Sunday, June 1, 2014

Why Blogs Don't Work...

I've already given my reasons for why I've left Facebook, but I've also taken a break from blogging for a while.  Although with blogging, I'm willing to give it another chance, because from my perspective, I believe it can be more easily redeemed than something such as Facebook.  

Blogs, like Facebook are by nature usually quite narcissistic.  It's usually an attempt to promote self, or some grand idea that really is a masquerade for promoting self.  (i.e. look how smart I am, with this profound advice or experience; let's fill the comment section with how great I am).  It becomes all too easy to promote ideas or experience as gospel truth, and anyone who questions those ideas or experiences is being insensitive at best, intolerant at worst.  

As I've grown as person, I've learned that sometimes, people just have bad advice, and other times, people just give the wrong advice.  Just because it's blogged about doesn't mean it's true, and yet we see it that way.  

Along with this point is the fact that blogs can serve a smoke screen to hide reality from the audience.  I can take a story where I reamed out my kids for something stupid and paint it with words into this beautiful or funny anecdote with a wonderful message, but that doesn't change the fact that I have a real problem yelling at my kids.  Furthermore, I can say I "know" I have a problem getting frustrated with my kids, and by "confessing" it in a blog, I'm being "authentic", but really all I'm doing is using the internet as my priest and I have no real intent on changing.  Frankly, the hard work of change doesn't happen on a blog post, it happens in the shadows of the drudgery of life.  And unfortunately, that's not as glamorous as a blog post that goes viral.  

Another problem with blogs is that the forum validates all experiences.  Frankly, that just logically doesn't work.  All experiences can't be valid.  You can tolerate all experiences, you can hear out all experiences, but they're not all equally healthy valid expressions of life.  Everyone sees themselves as right in their own eyes;  I know I do, and the last thing I want to do is use my blog space on the internet to further ingrain in my head how right I am and how wrong everyone else is.  

So, can blogs be different?  Can I redeem this space?  What would a redeemed blog look like?  

1)Humble attitude:  Yes, it's my blog, but that doesn't mean I'm always right.  I've got to be teachable.  If I provide a piece of parenting advice or a leadership principle or a rehashing of an experience I've had, does that mean I'm necessarily right?  Of course not! I never want to write as if I know everything.  

2)Appropriate authenticity:  On one hand, I don't want to paint myself as having it all together.  That's important.  But like I stated before, the more insidious aspect of inauthenticity on a blog is that idea that by being "real" on our blog, it somehow absolves us of checking back into the drudgery of the real world and working hard at relationships.  A blog better not matter more than loving my child.  A blog better not matter more than my husband.  A blog better not matter more than a hurting student at church.  It's just a blog, and at the end of the day, it's going to always be like priority 15 on my list, because being authentic in real life takes a lot of time and work.  

3)Real conversation:  Oh my gosh.  If you're going to talk about how awesome my post is, just don't waste the time writing a comment.  First of all, I'm an achiever at heart, so telling me how awesome I am doesn't help my cause.  Second of all, I'm only 27, so by definition, I'm not that awesome, because I have like zero life experience.  I don't have the answers to the universe's problems, so let's save the comment section for offering different perspectives, constructive criticism, and the like.  Let's have a genuine conversation, and for goodness sake, let's have the comment section be a safe place to disagree.  

So that's kind of how I imagine a healthy blog functioning.  Humility, "real" authenticity (that should be a redundant phrase, but authenticity is such a hip catch phrase today that it's sadly not redundant), and real conversation (as opposed to butt kissing).  

My vision for blogs that function like that was inspired by Richard Beck's blog  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Why I left Facebook and went to the the Desert...

Social media for me is like the crisis that early Church Fathers faced when Rome embraced Christianity.  

I know, that doesn't make any sense.  So let me explain.  

For years, Christians were the persecuted by Rome.  Even if you take a liberal view of history, we can all agree that Christians at least weren't the most liked group in ancient Rome.  

And then, one day, everything changed.  Constantine became a Christian and Christianity was no longer marginalized, but celebrated and promoted from the emperor.  

A religion with limited resources now had infinite money at its disposal.  A religion that sat on the sidelines now had copious amounts of power.  And we all know where this is headed...right?  Power, corrupts.  

But there were genuine people still in the ranks.  These genuine Christ followers grappled with the question of how to remain a humble servant of Christ amidst the glorified institution that Christianity had become.  

There were two main schools of thought.  

One group said, "Let's try to make this work.  Let's be a light amidst the glory, power, and corruption. Let's serve our brothers and sisters in love and be a reminder of what the truth is in spite of the glitz."

The other group said, "It can't be redeemed, let's go to the desert.  Our fleeing will be a reminder that God looks down on this perversion of his following."

That's how I look at social media, especially Facebook.  As I watched for months, I tried to be in group A.  "I'll be different," I told myself.  "No passive-aggressive posts from me.  No quizzical status updates that coerce people into asking how I'm doing or what I'm talking about."  If I had a problem, I would either work it out through God, or if necessary talk directly to the person with whom I was in conflict.  

But as I watched, I just got sicker and sicker, angrier and angrier.  I tried to post things that brought light- inspiring quotes, thought provoking articles that I always provided caveats for, fun (because everyone needs more fun in their lives).  But watching everyone else, it was too exhausting to watch.  

It became a medium for people to be angry without having a conversation.  It became a place for people to lie about their lives, painting things as rosy in order to escape reality.  It became a place for people to slam others (in the most professional and sly sort of way).  

And then this picture.  Church Father, or Desert Monk?  Which one was I going to be?  Be a light in the midst of poor relational skills and defensiveness (which usually ends up being plain old sin), or let my absence be an indictment on Facebook?

Interestingly enough, both the Church Fathers and the Desert Monks at this time were largely influential.  I was surprised to learn that God effectively used both groups to accomplish His will.  Because he is a God of infinite resources, whatever conclusion these men and women took, stay or go, He used them.  

And so I could trust that he would use me as long as I walked humbly with Him.  And so I walked away.  I walked away from the desire to paint this great picture of my life to everyone else.  I walked away from the anger and frustration of others and myself.  I walked away from the fear that if I wasn't on Facebook, I'd lose important connections.  

But I learned something through the process.  I was a lot happier without Facebook.  I was excited to learn things from people when they shared news with me face to face rather than learning it outside of their presence.  I learned that I wasn't responsible to micromanage, stalk, or keep up with other people that weren't in my circle.  I'm beginning to let God bring people in and out of my life.  I'm detoxing from unhealthy social media use and unhealthy social media ways of relating.  

Strangely, Desert Monks went to the desert to be alone, but people followed them.  Some of them became frustrated because so many people wanting to learn the ways of Christ followed them into the desert.  I'm not saying that I am anyone to emulate (I'm good at some things but terrible at others), but I do trust that some people will follow me out of this strange world of social media and into deep face-to-face relationships.  

This leads me to one last thought.  I believe in my heart of hearts that technology will be with us forever.  I don't eschew it, and I want to stay ahead of the curve, mainly for ministry's sake.  I work with middle and high schoolers, and one of the deciding factors of why I could confidently leave Facebook is that teens don't use Facebook much at all anymore.  So, I didn't need it to work with my tribe.  Facebook has become a tribe of middle aged people who are desperately seeking connection.  That's not where God has intentionally called me.  And those who are middle aged who need connection, I'm looking to connect with face to face, not via social media.  

So, I'm not going to totally leave technology.  In fact, I think blogs have the potential to be an awesome redeeming space on the internet, and I hope that I can turn this blog into just that.  But, that's going to take some time, and some effort, and some relearning of how we do blogs.  But that is a post for a different day...