Training in Righteousness
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Entries in Social Media (29)


Social media and the young

Yesterday, I had a lunch date with my daughter, and I was encouraged about her attitude toward social media. She described it to me as a love-hate relationship. She sees the benefit of it, and as an academic, it provides a good venue for information. But she recognizes its weaknesses, too.

As we talked about writing, books, and how social media can help or hinder our writing, she shared with me that she realizes that social media can become a breeding ground for competition and posturing. I'm glad she sees that. It's so true. She recognizes the tendency for her peers to regard something as not really happening unless it's on social media. You didn't eat that hamburger; it's not on Instagram. She astutely reocgnized that social media does allow us the ability to create our own worlds, letting those in we want and excluding those we don't.  She doesn't have Facebook for this reason.

The thing she said that really stuck with me is her comment about how being too forthcoming on social media, i.e., revealing too much about one's personal life, can give people power over you. I had not really seen it that way. What she meant is that when we share too many personal details with people we know only online, it creates a sense that they know you better than they really do. There is still a place for discretion and privacy.

I have been thinking about that quite a bit since our lunch. I was pleased, though, that despite being under twenty-five, she has pretty responsible attitudes about social media. And one thing she said that really encouraged me was that she makes every effort to never complain on Twitter because as she said to me, "What do I have to complain about?  I'm so blessed."

How's that for a word of wisdom from the young?


Social media to the glory of God

I've not always used social media for God's glory. Like others, I've said things I shouldn't, vented when I should have remained silent, and used words to tear down others. I believe, though, that social media can be used for God's glory.

I spoke to someone recently who said she was reluctant to use social media as a personal pulpit.  I am not entirely sure what she meant, but I think she may mean coming across as harsh or condemning. No, we don't want to do that as Christians. I make no apologies for being a Christian, and my social media sites reflect that. I think there are times that honouring God via social media is seen just as frequently in what we don't say than in what we do say.

What I mean by that is the tendency to whine and complain. I know what I mean, because I've been guilty of it.

When I was a young woman, I would write in journals, pages and pages of complaints, injustices, and woes. In the end, I could rip out the pages when I re-read them (as I inevitably did) and thought they were pretty stupid. In this day and age, we have forums where people can listen to our rants. Or at least, we think they're listening. In all likelihood, they're rolling their eyes wishing we would stop complaining. I've done it, and I'm ashamed of it.

I've been thinking a lot lately of Paul's letter to the Philippians, where he tells them to do all things without grumbling (Phil. 2:14-15).  The whole letter is filled with Paul's exhortations to rejoice despite the situation; despite the fact that he maybe poured out as a drink offering; despite the fact that he is in jail. Paul didn't complain. He didn't leave a record of whining for us to look back at 2,000 years later. That's the kind of example I want to follow.

To put it bluntly, when we're constantly complaining, it's a bad testimony. If we're going to use Facebook or Twitter, we ought to use it to declare his excellencies, whether it is a simple "Praise the Lord" as our status, or a link to something really God-honouring and edifying. When every little problem becomes a Facebook status, what are we saying about how much we glory in God's goodness to us? I've been that complaining, murmuring person, and ultimately, it doesn't make me feel any better to vent like that.

We may not use our Facebook or Twitter to proclaim the gospel, but at the very least, let's not use it to discourage others from it.


Performing Experiments on Ourselves

I read a little booklet about Facebook and social media.  I will be reviewing it next week.  In it, the author suggested that an article online that exceeds 400 words may be passed over.  I don't know about the accuracy of that statistic, but I can make a couple of observations.

When I began blogging, a popular blogger suggested that keeping a post to 1,000 words was a good idea.  That was almost ten years ago.   I think 1,000 words is pushing it today.  I think the author who suggested 400 words may be closer to being correct.  I wrot a post for Out of the Ordinary, and my first draft was over 1,200 words.  There was no way I could post it at that length, but I was faced with a difficulty:  could I do the topic justice in less than that?

I did my best, but there were things I wished I could have said.  I could have done a "series" but the nature of our blog rather excludes that.  "Series" on blogs are very popular.  It seems as if we are reverting back to the time of Dickens, who first presented his writing in such a way.  I think he would have laughed a great deal at the notion of one of his entries being only 400 words. 

Another thing I have noticed is the fading attention spans of teens.  Apparently, 20 minutes is about all they can manage.  For now.  What will it be like five years from now?  Ten minutes?  How much understanding can one get in ten minutes?

The reality is that some issues and topics are complex, and need more than 20 minutes or 400 words.  How much understanding can we get with such brief attention?  I even find myself falling to this attention deficit thing.  I'm reading Kevin Vanhoozer's Is There a Meaning in This Text, and it is a complex read.  I find myself being able to spend only about 40 minutes at a time before feeling like my mind is wandering.  When I was a student in my first year of university, I could read for hours.

The inner rebel in me wants to shout and complain about this, and say, "Stop!"  "Wait" and "Hold on!"  Surely we can work to stave off this kind of thing?  I'd like to think so, but I am probably either too idealistic, or more likely, utterly deluded.

I think I am going to try to increase my attention span by setting the time on my phone and reading until it goes off.  I'll increase the time by five minutes at regular intervals and see how it goes.  Nothing like performing experiments on oneself.


Contests of various sorts

My dad tells a story of himself and two of his brothers.  He was three years old, and the year was 1940, in the day when cars and trucks had running boards.  My grandfather took those three boys into town with him to run errands.  While he was in a store chatting with someone, he told the boys to go outside and wait for him.  When he returned, ready to get home, he found his three boys, three years old, four years old, and seven years old, all standing on the running board of the vehicle, and relieving themselves onto the dusty street.  My grandfather told me the story once, and he said it was quite a picture.  They were having a contest, they told him.  I think you know what kind of contest they were having.

Boys from every generation have done this, including my own, right in my back yard.  And of course, we all know that here in Canada, where we get snow in winter, the task of leaving one's mark in the snow is enough to encourage even the most shy boy to participate.

Girls have contests, but it doesn't involve nature's call.  Little girls compete by seeking attention in other ways.

These kinds of contests don't really go away as we get older; they just manifest themselves in other ways, and social media is no exception.  There are days when I check my Twitter feed and leave after about two minutes, because it is apparent that there are three little boys (or girls, I suppose) who are standing on a cyber running board, competing.

I am ashamed to admit that I have used Twitter to blast people, and I ought not to ever have done so.  I cringe when I realize the number of stupid things I have said on Twitter.

I like dialogue, and I appreciate good debate, but I'm not a huge fan of contests such as that.  They usually devolve into something that isn't all that edifying.  It's so easy and so convenient, even at a sparse 140 characters to blast someone, publicly, no less.  I am learning to take dialogue offline and finding an e-mail if I'm really interested in conversing with someone.  Those are usually rare occasions, but I had one recently, and I'm glad I did.  It's a lot more civil, I think.

I have come across bloggers who will not provide any means other than their comments, Twitter, or Facebook as a means of communication.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  It's like being in a room with people and wanting to have a private word, but not being able to.  There are just some times when I don't want an audience when I make a comment or ask a question.  Certainly, not everything needs to be public.  We really are becoming a bunch of exhibitionists.

It all comes down to wanting to come out on top, and I don't know as if that's a very good motive.  We can feel free to disagree with others and engage them in discussion, but let's leave those little boy style contests out of it.

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