Less Internet, More Me
I had a great set of posts in my head for the conclusion of 2016. I also had a great set of posts slow roasting for the start of 2017. But my body had different plans.
I came down with the flu on New Year's Eve. Of course, I didn't know that until Sunday when I couldn't get out of bed despite multiple attempts. I soaked sheets and clothes in sweat until Monday morning. Thankfully, my bout with the flu was not long, but it was enough time lying in bed mildly delirious. My weary body did not give me room for reading or writing for the remainder of the work week (which I worked from home). Instead, I spent time stewing on this post.
Late in 2016, I had already planned to be on social media less and blog less. With a fourth baby on the way and hosting a weekly Bible Study (whenever new baby lets us return to that), life is busy. And from a purely pragmatic perspective, it seemed wise to set down those two things to focus on other goals. But as I rolled around between sleep and occasionally struck out to check social media, I felt like some reflections pushed me even further away from social media.
I believe it goes without saying that the shallowness of relationships on social media is a well-known phenomena. That's not to say that every relationship is shallow, but that the tendency towards shallowness is undisputed. Social media relationships tend to hinge on shared interests that are readily apparent and prevalent in our lives. In short, there isn't much digging for personal attributes or characteristic before making social friends.
In fact if anything, the more that we dig into one another's lives the less in agreement we tend to be. This is not a bad thing. However, social media lends itself to a self-contained sphere of confirmation bias, and we are often guilty of cleansing our media friends when they extend beyond our comfort with disagreement. This practice twiddles down our social media friendships to a list of "essential" points of agreement that must be shared. Again, none of this is entirely bad.
However, I wish we could see that this is also true of other online relationships. Those whom we "disagree with" on social media tend to be individuals who express contrary opinions to our "bare essential list." Social media encourages us to treat these people as the enemy. These (principled) disagreements become the method of relating to "them" (as opposed to "us"). So we argue, pithily subtweet, and disparage—not always about people but at least about the ideas they hold.
Well, I'm done with the innate desire for this that social media implants in me. I want more rounded friendships were the disagreement and agreement columns aren't so artfully maintained—and perhaps are more balanced. I want people I disagree with to know I care about them as people. And I want to reduce the number of people I disagree with from a distance. I want friendships that sustain significant disagreements and I want to spend my time disagreeing in edifying ways. I want to contribute to and see fewer drive-by tweets and fake culture war engagements.
Go The Distance
In that vein, internet relationships are also marked by convenience. They may not stay that way, but it marks them—the effort required to converse is low. The public broadcasting of feelings and opinions is analogous to being fed as a child. Naturally, consumption can grow stale and feelings of obligation become low. One does not need to expend energy or time to know people. But one also does not truly get to know people.
My hope is that the less time I spend on social media, the more time I have to go out of my way to engage people. I could engage people online—and I truly do—but the public nature of social media weakens the value of that engagement. I don't seek people butting into conversations at the local coffee shop, and I don't particularly desire to have hearty discussions in public on social media. So I'm seeking to do it offline and increasingly in person.
I am an introvert. The amount of energy I have to perform this is low. So I will be reducing the amount of time online in exchange for the energy and strength to be a better individual where I am already. This isn't a disparaging of online friends. And it certainly is not a discouragement to pursuing real friendships. It just won't happen on social media platforms (save the benefits and convenience of private messaging).
You'll see fewer tweets—certainly fewer serious tweets. Facebook might just become book quotes (idk). You'll definitely see fewer blog posts—relating to people requires more than theological consumption. Hopefully, in seeing less of me online, you'll see more of me in general.