[image by Winstonavich]
Earlier this week I wrote a post on our identity in our engagement in social media and technology. I believe that at the heart of our online engagement are large questions of identity. And unless these questions of identity are addressed, we don’t fully live into what God has called us to be, but instead move into other identities that we, or others have created for us online. It’s hard to be alone…computer off–no Facebook, no Twitter, no blog–alone with our thoughts. Alone with who we really are.
In order to combat this tension I think we have to live a more rhythmic life when it comes to our use of social media and technology. And by rhythmic, I mean a pattern of living that is modeled after the Creation account–God creates for 6 days, and rests on the 7th.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested [a] from all his work.
Most of us don’t have a sabbath when it comes to social media/technology engagement.
How many of us have at least one day of solitude from online technology–from the computer? From our cellphones?
How many of us have built in periods of solitude, not just weekly, but daily?
Diagnosing the Problem
So why don’t we have sabbath patterns built into our routines? What is it about being engaged in social media and technology that keeps us from setting the proper boundaries? As I have said before, there is no need to re-invent the wheel, but instead I’m going to be looking at Henri Nouwen’s book, The Way of the Heart, as I write during this series.
And here is what Nouwen has to say about our busyness, and how it is connected with our identity. I think we can apply this to social media and technology. Constantly being online gives us a sense of being busy, of being needed and wanted. It gives us a sense of identity based on blogging traffic, and the number of retweets on Twitter. All this busyness does something to us. And we have to look at the problem first, if we are then going to change our patterns, and live a more holistic life that includes sabbath times daily, weekly, yearly.
“Just look for a moment at our daily routine. In general we are very busy people. We have many meetings to attend, many visits to make, many services to lead. Our calendars are filled with appointments, our days and weeks filled with engagements, and our years filled with plans and projects. There is seldom a period in which we do not know what to do, and we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say, or do are worth thinking, saying, or doing. We simply go along with the many ‘musts’ and ‘oughts’ that have been handed on to us, and we live with them as if they were authentic translations of the Gospel of our Lord (boldness added). People must be motivated to come to church, youth must be entertained, money must be raised, and above all everyone must be happy. Moreover, we ought to be on good terms with the church and civil authorities; we out to be liked or at least respected by a fair majority of our parishoners; we ought to move up in the ranks according to schedule; and we ought to have enough vacation and salary to live a comfortable life. Thus we are busy people just like all other busy people, rewarded with the rewards which are rewarded to busy people!
All this is simply to suggest how horrendously secular our ministerial lives tend to be. Why is this so? Why do we children of the light so easily become conspirators with the darkness? The answer is quite simple. Our identity, our sense of self, is at stake. Secularity is a way of being dependent on the responses of our milieu. The secular or false self is the self which is fabricated, as Thomas Merton says, by social compulsions. ‘Compulsive’ is indeed the best adjective for the false self. It points to the need for ongoing and increasing affirmation. Who am I? I am the one who is liked, praised, admired, disliked, hated, or despised. Whether I am a pianist, a businessman, or a minister, what matters is how I am perceived by my world. If being busy is a good thing, then I must be busy. If having money is sign of real freedom, then I must claim my money. If knowing many people proves my importance, I will have to make the necessary contacts. The compulsion manifests itself in the lurking fear of failing and the steady urge to prevent this by gathering more of the same–more work, more money, more friends.” (The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence, pp. 12-13).