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Friday
Apr122019

How do we avoid unnecessary self-focus?

A few years ago, I made a comment on Twitter, speaking to my 30-something self. It was a rebuke. It seemed harmless enough. That is, until, I had someone accuse me of speaking to her directly. She was, herself, a 30-something, and she thought I may have been "sub-tweeting" to her. I assured her that was not the case. There have been times when, to my own shame, I have thought something similar. Fortunately, I have a husband who reminds me that people aren't thinking of me as often as I believe them to be.

The problem with using social media is that we can be drawn into a sense that people are looking at us. But just because I walk down my street wearing my pajamas, it doesn't mean everyone saw me. Perhaps no one did. Perhaps no one cared. It is work to remember that we are not the centre of the world. 

I have been thinking about how I can work on this area in my own life. There is a certain freedom in accepting that people are not watching me. I was having a chat with a couple of my professors yesterday, and I suggested that perhaps women have more aversion to what others think of them than men do. That is a generalization, but they agreed that it may be true. 

I have been reading Bavinck's second volume of Dogmatics, where he discusses God. I am only in the opening chapter, but I'm finding it challenging already. Currently, I'm reading about the knowability of God. There is a sense in which we cannot know God fully. We can know him by experience, but we cannot know him by nature. We can only know him as humans, so that means our knowledge is limited. We rely on his revelation of himself. And even then our finite minds, which are prone to want to suppress the truth, make us limited. Surely, this is a life long process. 

I'm thinking that the best way for me to stop focusing on myself is to focus beyond myself, beginning with who God is. That means continuing to probe the Scriptures; learning how to better understand them; fostering reliance on the Holy Spirit. It also means focusing on other people. I tend to talk more than I should, and there are times when, before visiting a friend, I will remind myself to ask about her life, not always bring it back to myself.

I have been a Christian for 34 years, but I'm still working on this tendency toward self-focus. I'm thankful that I am promised that some day, this will be gone, and I can look fully on the face of Christ, which I'm sure is better than any other view.

Friday
Mar292019

Is anyone actually listening?

I'm procrastinating. It's only 6:17 a.m., but I'm procrastinating. Sometime between now and the end of the weekend, I'd better have a entirely completed first draft of my Pentateuch paper. The title: "A Conversation Between Yahweh and Abram: Genesis 15 and the Covenant." But I'm procrastinating as I have my coffee and wake up.

Yesterday, while taking a break, I had cause to think briefly about communication. When I was about seventeen years old, I became a little more politically aware. Here in Canada, one of the political parties was electing its new leader and I watched it unfold. I began to have more thoughts about political and electoral matters, and I wished that there was a platform -- a literal platform, mind you; the kind made out of wood -- where people could go to speak and others would listen. And many years later, there was social media.

Social media is a lot like a crowd in front of an actual platform. Ultimately, the bigger the crowd, the less likely it is that one can be heard. Social media is made to communicate, but sometimes, we end up with very one-sided communication: most of us are more focused on having others listen to us than we are to listening to others. Isn't that what this blog is? I want to stand on that platform and have my say?

There have been snippets of conversation lately about why people stop blogging. Personally, I don't think it's the crisis of massive proprotions some believe it to be. We can live without blogs, after all. That said, I can't help but wonder if part of it is because many realize that the blogging environment is controlled by a handful of people who have attained the position of being heard. We can't compete with those big blogs. Some of us simply do not have the time to blog every day. And that is okay. Daily blogging is not a virtue. If one makes his living through it, it is a necessity, but for most people, it simply is not. And that's okay. People may stop blogging because if they feel like if no one listening, why do it?  

Writing is worth doing. I can't imagine not doing it. But even if I don't blog, I still write. And that is what matters to me; the actual act of writing as a discipline, as an expression, as a daily habit. But that doesn't mean someone is waiting to hear me. If I start to expect people to listen to me, I suspect that my attitude toward writing might change, and that may not be a good thing.

Tuesday
Mar122019

The line between the product and the persona

"Nothing goes away on the internet." That is something my husband reminds me of. He is far more introverted than I, and he is frankly too busy to craft tweet threads or read blogs. And if he had the time, he wouldn't do it, anyway. He is only too aware that sometimes, if we talk too much, we just look silly.

