November 19, 2017

Another Look: This is not where I live

The Scream, Munch

The Scream, Munch

One. At breakfast with a local pastor the other morning, he told me if there was one thing he could change in his congregation, it would be that people would stop listening to news and political pundits that make them angry.

Two. One of our long faithful readers sent me an email the other day. It included this paragraph:

I quit blogging and am starting to question the wisdom/value of the constant deluge of information pouring into our homes via the internet.  I came to the conclusion that I really did not have enough things of value to say to warrant a full time blog column.  There is only so much information we can process and incorporate into our lives, especially when much of blogging is really opinion columns.Comment threads are notoriously poor platforms for substantive debate, and make it easy to abuse others.  As Ecclesiastes said, ‘Of the writing of books there is no end.’ So it is with blog posts. No one has something profound and important to say all the time.  My time is probably better spent tending to my vocation and  reading the Scriptures and praying.  I have pared my bookmarks way, way, down, and have a much smaller ‘blog circuit’ that I visit every day. I am striving for a more minimalistic use of the web.

Three. A friend I’ve known since middle school is quitting Facebook. He has been a journalist and writer for his career, and he’s fed up. He is writing a series of “goodbye” posts explaining his reasoning. Here are some excerpts from the first two:

After a long time in the media, I think I’m qualified to conclude that Facebook in particular and social media in general is neither social nor media.

. . . They used to complain about the “media elite” and there was great truth to much of that. But the new “media democracy” there also is much to fear.

The real answer is really an old one with a new twist: Don’t believe everything you read, and don’t write everything you believe, because not everyone shares those beliefs. While discourse on these issues is important, even vital, Facebook is a terrible place to conduct discourse.

. . . Instead of creating honest to goodness political forums where candidates are asked to discuss and debate the issues of the day, Facebook has decided to be the electronic equivalent of a bulletin board at a laundromat. Facebook doesn’t promote democratic discourse; it simply gives a home to the politically frustrated. It is depressing and disheartening to read. So I’ve decided to stop.

One last point on this topic: those of you who beat your chests while decrying the morals and politics of the day must remember that your vote counts the same as everyone else’s. Putting your views on Facebook doesn’t make you right. It just makes you louder.

Three strikes. Maybe it’s time for a reality check here at Internet Monk as well.

Today, I’m pulling out a post from 2010 so we can give it another look together. I’ve edited the old article for this posting, but it is substantially the same. If you would like to read the original piece, go HERE.

• • •

lets-just-stop-the-old-vs-new-media-argumentWriting on Internet Monk plays a big part in my daily work and schedule. Carrying on the legacy of Michael Spencer, who had such a unique voice and perspective to share, is a joy and challenge, and I find it exhilarating. Your company has been stimulating as well, and the conversations we enjoy have enriched my thinking.

However, I want you to know that . . . This is not where I live.

There is no “Internet Monastery” where blog writers conduct their daily lives. My blogging life coexists with a life of marriage, children, grandchildren, hospice chaplaincy, my local congregation, friends, and other relationships and responsibilities. Being an internet monk is not a cloistered life.

And these discussions we have, as valuable as they may be, are just conversations. They occur in a funny place, a unique forum made possible by incredible technology which has created a faceless, fleshless place — a place of less than real relationships. It is, by and large, a good place, with many benefits. We can be better informed. We can learn from each other. We can prompt each other to think. We can ponder and evaluate our positions on various subjects.

The blog world is like a classroom on a day in which the prof leads a discussion, a forum in the public square, a group of strangers bellying up to the bar at a watering hole, hanging around the lounge at seminary, meeting people from other churches in the fellowship hall at a conference and sharing observations about the things you’re experiencing. You say a little something. You hear a little something. Then you go get coffee and move on. Eventually you go home.

But it is not life.

This issue goes beyond the internet, blogs, or one’s view of a particular blogger. It’s the entire media-saturated culture in which we’re immersed in our time.

