Tag Archives: internet

The Interwebs Pt 2

Well, it happened.

Last Friday, after a week or so of preparing people, I did what I thought to be the unthinkable.  I DELETED MY FACEBOOK ACCOUNT!

Now, Facebook is tricksy: they like to give you two weeks before deleting your account, just in case you change your mind.  That e-mail they sent haunts me: I can still revert, I can still go back!

But I refuse to.  This is what I must do.  But, I must admit, it has not been easy!  Suddenly I feel disconnected from the world.  How will the world know if – God willing – the bishop decides to call me to ordination?  How will I tell friends and family alike?  How can I share the latest articles I’ve come across, the newest ideas, the latest books, the mundane activities of my life?  I must admit it: there is slight separation anxiety attached with this detachment.  It is not easy. 

Furthermore, how am I to find out what sort of events are going on around town with my friends?  How will I know what is going down?  I feel separated, lost, and scrambling to distract myself in other realms of my life.

But, in the end, despite the difficulty, despite the slight anxiety, I realize this has been a good thing.  I did not realize how much time Facebook was taking up in my life until I left it.  How easy it was to go on my phone and check it out.  How easy it was to just sit at my computer and engage in rather pointless discussions.  In the end, it was more a waste of time than anything else.

But there is a further element of reflection from all this: the separation anxiety is real, but it is because our world has reduced communication to social media.  We are unable to communicate outside of it.  This has all occurred within the span of five years at the most!  That is a scary change, one that, I believe, is the result of the unreflective spirit of our age.  As I mentioned in my previous post, we have a tendency to take upon new technologies simply because they are new and not because they are good.  We refuse to ask “what are we losing with all this?”  It is a question we must always ask.  In the end, as Neil Postman observes, every new technology means that we lose something.  The invention of writing began to be the end of oral tradition and profound memory, for example.  It’s not necessarily bad, but it means we lose something in the process of gaining something else.

My question today, however, is whether this form of communication through social media is actually good?  The reactions I got against leaving Facebook, the fact that people felt they would be unable to communicate with me by leaving it tells me there is something wrong here.  If something creates the inability to communicate any other way, then I think we need to begin to re-evaluate and ask whether we are on the right path.  The more I reflect on it, the more I think that we are not on the right path.  I see an inability to confront and talk face to face.  I see an inability to communicate person to person.  When communication loses the personal element, then we are no longer communicating.

To me, communication must take all three transcendentals into account: the true, the good, and the beautiful.  In fact, all activity should be done in truth, for the good of myself and others, and in an attractive/enticing manner.    That is the ethos which governs my life.  Technology, however, has lost its aetsthetic value, its ability to put forward an attractive truth claim, to form an attractive ethos.  With the loss of the aesthetic dimension, with “the beautiful” being removed from the realm of technology, all that is left is facts in place of truth, activism instead of goodness.  When you remove a transcendental, all else becomes pointless because all the other transcendentals lose that which makes them what they are.  Truth needs beauty and goodness to be truth, beauty needs truth and goodness to be beauty, and goodness needs truth and beauty to be itself.  The internet, I believe, does not have the moral or aesthetic dimension.  With this, I see the internet only as a place for fact finding.  One can find resources, articles, news, etc.  This is good.  But it is not a place of communication.  The only exception I will give to this is e-mail because it mimics letter writing.  It still loses the essential element of reflectivity – it’s so easy to write without much reflection in email – but it can allow for that element.  I have yet to see that reflectivity anywhere else on the internet.

By the by, a friend and colleague has posted a wonderful reflection on his blog in reference to my first post.  You can find the article here.

In Christ

-Harrison

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On The Value of Twitter

Fr. Dwight Longenecker over at “Standing on My Head” has an interesting series he is beginning on twitter.  It is, essentially, short spiritual quotes from spiritual masters of the Christian tradition.

This got me thinking about some of the potential value of twitter, if used appropriately.