One of my biggest regrets is the sheer amount of stupid things I have said online that sadly, live on in infamy. I sometimes regret ever getting on social media. I sometimes consider leaving entirely. I sometimes consider getting a separate account on Twitter to just follow the news here in Canada and the local news in my community. Sometimes, it is hard to find the news among the other content. Sometimes, I will look at someone's tweet and think "Man, you really think you're awesome, don't you?" only to remind myself, 'Hey, stupid, you probably sound like that all the time, too."

At the end of the day, Twitter can make us believe that others think of us more often than they actually do. No one cares if I #amwriting. Why don't we tweet instead #ambeingharshwithmychildren or #amignoringmychildrentocraftthistweet, or #amangrywithmyspouse? Yes, we know that social media helps us craft pristine versions of ourselves. 

Social media has revealed to me my own pride and my own intolerance of others. On the positive side, it has helped me to filter out voices I don't want to hear. I know I can safely ignore some locations. The principle of social media is actually really good. For those who run their own businesses, it is a help. I recently purchased some Irish jewerly from a wonderful store (I highly recommend it), called My Irish Jeweler. I was so pleased with my purchases that I gave reviews both on their Facebook page and on Google reviews. That store relies on social media to promote its product. And therein lies the problem: promotion. How do people promote the product (books, articles, teaching) without eventually promoting themselves? Is it possible? And if not, what does that mean for Christians, who are not to be self-promoting? Where is the line between product and persona?

Tuesday
Feb122019

It's discouraging the ability to be longsuffering

While technology and social media have given us helpful things, we cannot deny that it has helped us foster bad habits. One of the things I have noticed in my own life is the tendency for me to become impatient. Something takes a long time to download; my computer updates take longer than I expect; Netflix is down; the tracking on my package says it was to come today, so where is it?

We feel sorry for ourselves when someone doesn't answer or text message right (guilty!) forgetting that at one time, people waited for letters or parents watched their kids move across the country and never saw them again.

I see this also manifested in the way Twitter, especially, encourages us to beat a dead horse. We feel strongly about something, and when people disagree, we may respond; more than once. Perhaps we talk about it repeatedly. We may even engage the trolls, even though we know it's never productive. We are not willing to simply let it go. Letting something go is very freeing. I am trying to learn the art of saying my peace and then letting it rest.

I know from personal experience how beating a dead horse with an individual is actually harmful. I did it to my kids when they were at home. I believed that all I needed to do was show them where they erred and they would magically fall into line. It is one of my biggest regrets. When we go on and on about something, eventually people stop listening. When will we learn that we cannot change how people think simply by telling them they must?

At some point in our lives, we will all face points where we can do absolutely nothing about a situation other than throw ourselves on the mercy and love of God. Being longsuffering is a fruit of the Spirit, and I need to ensure that my use of something like social media doesn't discourage that fruit.

Monday
Feb112019

I have a theory about women theologians and politics

I'm getting set to work full force on my term paper over the next couple of days (it's due Friday), but I had a thought this morning. I am also getting used to a new pair of bifocals (not my first rodeo, however) and typing has been an issue. There may be a return visit to my eye doctor. Anyway.

Last week, I wondered aloud on Twitter (that bastion of precious information) if there were mature, female theologians I could follow; specifically those who don't talk about American politics. I have tried in the past keeping track of a few, and inevitably, the talk is about US politics.

Now, the fact that they are American is part of the reason why. Understandable. And female theologians alone are hard to come by in Canada. As one of my Twitter friends said: "crickets." No takers.

I think one of the reasons why many female theolgians, whether they are mature, younger, professional, or ordinary theologians, insert politics into their conversations is because people are used to women commenting about politics. There are many female politicians. Here in Canada, I believe there is about 28% ratio of female to male Members of Parliament. Here in Ontario, there's about 30% female MPPs. 

Conservative Christians will not think twice about female physicians, female dentists, female lawyers, financial planners, and maybe even a female police officer. Female theologians? No way. There are many complementarian leaning men out there who may not even want a female doctor or lawyer. I have to smile a little when I recall the fawning and fussing over Sarah Palin a few years ago. We may want women running our country, but not our churches; at least not in conservative circles.

So, what's a female theologian to do if she wants to have a voice? She addresses theology through political themes. 

At least that's my (probably uninformed) opinion. I am a budding theologian. I have no wish to discuss US politics. I know little about it, and I'm not inclined to know more. I know enough about Canadian politics to keep me an informed voter. I just want to know God more.

So, as usual, I resort to buying books. My husband will be so pleased.