Like so many of you I’ve had an on-again/off-again relationship with Facebook and Twitter. I have used them both, with some degree of enjoyment and encouragement. I particularly enjoy reading subjects that interest me when I have time to wait in an airport or store line. Having an iPhone I read tweets and find it passes time. I also post to these media in similar contexts. But so far I’ve discovered that these social networking tools are good for three specific things:
1. Reuniting with family and old friends and staying in better touch with friends near and far in terms of current information.
2. Making and growing contacts with people who are interested in me and what I write and teach as a Christian. With four decades of life experience in ministry and a ton of interaction with interesting people and ideas I have something to share and these tools foster that experience.
3. Wasting excessive amounts of time reading and responding to comments and posts that potentially drain me and even, at times, corrupt my spirit. Do I care where you are today and what you are doing? Maybe or maybe not, if truth be known.
Nothing shocking here really. Just what I suppose most of you have found too.
Blogging, on the other hand, allows me to creatively write about some current thoughts on this and that with the purpose of encouraging, serving and helping. Blogging is more like a “daily journal” that gives me an outlet for what I enjoy doing and you, as a reader, seem to enjoy in some way. So long as you find it relevant and useful I plan to press on. When I began blogging, in April 2005, I never knew where this would take me. Now, almost six and a half years later, I still find this discipline worthwhile. It does take a decent chunk of my time and there are moments when I question the long-term importance of this commitment. But the response that so many of you give to me online and (especially) in person pushes me to keep on writing.
One example will suffice. I routinely meet people who came “to know me” via these blogs. They tell me something very specific about how this writing encouraged them, or helped them wrestle with a problem or big idea knowing that a friend was doing the same thing with them. It is this “personal” touch that makes me devote my time to writing these daily posts. I have no delusions about this being a competitor with the “most read” or “most popular” Christian sites. I have no ability to market and doubt I ever will. This was never my intention in the first place.
But back to the social media issue. I have used Twitter, but very little. I use it link these blogs to a Twitter page. I have used Facebook a bit more. I also link my blogs to my Facebook page. I honestly find Facebook, at least as a public source for following me as an author and missional leader, to have limited value but I cannot spend much time on it at all. I check my Facebook page once a day, maybe twice. I post something, besides these blogs, three or four times a week. I read almost nothing else on Facebook. I find the time that it takes to do so not worth the human investment. There are just too many books to read, too much deeper thinking to still be done and too many films and audio resources to take in to allow me the time to devote to using this social tool. Plus, there is this nagging question about what all this does to the soul if you spend too much time doing it. I think the addictive nature of it is self-evident. I urge everyone to fast from the social media even if you need to use it for some very compelling reasons. Take a day each week away from it and sometimes take a prolonged period away. (Some of you might do this for Lent one year.) I believe that one of the biggest errors this all creates is the illusion that you are spending time with people. I think N. T. Wright once said that he did not use this media but if he did he would urge everyone who does to spend two hours with real people for every hour spent on the social media. I tend to spend about ten hours with people, one-on-one, each week. This does not include phone conversations and other forms of more personal communication. This is compared to maybe two hours on the social media. I find this to be about right for me. You must develop your own standards that work for you or you will be absorbed by this monster.
Your comments, personal stories and insights are welcome. I am still learning and think no one really knows what all this means in the long run, at least not yet. As followers of Jesus in the 21st century we can help one another as we learn to navigate this medium in a balanced and thoughtful way. What do you think?