant…and anything I missed, ironically, wasn’t significant.

  • I have mostly opted out. I’ve read 17 books so far this year – so, that’s good. 🙂 I just eventually had to have some peace in my head.

  • one easy way to approach it is with a Sabbath model. Take one out of seven days off from the media that is taking your attention. It helps turn away the rest of the week, too.

    But you know me, I can’t paint, do email and facebook at the same time. One has to go and it is usually email. It was amazing how much more art I made after I gave up email.