I wish every blog could be written as a letter to my daughter, however… back to the task at hand, right?
’Twas the best of times, ’Twas the worst of times
The other day, a mentor of mine challenged me about the lecture/seminar “circuit” I have begun. Speaking simply, it seemed to him that I could not decide whether I was “for or against” these new Social Media tools.
First of all, it’s a moot point. As we discussed in the first part of this series, it is here – ready or not.
For the record though, I am excited about this technology and the opportunities it presents for our world, and I am eager to identify the ways in which it is changing today’s teenagers (meeting some needs not met before, leaving voids where needs were once met) and thus changing the way we will interact with one another as parents, ministers, educators, and professionals, over the course of the next generation or two.
One example of the reward/risk that is attached with Social Media is the dichotomy of connectivity and loneliness that it creates.
On one hand, with Facebook and Instagram, cell phones and iPads, we now feel more connected to one another than ever before.
However, as Sherry Turkle points out, these tools and tricks actually enable an illusion of connectivity that lends itself to an increased level of loneliness that is powerful, yet harder to identity. Turkle writes:
WE expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship. Always-on/always-on-you devices provide three powerful fantasies: that we will always be heard; that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; and that we never have to be alone. Indeed our new devices have turned being alone into a problem that can be solved.
When people are alone, even for a few moments, they fidget and reach for a device. Here connection works like a symptom, not a cure, and our constant, reflexive impulse to connect shapes a new way of being.
Think of it as “I share, therefore I am.” We use technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings as we’re having them. We used to think, “I have a feeling; I want to make a call.” Now our impulse is, “I want to have a feeling; I need to send a text.”
So, in order to feel more, and to feel more like ourselves, we connect. But in our rush to connect, we flee from solitude, our ability to be separate and gather ourselves. Lacking the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people but don’t experience them as they are. It is as though we use them, need them as spare parts to support our increasingly fragile selves.
We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely. If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will know only how to be lonely.
This technology is making us (as individuals and groups) more power and capable now than every before. As we learn how to maximize our potential with this technology it is equally important that we understand the new needs and risks it creates.
As we capitalize on our electronic relationships with one another and Generation M, let us remember that we are making a connection and not an impact.
We as a “Church” have are positioned beautifully to make that impact in the days to come.
Social Media must always be used as a TOOL for a ministry and not a ministry unto itself. It is the difference between preaching to someone ministering to someone
Relationships are not “in jeopardy” because of this technology, they are in fact, all the more necessary.
For never before has the world been more connected,
AND never before has our world been more lonely.