The Social Media Dilemma and Courage to “Unplug”

By Joe LaGuardia

The first thing my son does in the morning is open his laptop and watch his favorite YouTube channel.  My daughter checks her social media pages.  I groggily turn over and tune in to Facebook to see what is new.  My wife tells everyone to unplug.

This is our typical day, as I’m sure it is for millions of other Americans who enjoy technology without knowing how it affects their lives for good or worse.

My wife once recommended we unplug from Facebook, and I have been putting off the idea for some time.  The subject came up again, this time at my own initiative.  I’ve been reading The Driver in the Driverless Car by techno-ethicist Vivek Wadwha after hearing an interview with him on the radio.  I knew that I was spelling the end of my social media days when I ordered the book.  It was just a matter of time.

When I recommended we unplug, I asked, “How will we keep in touch with friends and family?” My wife replied, “The same way you kept in touch before we had Facebook.  Make a phone call.”  The wheels started turning, and prayer ensued.

Wadwha’s book focuses on several ethical issues surrounding the emergence of technology.  No matter how invasive, he contends, technology is only as beneficial as we are autonomous.  Dependence upon technology can be harmful and, in some cases, immoral.  Its just as Jesus might have said if he lived in the 21st-Century, “Man does not live online alone, but on every word of God.”

Autonomy is about choice — do we have a choice whether we can survive apart from the technology in our lives, and do we have a choice to go beyond our online tribes and algorithm-shaped echo chambers?

My question about Facebook –“How will we keep in touch?”– revealed an acute dependence whether real or perceived: in short, “How will I live without Facebook?”

That evening, we mapped out the needs, fears, benefits, and costs of social media.  We then sought to rectify our needs, confront our fears with biblical antidotes, and list benefits related to being unplugged.

Assuming we have only three needs for social media–the social media “triad”, as it were: friends and family, news and entertainment, and (in my case as an author and pastor) publicity — that means we had to devise a couple of alternatives for each need.  For instance, we can keep in touch with family and friends the old-fashioned way, by phone or mail (a much more personal touch).  We also have messenger and texting.

For news, we can spend time reading the newspaper that calls our driveway home every morning without fail.  And for publicity, we can drive up subscriptions to this blog, knowing that every post is emailed to those who sign up.

Professional relationships and publicity can also go through the church Facebook page, of which I will be a part, primarily during work hours or ministry projects.  No need to check the church FB page at midnight, during dinner, or any of those other obtrusive times when we seem so addicted to our screens.  Our world has to be larger than 3 X 5 inches, you know.

Our fears were clear: fears of being “out of the loop”, missing news, of not being “present” online either for publicity or pastoral sake, a concern for any clergy worth his salt.  But when we looked to the Bible for help and focused on two admonishments (maintaining privacy and freedom in Christ — autonomy and choice, per Wadwha), we found 2 Thessalonians 4:11-12 relevant and all-inclusive to our conundrum:

And make it your ambition to lead a quiet life…so that you will behave properly toward others and be dependent on no one.”

And, we figured, to be dependent on no thing, social media included.

We had charted our course, now it was a matter of unplugging.  We devised a plan: Write this article, put posts on our Facebook pages to inform everyone of our decision, and put with a link to the article with instructions on how people can contact us.

If you are reading this now, you’ve likely seen the post.

So begins our new adventure without social media.  It will be a challenge as any change is, but we are confident in God’s guidance for this endeavor.  And there is God’s Word to consider: If more of us lived quietly and earnestly, putting our hands to the Lord’s harvest, perhaps we might be a happier society, creators of healthier churches, and the source of a more dedicated, simple folk.

Here’s to unplugging!

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What are we mad about this week? [Curated]

HandsAngryPencil-300x200[Curated from the Ed Cyzewski blog.]

By Ed Cyzewski

I have been taking the weekends off from Facebook, and something strange has been happening on Monday morning. Feeling like Rip Van Winkle, I open up Facebook and review the news from the weekend. I catch myself wondering what people are angry about this week.

