Tag Archives: Twitter

The Interwebs

Lately, I have been reflecting not just on the value of the internet, but the value of technology in general.  This has always been something that has been on my mind, but it was not given clarity until last year I read Neil Postman’s “Technopoly“.  If you have not read it, I highly encourage you to.  The book will challenge your approach to the world and technology.

Anyways, this “existential angst” over technology – as a friend recently put it to me – is something that is definitely experienced in my life.  As I pick up my iPhone to check text messages, e-mail, facebook, twitter, etc: each time, I feel like I am obeying a master who has total and complete control in my life.  This is partially because I have allowed the phone to have that sway over my life.  But it’s not just the phone: it’s the internet, it’s the social-media, it’s even the e-mail.  Everywhere I turn, I am surrounded by that which demands my time from me, asks me to surrender myself to it, and to give in completely to the ways of technology.  However.  The more technology has attempted to claim its sway over me, the greater there has been a desire to rebel and revolt over the great monolith that is technology.  The more it imposes itself upon me, the more I want to scream in revolt: NO!

Thus, recently, I have attempted an experiment.  I recently decided that, not only is Facebook a tool that demands far too much of my time, but, in the end, it really isn’t all that valuable.  How many videos of laughing babies – as cute as they are! – do I need to see?  How many memes do I need to see?  Is my life fulfilled because now I have seen “S**t women say”?  I think I will survive without these.

The initial post of “I’m leaving facebook” brought both public and private dissatisfaction with such a decision.  And it was with those that the doubt started to seep in: “is this a good idea?  Maybe I’m abandoning people? Am I perhaps offering something valuable with what I post on Facebook?”  But then I said to myself: I don’t care, I can’t care.  The time that will be freed up simply from abandoning Facebook will give me to actually, you know, engage with people face to face!

There is a deeper reason besides my natural desire to simply rebel at all that is put in front of me.  I have been reflecting on the many discussions I have had on Facebook and have realized this: the internet is a horrible place to communicate.  To have a “discussion” on Facebook, for example, is impossible.  The medium demands succinctness.  It doesn’t allow for subtlety, nuance, presuppositions to be declared, etc.  In short: social media doesn’t allow for dialogue, it demands a screaming match.

Blogs, I will admit, are different.  They allow for a reasonable amount of space to get an opinion across.  But Twitter, too, can be a very devalued form of communication (though it can be highly useful for sharing news with others).  But, more or less, the internet is wonderful for discovering facts and information, but it is horrible for communication.

Yet, we as a society seem to embrace it all the more!  We allow ourselves to be overtaken by devices, gadgets, and websites.  Trending websites are leaning towards the more and more banal (Pinterest is the weirdest thing I have ever heard of!).  We are devolving as a society because we are allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by what is ultimately unimportant.

We have allowed technology to become the form of our life, instead of allowing ourselves to be that which gives form to technology.  In short: we are slaves to technology.  Technology is becoming the wave of the future and, simultaneously, the wave of our demise as a human race.  I think of videos such as the one at the end of this post and think: we are making the lives of others worse just so that we can enjoy the latest gadget.

What has our society come to, that we need these gadgets in order to be human?  Why are we lack discernment towards all that is thrown at us?  Why can’t we use the faculty of reason to actually properly judge whether something is good for us or not?  Why do we presume that just because it’s new, it’s good?

The existential angst I feel in getting rid of Facebook is real: I don’t know what to do without it, to an extent.  Yet, I have lived without it before, I can live without it again.  This move gives me the strength to do more, too: to get rid of twitter, and probably my iPhone too.  I’m a lot happier when I’m with people, when I’m reading, when I’m praying.  Why do I need to fill my life with endless distraction?  It seems so inhuman.  The fact of the matter is that technology has become that: it has become inhuman, and yet we treat it as a part of ourselves.  This, to me, is too far.




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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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