The Problem With Social Media Puritanism

The great irony of my blog is that I'm actually a social media cynic.

A Puritan, really. I don't just carry a handful of nifty critiques; I actively try to avoid being on social media for longer than 5 minutes. Last January, Kasey and I challenged ourselves to spend just 3 minutes a day in front of "blue light": emails, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter: anything that glues us to the world of cosmetic coolness & carefully crafted self-disclosure.

I'm sure you already feel my hesitation to pivot away. I have very good reasons, like preserving the lost art of face-to-face conversation, or like how every time I gawk at people overlooking impossibly painted foreign landscapes I want to put on yoga pants I don't own and snarf handfuls of Hot Cheetos I might just have while watching Seinfeld reruns with a TV I've chosen not to buy.

(OK, so it seems this is going to be a cathartic post.)

I don't like social media the same reason why I don't like the interstate highway system: if both were gone, then I think I'd be tangled up in all kinds of delightful intimacies with people just blocks from me. People were really intimate back then, and we're just shallow people with distracted gazes, Instagram-inflated egos and cars with heated seats.

Hope you don't mind if I convince myself out of my Little House on the Prairie fantasy.

First of all, bro, how far are you willing to take that? Should we roll back Periscope? Instagram? Twitter? Facebook? Blogspot? Instant Messenger? AOL email? Cell phones? Internet? Computers? Home phones? The postal system? Horseback mail? Any communication that allows time to consider how you share yourself?

Like my best friend Tim says, his mind would still find ways to not pay attention to others. And it doesn't matter what the medium is: our communication back to them will always be vested with the power to reveal or conceal. In our endless quest for intimacy, we'll always be tempted either to deny others our depths or daydream when others are sharing theirs.

If I never post on Facebook again, I'll still want to tell you half-truths when you ask me how I'm doing. If I never choose another Instagram filter, I'll still choose the Juno filter in the Sunday morning church lobby.

Welcome to being human. We're all social artisans, awfully good at shaping how others see us. The problem with social media puritanism is that it underestimates just how good we are at our craft.

Dumping social media for a month helped me pay closer attention to things, but it didn't make my life legendarily intimate and connected. I still had to choose to show up when you spoke. I still held the conscious choice to share myself-- awkward, gangly, self-amused, abstract me-- with you in my everyday interactions.

Far as I see it life is about attempting love, and love is just showing up in the third space between two groups armed only with hopes of being known & enjoyed. Social media is just another third space.

Now excuse me while I blow up your feed with pictures of my pb&j sammich.


photo credit: me, man

#communication #reflections