It’s strange to feel so detached from the passionate debates of the past two days.

Of course there are many things that we can legitimately become angry about. The world is rife with injustice. I’m not doubting these things or suggesting that we embrace complacency.

Rage can become a lifestyle, a habit that we cultivate by constantly feeding it tidbits of injustice and fear from our circles and from the news cycle.

Rather, I’ve been noticing that the daily use of Facebook can lead my mind into a kind of ongoing angst and anger, if not a sense of anxiety. In light of the injustices and problems in our world, I’m concerned that despite the benefits of awareness that comes through Facebook, it’s also creating a mindset of anger and anxiety that leaves me unable to thoughtfully engage the problems of our world in a constructive manner, let alone the people who disagree with my perspective… [Read more here].

Facebook, social networking is good therapy if used properly

Picture by Theephin; click on picture for Flickr page source

I am an introvert.  That means two things:  One, I make for a lousy pastor because I am shy.  Two, I live most of my life inside of my own head.

In fact, there is a whole library in my head.  I pull up a chair, turn on the brain, and pick some good books off the bookshelf.  I have my favorites: The one on anxiety has a torn cover from too much use; then there is one on desires and another on opinions.  There are a few others on time management and lots of books on politics.

Every now and then, some of what goes on in my crowded brain makes it into the public square, mostly in the form of articles or sermons.

Over the span of my life, however, I have found that being an introvert gets frustrating because things can build up sometimes. (I have met other introverts with the same issue.)   I don’t get mad at people or get physically stressed.  I don’t show much emotion.   Instead, I tend to sulk, withdraw, or get moody when my thoughts get overwhelming.

When conflict arises, I withdraw into that library.  I think, dwell, and worry too much.  “Relax!” and “Get over it!” are two phrases my wife often tells me.

Then Facebook and blogs came along, and I quickly found that they brought some much-needed solace as an outlet for my brooding ways.  At first, I found that social networking was so liberating–to express all of those thoughts quickly and freely!– that I abused those websites.  My mantra became, “I publish, therefore I am!”

It eventually became a bit too much.  I mean, who really wants to know whether I cooked mac-n-cheese instead of chicken nuggets for my kids on a particular night?

And Lent came along and I recognized that my abuse had to stop.  Since that time, I have focused on setting boundaries on social networking during the last three seasons of Lent.

That first Lent, I “fasted” from Facebook altogether.  The next year, I gave up using Facebook on my smart phone.  The third Lent, I sold my smart phone for a simple cell phone and had my wife password-protect our computer to limit my time online.

I realized that I had to find healthier ways to interact with people.  I increased my pastoral visits, spent time calling people on the phone rather than emailing them, and took time to visit some local eateries in town for breakfast now and then (Oaks Diner is the best!).

Yet, my use of social networks still continue, although not as neurotically.  It’s actually become quite therapeutic in a way.  The other day I was frustrated about a few things regarding my lack of exercise and self-discipline, and I wrote a status update saying as much.

Without that status update, my frustration would have been an on-going drama in the recesses of my head.  But the update proved helpful as I got several online responses.  A few people wrote supportive comments; one friend took time to text me and ask how he could help me or pray for me.  That made my day.

Getting that frustration out allowed me to let some people in my life so that they could carry me in their prayers and encouragement.  Even pastors need that now and then.

James’ epistle reminds us of the importance of “letting it out” because of the grace that others can provide when we become vulnerable in our communities of support: “Are any among you suffering?  They should pray.  Are any cheerful?  They should sing songs of praise.  Are any among you sick?  They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them”  (5:14).

There are times to keep some things in, between you and the Lord; but, more times than not, it’s good to go outside and let others in to your life too.  It supports the old adage, “We are, therefore I am,” and allows for “mutual love to continue” (Hebrews 13:1).