This Saturday (Sept 5th) I’ll be on Outside the Walls with Timothy Putnam talking about parish community-building, the part discipleship plays in that, and how you can go about making it happen. We’ll also be giving away a copy of Sherry Weddell’s book Forming Intentional Disciples, so listen in to find out how to put your name in the hat.
So you want to be on the radio one day, too? Let me tell you the number one thing you need to do in order to make that happen: Turn your ringer on.
That’s right, kids: Make sure that phone will ring.
Sure, writing an interesting post that grabs the attention of the show’s host is helpful. So is scheduling a mutually convenient time to record the show. Sending the host your phone number? Yes. Making sure the phone is charged? Yes. Sticking that phone out on the counter and hovering in the vicinity so you get the call when it comes? Yes, yes, yes.
But if the ringer is turned off, no show.
Gotta hear the call come in if you’re planning to actually answer it.
Turn the ringer on.
Don’t ask me how I know. Maybe I read it on the Internet or something.
So Let’s Talk About Facebook
One of the topics we get into on the show is the question of social media versus real-life friendships. Peanut Butter and Grace has a post up called “Life Without Facebook.” Go read it.
Done? Okay let’s talk.
I love Facebook.
I also think the PB&G article is dead on. Here’s my story.
How I Became A Person Who Uses Social Media
I used to have this neglected Facebook account. I didn’t really know what to do with it, since I’m not crafty and don’t take pictures anyway. About once a month I’d check in and hit the like button for all the cat photos. It was great. I have the best friends and family, and I like to see what people are up to.
Seriously: I want to see that picture of your kid. It’s like getting Christmas cards all year long.
Then I started writing for Patheos, and as a pro-blogger there are some expectations. Out of respect for your fantabulous boss and for the the people giving you server space and visibility and tech support and so much more, you treat the gig seriously. You try to put up good posts when you can, and you make at least a modest effort to get those posts into the hands of people who will enjoy them.
One of the expectations is that you’ll share those posts on social media. I guess I could have made a separate professional-use account for that purpose so I didn’t have to plague my poor friends and family, but then I figured that’s why God gave us the gift of ignoring each other. I held my breath and started pasting links to my blog on FB.
My hunch was right: I happen to have the best friends and family, people who quietly ignore me when I say things they think are just nuts, thus allowing us to still enjoy pictures of each other’s pets and kids and dinner menus despite our differences. If I were “friends” with obnoxious people that wouldn’t work, and I’d have to be one of the FB-avoiders, but I’ve been spared that cross.
All Social Media Can Destroy You
Before the internet was a thing, I used to read wood products. Books, magazines, newspapers, cereal boxes — all of it. One year I gave up reading for Lent (Sundays excepted). It was that compulsive of a behavior. I just like to read.
There are some other things that will suck me in:
- A phone call from one of my sisters, my mother-in-law, or my good friends (I like to talk to people).
- Walking by when my one neighbor is checking her mail, because she has the best stories and is so, so nice.
- Good movies and TV shows.
- Bad movies and TV shows.
- Being left alone with a notebook and pen.
The thing is that we humans like to talk. We like to connect. We like to hear and be heard.
The problem is age old. Here’s St. Paul warning Timothy about the problem of housewives spending too much time on social media:
13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, gadding about from house to house, and not only idlers but gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.
The impulse to chat isn’t a disorder. In the beginning was the Word, and we were made in the image of that Word. It’s when we abuse that impulse (besetting sin much, Jennifer?) that it becomes a problem.
Getting Off Facebook To Run From Your Problems
Conversation, whether it’s a one-way love affair with Old Media or the two-way conversation facilitated by New Media and Very Old Media, can be an escape. I should be doing dishes, but my mother-in-law called, and I’d rather hear what she has to say, maybe ask a few questions, slip away from my boring unpleasant life and spend an hour with a friend instead.
Thus my life has been a series of flights from temptation.
- I gave up TV for a very long time, not because I didn’t like it, but because I liked it too much.
- I discovered after the kids were born that I had to limit phone calls, because I’d get sucked into chatting and the house and family life would fall apart.
- For a while I had a Wall Street Journal subscription, and even though I knew full well that it was sucking up too much of my time every day and pulling me into its obsession with success and materialism, it was almost inconceivable that I’d just stop subscribing –even though that was what I really wanted to do.
There’s always a fresh distraction ready to step up the moment I shed the one that’s owning me just now. Facebook & Co. aren’t any better for me than any of their predecessors.
I do get a lot of good out of Facebook and other internet outlets. For one thing I’ve discovered that I really appreciate when other people post links to good articles, so keep doing that.
I like that the internet doesn’t need my kids to be quiet. I like that I can get up, go help a kid, and come back later without anyone kept waiting at the other end of the line or standing there by the mailbox. I like that if I’m spouting absolute drivel, no one has to politely pretend to listen, they can just move on with their day and wait for me to come to my senses. And because the reality is that I have friends and family all around the country, I like that it’s easy and cheap to stay in touch.
But if I didn’t use it for work, I would probably just quit. Move on to the next big thing.
Because I use social media for work, dropping out isn’t the best choice. So instead of escaping from my latest escape, I’m trying to figure out this whole moderation thing. It’s a bit, for me, like developing a healthy relationship with food: If you drink too much, you can just quit; if you eat too much, you still have to eat, you just have to keep working on getting the proportions in order.
All the same, physical life is important. We humans are body and soul. Tune in Saturday or catch the podcast to hear me and Timothy Putnam talking about ways you can get the meat-life relationships working again, even if you do keep a part of your heart on the internet.
Cover art courtesy of OSV.com.