I’m concerned that:

  • far too many of our opinions and “convictions,”
  • too much of what we think the church should “stand for,”
  • too many of our political positions and perspectives,
  • too many of our culture war attitudes,
  • too much of the stuff we hear from the pulpit and talk about in the narthex at church,
  • too many of the attitudes we have toward our neighbors, the public schools, liberals or conservatives,
  • too many of our judgments about people in various socio-economic classes and lifestyles,

are not being formed by experiences lived out in daily events where we actually relate to others and learn to deal with matters in active, personal ways.

Instead,

  • we watch Fox News or MSNBC,
  • listen to Rush or watch Jon Stewart,
  • surf the watchblogs that conform to our views,
  • join causes and groups on Facebook and post their slogans,
  • confirm our opinions on the basis of forwarded emails.
  • I become a “Glenn Beck” guy or a “Jim Wallis” guy.
  • I tell the world what I believe by my bumper stickers and T-shirts.

I guess what I’m saying is that we are creating a host of “media-shaped” people. These are folks whose inner world is defined and formed by what they get from media outlets.

I have to remind myself every now and then that most of this is bluster and noise. It’s not life. Frankly, I’ve turned most of it off. The pundits have become propagandists. Spectacle and screaming trumps truth.

Furthermore, on Internet Monk, I can’t let myself get all emotionally invested in some guy who declares me a heretic in a blog comment for my views on Genesis 1 (though some days that’s hard to do). It is just a public discussion, folks. It’s not my life.

Corbis-42-28092316My life happens in a small town in central Indiana. I live it with my wife, children, grandkids, and neighbors. My life involves talking with them, praying for them, helping them, being forgiven by them when I mess up. It’s eating meals together, talking about the little things we’ve done throughout the day, coordinating our schedules, staying in touch, keeping short accounts. My life involves singing in the choir at my church, going to practice, cutting up with the rest of the tenors. In my life, I greet fellow townsfolk at Walmart or Starbucks, or visit a friend in the hospital whose spouse is having surgery.

Many hours of this life are spent doing my daily work as a hospice chaplain. I drive around the city, visiting folks in their homes, in hospitals, and other facilities. I have face-to-face conversations with them. Surprise! Most of these conversations don’t involve swapping the kinds of slogans I get in forwarded emails. No, these talks take place in the context of actual living and dying. We talk about what’s happening to someone’s body right in front of us. We talk about the feelings raised by this, the spiritual issues, and what dad’s going to do when his wife of 62 years walks through death’s door and leaves him behind. We share memories, stories, moments of silence, tears and laughter.

My fellow team members are a huge part of my life too, and I highly value their relationships. We meet and talk and laugh together, respect the expertise each one brings to the work, consult on difficult questions, help each other in practical ways, and support each other when it all gets heavy. We also recognize that each person has a full and meaningful life outside the team, and so we try to be sensitive, caring, and available as friends for one another.

This is life. Real life. Daily life. Faces. Flesh. Conversations. Decisions. Relationships.

I’m worried about churches in our current electronic and cyber-culture. Reliance upon programmed approaches and technology can easily promote “sound-bite” theology, activity masquerading as meaningful interaction with others, and a culture that “takes stands” on the big issues of the day, but cares little for actually knowing and loving one’s neighbor. But you already know my thoughts and feelings about that.

I love Internet Monk. It has a place.

And I honestly appreciate all of you who read and participate. It’s an exceptional online community, a vibrant conversation.

But it’s not where I live. Nor should it be for you.

Comments

  1. Life is full of frustrations, and in a society that seems to be careening out of control, or losing its collective mind, sometime being able to just “throw some mud against the wall to see what sticks” is the only thing open to many. Hence, the proliferation of blogs and various Facebook rants. They accomplish very little, but they do give SOME release to frustration.

    But unfortunately we, at times, do exactly THAT at IM, whether we realize it or not. Lets just try to give the benefit of the doubt before voicing outrage at an opinion. Lets just try to believe the best about our brothers and sisters here before branding them with names. Lets try to live out the goal of this site to develop a Jesus shaped spirituality by first looking in the mirror before we try to correct someone else.

