Can You Be “Fully Present” Relationally If You Are Tweeting In Your Wedding, Church Service and Marital Interactions…

At the Cultivate Conference in October I was really impressed with John Acuff’s thoughts on satire. He basically said (loosely paraphrased) that for him satire was blowing something up so big (larger than life), so that we can sort of step back and see ourselves in it. For John, it’s blowing up and satarizing Christian culture. It’s like a mirror reflecting back on what we do, and who we are.

Though this is not satire, watching the video below gave me an opportunity to step back and gain a new perspective on our use of technology and how it is permeating our lives. If you haven’t seen the video yet, check it out below. The groom was basically updating his facebook and twitter status at the altar (mind you, without his bride in on this).

Twittering in Church and Weddings
I have been thinking a lot about the use of technology in our lives and how it affects our relationships, but it took seeing this video to give me some more clarity on the subject, and help me think beyond the use of technology just in this specific situation.

Let me be up front and say that each person can decide what they want to do in their wedding. Everyone has their own ideas, from traditional to more casual. I tend to come from a more traditional camp, holding basically the idea that our wedding ceremony is a worship service where others participate in our union of becoming one before Christ. That is pretty sacred, so I tend to be more traditional. So as I watched the video it tended to rub me the wrong way. But here is why…..

Watching the video of the guy updating his status during his wedding ceremony, helped me to step back and see why others are offended at those who twitter and IM in a church service. A church service is designed for us to come before God in worship, but if we are so busy twittering on our phones, are we removing ourselves from being fully present to God during the worship?

I don’t know.

I’m asking myself that question since I’m one that is very pro technology/social media and have been a big advocate of using twitter and other services during conferences, church services, bible studies, etc. It’s funny how it took a guy updating his twitter status (not being present to his bride–in my opinion), to really get me to ask some questions about if I’m not really being present to God when I let technology interfere in the relationship.

Can technology bring us closer to people that we are in relationship with? I would say yes. But if we don’t carefully think through our use of it, it can as easily detract from our relationships.

Counseling Couples
One of the biggest issues that I’m seeing with couples today is the problems that arise from the use/abuse of technology in their lives. From spouses who complain that their partner is having an inappropriate emotional relationship with someone online–to full out affairs; to spouses who complain that their partner is never present, but always on the phone or computer at home—-the way technology is coming between people in relationship is startling and becoming a bigger issue.

I predict that the use of social media in a marriage relationship will become one of the biggest issues I will be dealing with in marriage counseling in the future.

It doesn’t stop with our spouses, but continues with our children and families. People know when we are not fully present with them. That does not take a rocket scientist. In fact, one can have the computer and phone closed, but a spouse can feel that his/her partner would rather be online, or is thinking about an online project, rather than being present.

1 Corinthians 13:12

12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

I think one of the greatest gifts we can give someone is our full-attention–full-presence. We may not always be able to be physically present with people, so we do our best to be with them in the best way possible (phone, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, blog, etc.).

But if we are face to face with someone (in a wedding, church service, meeting, etc.), then what greater thing can we do for them?

You tell me?

I have clients coming through my door each week who tell me that I’m the only one in their life who is fully present with them, even if it’s only for an hour. I hope that those that we are in relationship with would not have to seek out a therapist to find that.

Moving Forward
As I said above. I love technology. I love social media. I love the things that I have been able to do in ministry and therapy with technology. That is not going away. But I must think more critically about my use of technology in my relationships (professional and private), so that those I interact with do not feel dehumanized in any way.

My desire is to bring a greater sense of presence and humanization to the work I have the privilege to do online. I don’t want technology/social media to go away, but I want to better use it, so that it’s not using me (in the words of John Dyer).

P.S. Pastors, if you are doing a wedding, don’t allow the groom to do something that the bride or family may not like. Thank you.

9 Comments

  1. by Adam Shields on December 2, 2009  6:53 pm Reply

    I did not get that the bride was out of the loop on this. But I can see that. I totally agree that something like this needs to be approved by all sides first.

    I think it was done primarily for humor. It accomplished that. It seemed the pastor knew about it but was not completely bought into it.

    But I also think that it was a way of declaring, in a way that we were not able to do 10 years ago, the importance of marriage status. Girls get engagement rings, guys are left with facebook relationship statuses. He is marking his territory (not intending for the dog joke or the sexist/dominant thing, but a sense of showing adulthood and/or manhood.)
    .-= Adam Shields´s last blog ..Two books on prayer by Daniel Henderson =-.

