instead of contemplative year-end posts, i am likely to make wild decisions about social media usage. around december, the clamour of facebook, twitter, and the blog world starts to get to me. i crave books, edited words and thoughts, quite and contemplation, a re-set on my own frenzied mind.
this year is no different.
last january i quite facebook (for a month), and it was good for me. in the past year i started both this blog and a twitter account, which has been fun and annoying, to be perfectly honest. i still don’t know all the rules about these things. the crowd, it turns out, is a fickle thing. some of the posts that i liked the best hit the floor with a dull thud, while the ones i shot off rather ill-conceived and in haste got passed around like popcorn. i don’t get it. and it has started to influence me.
in social-media-land, i tend to want to stick to the easy stuff. just like in my missionary life, i want to write only about the miracles in the support letters. or how when i am having a bad day, instead of praying “jesus be near” i would much rather tweet about how terrible someone else is.
but this kind of easy engagement doesn’t work for me. because both doubt and faith, sin and redemption, miracles and tragedies are the realities of my days–i can’t pick just one or the other. but for whatever reason, in our times nuance does not get rewarded. and i am a creature that is trained by praise just like everybody else.
i want to write about good and true and hard things: about the miracles of god at work in the world, the ways i fall short every day, and laments about the evils in the world. and if i am not writing about these things, then i get myopic, narcissistic, and shallow. in this regard i have seen how social media land has a large pull for me–immediate reactions and gratifications, allowing me to feel connected. which brings up another point: because the reality is i am starting to feel more and more disconnected, every day. in my not-online life i have experienced so much change and craziness in the past 12 months i feel like a champagne bottle ready to pop. but if you asked me how i am doing i would say “great” and leave it at that. if you asked again, i would say “well, you know, god has really revealed a lot to me in the past year. he’s really working on me.” if you gave me a stern look and asked one last time, you would probably have a sobbing mess on your hands, a broken girl who is alternately exhausted and exhilarated about life on the frontiers of the kingdom.
if you really asked, i would probably talk about seeing prostitution up-close for the first time, of learning to recognize the smell of crack, of the many times i have wondered “wait, should i be calling the cops right now?” i would probably talk about the amazing food, the ways people have risked everything just by extending me friendship, how happy walking the streets of my neighborhood (the most diverse one in america) makes me feel. i might talk about the boredom of being home alone in a new city with few friends and no family, with a two-year old that gets sick a lot, how i start to click re-fresh on my facebook so often it feels like a disease, how my life seems to be heading in different directions from most everyone i know. i might talk about co-ops and community gardens and esl classes and somali language classes and being the only white girl in an east-african parenting class. i might talk about the loneliness i have experienced, and how i am only now starting to realize that maybe christ is all i need, after all.
so there, now i told you. but i am still struggling with how much of my life needs to stay private, protecting the dignity of my neighbors and friends. how much of my writing is helpful for others, or is simply just a way of me processing my emotions? i have already started plaguing people in my mission organization to write more, because those kinds of books changed me. but i know why they hesitate, and i see how they are so busy living out the kingdom they don’t have time to sit down and write about it. i see the need, and i see the pitfalls. just like my own writing life.
so for me, this new year is going to start looking differently. i feel strongly like i am supposed to write, just not necessarily for this blog. i feel the need to curb my reliance on instant gratification, and the desire to cultivate my own inner voice. i want to achieve excellence, which in this time and place means stepping back. i want to be able to process, freely, without holding back all the grit or the glory. while this is only for a season, i am excited about the possibilities.
this doesn’t mean this is the end, of course. i am actually planning on doing a series about how we share the hard stories in our lives that aren’t our own (look for more information on this coming soon–plus, i have some FABULOUS guest writers/artists!). i am looking forward to sharpening up whatever this space is meant to be.
but in the end, it all comes down to what i want to pursue in my life. excellence in writing, leaning away from the reactionary and towards nuance. a renewed focus on contemplating what it really means when i am bored, lonely, and fretful, instead of turning to social media for distraction and community. relying on my family, my neighbors, and christ to fulfill my needs of friendship and understanding, to know and be known. really, it can be summed up with a quote by thomas merton that my friend cate recently posted (on facebook, naturally):
“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.”
merton is so right. and as i am slowly learning to identify those things which keep me in limbo, living in two worlds at once, not happy in either: i am excited. because if this year has taught me anything, it is this: the sooner i give up my life, the sooner the whole word opens up for me, my eyes finally able to see the miracles everywhere, hiding in plain sight.
so for this next year, it is all about cultivation: of my eyes, my ears, and my mouth. that i would taste the bitter and the sweet, see the beauty and the horror, and speak the truth of the kingdom. and for me, this means taking a step back from the thousands of voices which would seek to influence me, for good and for bad.
i’d like to know: how has social media changed your writing? what are the benefits/drawbacks of blogging/tweeting/posting on facebook? what things are you being called to give up in order to live your life fully?
ps: this stepping back has been some time coming (based on my own reflections/journaling/prayers), but was recently re-motivated by the reading of The Crowd, The Critic, and the Muse by M. Gungor. I highly recommend this book on art and creation and everything in between.