    Its OK to disagree about stuff, but we do not have to marginalize each other while doing it. If we don’t do that in our walking around lives then we shouldn’t do it here.

    I value this site for reasoned discussion and hearing about different ways of thinking about spiritual things, but sometimes I just want to avoid clicking on that bookmark.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      “in a society that seems to be careening out of control, or losing its collective mind”

      This kind of statement gets made all the time. For the record: I don’t see it. Not at all. I see no “careening”, it appears very methodological and plodding to me. I see no lack of control; I see viewing for control, and some people with control that I do not like. But the 21st centyrt west is VERY much controlled and procedural – – the sense of a lack of control [in my experience] is felt by people who have opt’d out of the process. That is [mostly] on them, never have there been more doorways into the process.

      As for losing-its-mind. Again, I don’t see this at all. The motivations behind almost all actors is unusually pretty trams parent and rational. Regardless if I like them or not.

    • I don’t mind too much people ranting on politics, so long as they keep it off Facebook.

      I wish more people who like to fume and sputter about politics and religion would make a blog under a pseudonym and rant and rave about politics, religion, whatever on their blog, rather than clutter up my Facebook feed with it.

      I end up having to hide a lot of the frequent political complainers feeds on Facebook. Every so once in awhile, I’ve no problem with a person posting a political rant, whether I agree with it or not, but I have some friends on Facebook who post this junk every single day or week.

  2. Joseph (the original) says:

    amen…

  3. I agree about the proliferation of opinions.
    I’m a UK citizen and whilst there are some things I can relate to I think that for the most part, we christians in Britain tend to ask from politics a different thing; we are adept at asking politicians to stand up for us rather than standing for parties. Of course that’s not always the case but imho it’s a fair reflection.

    Anyway, whilst I’m sure that social Media is used to prop up causes, many of my friends connect in order to keep connected whilst living long distances from each other.
    It’s all a bit worthy to write a discourse a out “why I’m leaving FB” and feels rather self important. This is the cyber world I which we live and as you rightly point out, it’s not where we live.
    I imagine most responsible adults know this.

    My husband took his sabbatical in Africa many years ago and keeps I touch with christians from that place using FB.
    He is up to date with events in their lives, their sorrows and joys, and when he visits there’s an instant connection that picks up from the last thread.
    Emails work but they don’t have that conversation feel that FB can and especially when several people are joining I a; it feels familiar and it can be fun.
    So we need to thank social media for these gifts and at the same time remember that we have the ability to block that which we have no need for or which upsets our equilibrium. God is in Social Media too.

    • “It’s all a bit worthy to write a discourse a out “why I’m leaving FB” and feels rather self important.”

      That is a wonderful observation, and expressed in a delightfully British tone. “It’s all a bit worthy…”

      I generally skip over these polemics with the feeling that if someone wants to stop using FB so much, they do not owe me an explanation, nor do I really care. And I certainly don’t care to be preached at about FB. If they are a close enough friend that I will miss their interaction on FB, I will notice their absence from the forum and call or email to find out if they are OK.

      For the record, I love FB and use it a lot, but I have my own fairly stringent standards for what I post and what I let on my newsfeed. I have gotten really good at blocking things i don’t want and skipping over things I don’t care about. I try to act like a grownup and use it responsibly — most of the time. 😉

      • I quit posting on Facebook (other than commenting) back in June…and it was 100% the right call. I wish I could delete my FB but can’t do to work and 8 month old nephew pictures.

    • It’s not about social media, per se. The tools aren’t always the problem. It’s how we use those tools, both ourselves and others.

      When I was leaving my cult church, Facebook became an instant unsafe place for me. I couldn’t share my thoughts or day without a former leader or member keeping tabs on me, sending me messages, “I didn’t like how you shared this”, “we’re concerned for you”, “hey bro did you know x and x, that could really damage your witness”. etc. Facebook makes it almost impossible for you to leave a closed community nowadays, whether a church or a job or school or whatever.

