Faith Works 4-16-16
How to communicate when it's too easy
Social media, I'd argue, is unavoidable. Not that you can't avoid it, but that you shouldn't. Like typewriters or mimeographs or bulk mail or telephones of previous decades, in the life of faith communities you have to make your peace with devices and technology.
(Unless you're Amish. And a few others. Which isn't many of y'all reading this. So.)
What you don't have to do is let tech shape and mold and form your social interactions. And it will try to. "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…" as Romans 12:2 puts it.
There are humane and even Christian ways to use and NOT use social media. Turning them off or silencing them during worship, at weddings and programs and funerals and such: that's pretty basic. If your Bible is on your phone, fine; you can still shut off the alarm and not check email compulsively. It's a discipline, and it can be even a spiritual discipline. The problem with most misuse of social media is that it's too easy, too fast, too quick for you to have really put some empathy into your interaction before you click "send." We all need ways to remind and even relearn for ourselves how to slow down, and reflect, and be wise in our use of these tools.
Especially if you adopt a tech Sabbath, a day of the week you turn off devices and turn away from screens. I think fasting and Sabbaths have room for negotiating: as I noted last week, when it's how we stay in touch with our family and friends, there's got to be some place for it, but to still find a way to not let smartphones and laptops consume us as we're consuming media on them. A complete disconnection is fine for some, but your discipline isn't to be discounted just because you don't disconnect as thoroughly as some.
The Granville Public Library has regularly offered "Turn Off Your Screens" week programming, because if you're going to detach, even if only for a short time, from your phones and gadgets, you need something to do that takes your mind and fingers off in another direction. (My son is doing a project with bees during that week this year, which is a great way to force yourself to stay focused on what's at hand!)
And my own times of fasting from social media posting have become a great reminder to go deeper in prayer, every time the urge to look up or browse or surf has hit me.
In general, to not let social media conform our social interactions, we need to make sure we have healthy ones to start with . . . or the blips and beeps and tweets will quickly become our new normal.
Christ Lutheran Church in Heath is inviting the Licking County community to a time of "holy conversation," specifically on the subject of racial justice. On Thursday, April 21 at 6:30 pm in their sanctuary just off of Hebron Rd./Rt. 79, they have the assistance of Denison University professor Jack Shuler in convening a community gathering on "The Struggle to Listen: Race and Reconciliation in Our Time." There is no cost to attend, and it's open to congregations and clergy from any tradition, or those of you who want to hear more about how people of faith are engaging with this issue.
Prayer and compassionate listening and dialogue as a community are things that need to happen face to face, and aren't advanced in a comments section or by blog posts alone. Blessings to all those who can attend that evening, and practice the skill of talking, and more importantly, listening. These are the gifts we need to cultivate if we are to also rightly use the gifts of social media as people of faith.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him how you have learned to listen at email@example.com or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.