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Saturday, September 24, 2011

So long, Facebook.

Heidi and I went to counseling yesterday to lay our lives in front of someone else if for nothing else than to have someone bear witness to our story. Our denomination pays for a few sessions a year, so we go almost every year for a "check-up", sometimes several times if needs be. I can't begin to describe the lifeline this has been.

So as we poured out our hearts like water, one of the flights of conversational fancy we explored was the onslaught of social media and the constant pressure that comes with always being "connected and accessible". Heidi and I have noticed that since we got internet at home, our time has been swallowed up with staying "on-line" with everything and anything that is happening in the outside world. Increasingly, our time has been spent keeping up, checking up and following up on things that we "come across" or that "find us".

We will be at home, or on a date, or in our car and "texts, news feeds, and emails" will be announced with a cute little chime indicating that something pressing needs to be addressed or reacted to. You can't very well just ignore it, because everyone knows you got it and will assume that you don't value them as much as the next person if you don't respond according to their particular personal "time-table". Our counselor said that one of the problems with all the social media that exists is the lack of ethical education accompanying the product that serves to give us a universal code of conduct with which to function. Because of the lack of this universal ethic, we have a product that means something different to everyone that uses it. The pressure that comes with this sort of unruly relational system is incalculable as everyone gets to make up their own parameters and guidelines as they go.

I am a relational being, so the draw to be connected is very appealing to me. And yet as I talked with the counselor yesterday I couldn't help but feel that my life has been overtaken with "connection and communication" leading to "disconnection and miscommunication". I can't keep up with my inbox for one. If a couple days go by, it will get away from me and someone is stranded waiting for my response to their questions, ideas, thoughts, hurts, or encouragement that I have all but forgotten exist in the first place. I will want to, but if I don't do it immediately there is a good chance I will get behind and never revisit the conversation.

I know what it is like to "put your heart out there" only to have someone never acknowledge the exchange. Increasingly, this will occur and I just can't stay on top of the "news feed". I have more news coming in than I have the personally ability to respond to. What do you do when your "incoming communication" exceeds your ability to respond with "outgoing conversation"? Something has to give.

It is especially disturbing when I consider that I was the one to open up this medium of connection. No one made me do it. I didn't "have to" create easier ways for people to stay "in touch" with me, but I made the decision to do so of my own volition. I, at some point, said, "I want people to be closer to me and I want to be closer to people. I want to be easy to contact and connect with. I want my life to be an open book letting anyone and everyone peruse the pages of my life with the click of a mouse. I want people to stay in contact with my every move, commenting on each and every trifle, whimsically throwing out thoughts and ideas that I must digest and process. I want to be 'on' all the time. I want this." No one made me do this, I chose this. And on many days, I love being 'accessible'.

But between texting, email, facebook, blogs, cell phones, internet and cable, I feel crowded and congested like "rush hour traffic" inside my head and heart. This traffic jam is a world of my own making in an effort to be a "good pastor and a good person". Over time, it has filled my life with more "news feeds" than I could possibly ingest and digest in a thousand lifetimes. Some people can manage this chaos because they aren't creatures who absorb every nuance of life as an artist. But I am not one of those people. I soak in every dainty little detail, filing away content and holding conversations inside my head with the information that I've encountered. I don't know why this is, it just is. I'm sure it has it's bright side, but boy, oh boy, does it have an underbelly that wrecks shop on my heart.

In talking with the counselor, he encouraged me to take control of this area of my life. His suggestion was to take some time off from Facebook and any other social networks that aren't tethered to an "ethical code of conduct". I don't do a great job of managing social arenas, so for the time being, I have to deconstruct my life and reassemble it with healthy terms of engagement. This will, no doubt, be troublesome on some fronts, but I trust that I'll be able to find a balance in it all over time. For now, this is essential to my social sanity.

It was one of many things we talked about with the counselor. It's funny how interacting with someone outside the "weeds and woods" of my reality can make sense of my nonsensical patterns.

So, after this weekend, I will be disabling my Facebook for an indefinite time period. I trust it will help me get my poop in a group which lately has felt more like diarrhea.

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