Many, nay, most people use twitter for linking, saying that they are in line at a coffee shop, and, well, mostly mundane things.  But it need not be that way.  Fr. Longenecker’s series got me thinking about how even things like Twitter – which, I must admit, I am not the biggest fan of – can be used for great spiritual good with the use of spiritual aphorisms.

First, for those who don’t know what Twitter is, it is a communication service in which you communicate thoughts, 140 characters at time.  It is, in short, meant for brief, quick, and easy communication.  Unfortunately, what is on Twitter is mostly mundane and not worth the little bit of time we would be putting into it.

Yet, what Fr. Longenecker is talking about is something that the Church can do to use it for the good of promoting the spiritual growth of others and contributing to adding a soul to the internet.

Essentially, Fr. Longenecker is using the great ancient tradition of spiritual aphorisms and using a medium that is actually quite adept at communicating these aphorisms.  Many of us have very busy days, where a million requests, activities, and actions are required of us.  Many people do not have the luxury that, for example, priests do in sitting down and doing spiritual reading.  Life makes too many demands of most people to make such time impossible.  Yet, the beauty of spiritual aphorisms is that they can be an aid in our day.  We can take these little quotes as guides for the day, as words that will strengthen us in our daily tasks, as words that will slowly challenge us to continue on our work of holiness.

Most people, too, cannot remember long, extensive quotes.  We are no longer a culture that depends on memory (though, I think this is actually a negative thing because memory and human/spiritual formation go hand in hand, but that is for another post one day).  So, unless it is short, sweet, and to the point, we have no time for it.  We scan, skim, and get on to the next bit of information.  This is not good, but we must also meet people where they are at and so can use things like Twitter to get small, substantial, and conversion-ended messages across to people to help them in their day.  Small aphorisms can be the small seed that results in an abundance of growth.  Then, as people begin to hunger for more, we point them to places, people, and books that can help them at the deeper level they desire.  If you will, Twitter is akin to the first stage of the spiritual life, and so those who are looking to start there, Twitter can be helpful.  It can even be helpful for those who are more advanced spiritually: they can take these small bits and pray with them constantly each day?  Heck, why can’t we use Twitter to aid in Lectio Divina with short scriptural passages.  Because the passage/saying is short, it becomes easy to memorize and to pray on it over and over again.  And thus we can even use Twitter as a means of aiding people to come to the deeper spiritual sense of Scripture, to help them memorize the Scripture, and to bring them to a deeper encounter with Jesus Christ through the Scriptures and the holy sayings of His saints.

Yet, at the same time, we must always be critical of things and not accept them as “new = good”.  This is not always the case.  I think Twitter can be good, but I do find a lot of Catholics, in trying to reach the culture, end up using it in the same mundane manner as the culture, thus losing opportunities of evangelization and growth.  We must use these tools, but with the Christian soul permeating through our use of them.  Otherwise we are not evangelizing, but are bringing the Gospel and watering it down with the soul of the world.  Rather, the Gospel ought to be enlivening the dead flesh of the world and bring it to a newer and more profound life.

Fr. Longenecker’s venture has got me re-evaluating the importance of Twitter.  While I do see it too easily used for the mundane, for the fast-paced world we live in, a short shot of scriptural passages and spiritual maxims can aid us to bring a soul into the busyness of our lives.  Twitter, too, can be used for the good of the Gospel, in so far as we are willing to use it as a means to ever-greater spiritual growth.

On that note, I do have a twitter feed and hope to use it more often, following the great example of Fr. Longenecker.  You can follow me on Twitter @christian_state.

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I’m Back!

Hi everyone

I apologize for the delay in posting.

I was away at a conference last week giving a talk on the Evangelical Counsels.  It went really well, but just haven’t been around a computer much lately.  My wireless internet card is gone, so it means my laptop doesn’t have internet access whenever I want anymore.  In all honesty, it’s actually a blessing to have no immediate access to the internet.  It is freeing up time to do things like cook, clean, and read for leisure!

I have a few posts brewing as there has been much going on in the world that is worthy of reflection, so you will see those in short in order.

In Christ

-Harrison

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