      What I ended up finding was a new social media community on Twitter, where I could vocalize my thoughts, work through all the damaging theology I had been saddled with, get angry and frustrated when I need to, and in general be left alone by those I didn’t want in my life anymore. And I found new people, helpers, friends, those who understood, those who could relate. Some of whom have been incredible blessings in my life and matter more to me than people I see every week, despite having never met and probably will never meet in person.

      I found people in an open network that I’d never have found in the “friends and family only” closed network of Facebook. To many that’s scary, but to me, knowing it’s utterly public worldwide (although with some privacy controls)…that’s the best thing ever. That’s why my closest twitter friends are scattered all over the united states or even all over the world; that i can have meaningful discussions and even friendships with people in california, florida, the uk, australia, japan…anywhere.

      And with some rare exceptions, I keep the personal and the digital world separate. I don’t follow many friends or family who are on Twitter. That’s the closest to an outside world I can get to.

      So I guess my rambling post says is that social media are just tools and no one is hating on them existing, no more than hating on email or telephones or whatever for existing. It’s all in how we and others use them, and recognizing for ourselves when they become toxic and unhealthy and we need to step away.

      • I use a pen name on FB. It helps keep unsafe people from finding me – got booted from an authoritarian church shortly before FB came into existence, and a LOT of the people from there are very active on FB. I don’tneed negative feedback or monitoring by them.

      • @ Stuart.
        I know you can’t really do this with Facebook, but you are aware that you can have as many Twitter accounts as you want to, right? Because you can.

        You can make up one Twitter account under a goofy name and another under your real name. You can then follow all your friends and family under your real name account, and use the goofy name one to post about religion or whatever, and just never tell your friends and family about your extra account.

        • You shouldn’t have to make up a pseudonym or compartmentalize your life like that though. Every part of our life is sacred and holy before God. If it’s not something that you wish people to know came from you, then it’s probably not something that ought to be shared to begin with. It’s hard to imagine Jesus as supporting having a “secret alias.”

  4. doubting thomas says:

    It is probably because I “Liked” too many news magazines on my Facebook feed, but a year or so ago my feed changed from mostly posts by my real life friends to mostly click bait. Sometimes there is a link to an interesting article. More often it is a time waster. I am guilty of seeking out opinions that I already have. I miss seeing my friends FB posts.

    • It’s not just you, it’s Facebook changing their algorithms. I do internet marketing at my job, and FB’s constant changes are a regular headache that I’ve largely given up trying to play with.

      As an example, you know that company or brand page you liked, say Coke’s brand page? They may have a million “fans” on FB, but when they post, unless they pay FB a lot of money, less than 10% of those million fans will see what they post.

      FB is a revenue generating sytem. They don’t care about who posts what unless there is money to bump it up.

  5. Christiane says:

    what is scary is that people who are ‘into’ certain rougher aspects of extremist media will then form their god to fit an image of what they need to justify their own treatment of others . . .

    I had noticed this before, and now, here at Christmas time, they are re-creating the image of Christ into something approximating what Mark Driscoll often advocated . . . no more ‘meek and humble’ Savior for them, no . . . they want their avenging god NOW

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      What Slacktivist calls the “Turbo-Jesus” of Left Behind, who only exists to SMITE SMITE SMITE everyone except “those just like MEEEEE” into Eternal Hell. Christ as Revenge Fantasy and Cosmic Enforcer.

    • I’ve opined about this on other blogs, like Wartburg Watch and SSB, but – I am very cautious of Christians who paint Jesus as God at either extreme.

      You have one side, such as Mark Driscoll, who only paints Jesus/God as being tough, karate kicking manly man he man God.

      On your other side are your more liberal, touchie feelie types who think Jesus/God is like a big, nice, lovable Grandpa in the Sky who will never, ever say a mean thing to anyone ever, who won’t punish sin.