    • by Rhett Smith on December 2, 2009  9:06 pm Reply

      Adam,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate your insight.

      I was only saying she was out of the loop since that is what was reported on other sites such as TechCrunch. But maybe she was. I do think it was done primarily for humor and something that obviously couldn't be done 10 years ago. It's interesting your comments about "marking his territory." I have never looked at it that way...but that is very possible.

      But seemed to be more out of place than anything.....but I wasn't there....only saw the video. Kind of upstaged the ceremony which I think is unfortunate. That's all that anyone will remember about it.

      I will have to chew on what you said.....

      later,

      Rhett

      • by Adam Shields on December 2, 2009  9:23 pm Reply

        Many people will only remember it because it was funny. If she only remembers it because it upstaged the ceremony, then it was bad. If she remembers it because she finds him funny, it may be good. The problem is that we often generalize based on ourselves. I don't know them, I don't know how they or she will feel about it later. They probably don't know how they will feel about it later.

        When I graduated from college I walked across the stage with a microphone headset. I tried to get the college president to say hi. I thought it was funny, but didn't think about some of the other ramifications. Would I do it again? Nope. He may have similar conclusions later.

        I think you are right. There are several signs here that may indicate issues. Upstaging the bride, hiding from her things that are relevant to the ceremony, etc.

        But I am not one to generalize and say it was wrong. I liked the YouTube wedding dance procession from a few months ago because it showed the joy that I usually feel about weddings. I like this one because it shows some levity in what are often too serious ceremonies. But I don't want to discount some of the complaints about the dance or this event.

        Tradition is important and too often I (and society in general) are reacting against tradition because it is tradition. We are often too limited in our understanding to understand why tradition exists and why it may be important. We are too limited to know what will happen when traditions break down. But we can't prevent the breakdown of tradition unless we really talk through and discussion what makes the tradition important. This and the wedding dance have done much to help me and others think about why we have traditions in weddings. I wonder how many will think and discussion and how many will just copy and create new (usually much less weighty) traditions.
        .-= Adam Shields´s last blog ..Two books on prayer by Daniel Henderson =-.

        • by Rhett Smith on December 2, 2009  9:49 pm Reply

          Adam,

          I don't disagree with you....a lot of it is based on my own biases, that's why I tried to make it clear up front that these were some of my own thoughts on weddings, but how everyone has to do it for themselves. And I definitely think you can be tradition, serious, sacred, whatever, and still have fun and show lots of humor, etc. Even when I officiate weddings I try to tell funny stories about the couple and bring smiles and joy and laughter to them while holding fast to the sacredness of the event.

          They may totally laugh about it and I hope they do. I actually laughed myself, yet, still was rubbed the wrong way. I actually didn't laugh the first time around. The dance processional a few months back I thought was more funny since it seemed all planned and choreographed....this seemed to be more about the groom surprising the bride. But I could be wrong.

          I've talked with a few couples who ended up in counseling (not for this alone), but because stuff wasn't communicated, or didn't go right at the wedding ceremony. A bride was surprised by stuff, etc. That sort of was the beginning of other issues for them.

          As for tradition...I have lots of thoughts on that. Is a ceremony even necessary? Does it need to be state approved? Etc, etc.

          It's a big day for couples....so having them plan it together, so that it goes as they planned is important. And if that's how they want it...awesome.

          I think I just have deeper concerns (ones that Jacques Ellul) and other philosophers discuss about the dehumanizing affect that technology has on us and our relationships...it can be so subtle that we don't even realize it. And eventually we chalk it up to "everyone is doing it" or "culture is headed that way" that we don't even know what pill we have taken.

          Okay...I'm way off track...I appreciate the conversation. Helps me think through things also...which is what I'm doing.

          Rhett
          .-= Rhett Smith´s last blog ..Can You Be “Fully Present” Relationally If You Are Tweeting In Your Wedding, Church Service and Marital Interactions… =-.

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  4. by Dr Mike on December 3, 2009  9:17 am Reply

    Rhett:

    I've been doing marital therapy for 25 years or so and, like you, have seen an increase in complaints (usually from wives) about excessive time spent online or just on a computer. But it is only a symptom: the real problem generally turns out to be conflict avoidance or an issue with genuine intimacy.

    I wish you well in your profession. Remember to take care of yourself and to never work harder than your clients - well, unless they're suicidal: then you kinda have to.

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