      One side over emphasizes God’s Tough Guy side, while the other side over emphasize’s God’s Tender Side.

      I see the threat and danger with the Tough Guy caricature, but I worry about the folks I see on this blog and ones like it who go to the other extreme of the Super Duper Nicey Nice Jesus God – because my mother was a believer of the Super Duper Sweet Lovey Nicey Jesus, and it screwed me up big time (that and related doctrines, like gender complmentarianism), all turned my mother into one big Codependent.

      I’m now in the process of reading books by psychiatrists and having to un-learn all the stuff Mom taught me.

      My mom was aided by various preachers and Christian authors, who also painted a picture of a super duper, rainbow, nice, sweet God. Presenting God in that way and telling a kid to emulate that results in a codependent kid who grows up to be a codependnt adult.

      The truth is, God has both sets of qualities – he’s a tough macho butt kicker AND God is also a sweet, gentle, compassionate guy.

      You as a Christian have to learn to use which set of qualities and balance them both out.

      But most Christians don’t like that, because it involves decision making on a daily basis and having to think about each situation and person you meet…

      Most Christians want a clear cut set of instructions, “ten steps to dealing with your boss / spouse/ kids” or whatever, and they don’t want to have to veer from that and judge each person / situation as it comes.

      • I said, “who paint Jesus as God at either extreme.”

        I meant “Jesus *and* God” or “Jesus OR God”

  6. This was good the first time, and even more true four years later!

    I have certainly noticed that I do NOT use snark here at IM, nor on FB with people I actually KNOW, at any where near the rate I do with strangers who disagree with me. It is far too easy to be glib, snide, or hostile to people who are just black and white characters on an electronic screen, complete with pseudonym…..in way I would never respond to someone I know as a face, personality, or brother or sister.

    Don’t think I am alone here……

    But for me, the discussions that go on here at IM (except for when the trolls show up) act as a whetstone for my own faith and spark internal dialogue and prayer that I otherwise may not have considered. Even if I find my opinion unchanged, I MYSELF have been changed from pondering and examining my point in the light of others who have a different take on their faith in Christ Jesus.

    For this, I thank everyone here who breaks off a tiny bit of their heart or soul to share with the rest of us!

    • Sometimes getting a response to “just black and white characters on an electronic screen, complete with pseudonym” is why I participate in the comment section here.

      In real life, there are things visually about me that are polarizing. I am often in a wheelchair, to which people respond either very positively or with great discomfort. I am naturally androgynous in a way that either puts people off or intrigues them. Before I even open my mouth to speak, they are predisposed to take my argument either more or less seriously. When I do speak, I have the advantages of being articulate and charismatic.

      It is nice to occasionally have someone respond to the content of my opinions rather than their presentation. It is something of a reality check for me, and I really appreciate the opportunity to get that check here.

      • That’s a good point.

      • Tokah, i hear you. My circumstances are not like yours, but I’ve also found that it is easier to be listened to here than IRL, on some subjects, at least. I am dealing with chronic illness, and sometimes the internet has to be my primary outlet for socializing. I’ve certinly foun it to be good for thinking and discussion, though honestly, it is what one makes of it. I don’t like FB and use it minly to connect with a couple of family members and with people who share common interests. At this point, my feed is mstly pics of cute animals and stuff about books, music and science, and i intend to keep it that way.

        So CM, while i agree that the internet isn’t life per se, it’s very much a part of life, and even beasts like FB and Twitter can be tamed by judicious trimming of feeds plus some thought and care ad to “friending.” I still prefer forums, becase they’re better for discussion, but I’m old school, i guess.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      “I have certainly noticed that I do NOT use snark here at IM”

      And the world thanks you. One thing SM has done is elevate Snark and Irony to a pandemic level. Quipping is now associated with Participating. The conversations destroyed by someone ‘being clever’ are innumerable.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Make sure you have your Appropriate Ironic Quip ready (with or without raised eyebrow and curled upper lip) as you jump with both feet into Hell.

      • It’s that Reddit/Tumblr syndrome. Always got a gif handy or some weird quote from some obscure sf/fantasy epic that only a True Fan would know about.

        It’s really all about ethics in journalism anyways.

  7. That guy you describe, the media-shaped man, is me. Raised on cartoons instead of playing outside or making friends, then spent all my time on the computer when we got one, first poking around on Encarta all day, then the Internet when I was allowed, made me precocious to my teachers, but alien to my peers. And for the longest time, I thought it was their fault. I’ve only recently started to realize that I’m not like other people, and that I am the one that needs fixing, not them. I need to learn to see others as different from myself and relate to them, rather than demand that they see things my way and become like me. Merton said, “to see things only as they relate to myself is to live on the doorstep of hell,” and he’s right.

    I feel rather like backing off from social media has helped, as I’m not constantly bombarded with the next big thing that I have to believe or have an opinion on, the latest and greatest scientific discovery that no one I actually see in meatspace will care about, or everybody’s constant political yammering that helps me only to lose friends and alienate people. And yet, it’s good to have a place to read things like IM, perhaps because it feels like I’m not quite so out of place here. Or at least, it feels like a better thing to form my personality than most other media outlets.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I’ve never been much ON social media in the first place. (Except for Email, and that’s for Old Geezers only.)

      So, I Do Not Exist.
      Only those constantly on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter exist.
      Those who live in (sneer) Meatspace Do Not Exist.

      • For the same reasons, I do not exist, either.

        If I live in Meatspace, does that make me a Meat Puppet?

      • It has now become necessary to post the short story, “They’re Made out of Meat.”

        http://www.terrybisson.com/page6/page6.html

        “Thinking meat! You’re asking me to believe in thinking meat!”

        “Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?”

  8. Dan from Georgia says:

    Good post Mike. Stuff to think about. For ME, quitting Facebook opened up my life.

  9. I’ve also taken an increasingly dim view of SM — I’m on FB but no longer really use it — but there is always the possibility that we’re only just now starting to see how and where SM should play a role in our lives. It’s just such a new phenomenon, but maybe we’ll figure it out.

    My very shaky grounds for optimism lie in the fact that ten years ago, every waiting room was a din of cellphone iniquity, if you’ll forgive the pun. Today, with the advent of quick texting capabilities, more people again seem to feel that out-loud phone conversations should generally be private, and will step outside to conduct them. We are, of course, left with the depressing sight of a room full of people staring down at little screens, but perhaps this sort of anti-social behavior will find, in its turn, an accepatable threshold.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      “eft with the depressing sight of a room full of people staring down at little screens”

      But it has a place. Waiting rooms, transit stations, etc… where there is an ethic of shared-but-restricted-familiarity-space. People do not strike up conversations in those spaces.

      Different than seeing a group of people at the local pub or coffee shop sitting at a table all looking down at their phones – that is depressing. Who hasn’t seen that. Amoung my friends we have instituted no-data nights, when using the mobile device is explicity prohibited. No quick looking up some fact on the interwebz. If you don’t know…. you have to ask someone. This has resulted in some really interesting encounters. Who knew the guy sitting at the next table over was a cardiologist, railroad engineer, intellectual property attorney, or even an actual rocket scientist? Or just someone who can quote from memory every stat about the athlete in question – no need for wikipedia!

      • I have to disagree a bit. I don’t like going into waiting rooms and everyone has his or her face buried in a cell phone. I have not owned a cell phone in over ten years, so I sit there looking around. It’s pathetic to see everyone from teens to 60 year old with their heads buried in a screen.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I usually take Metrolink (with bus connections) to work.

      On the Fullerton station platform, I am normally the only one who is NOT a statue staring down at a smartphone screen (optional thumbs working in text text text text text). Instead, I have to zigzag between all the statues.

      On the train, I am the only statue NOT staring down at a personal screen (text text text text text).

      On the bus connection between Irvine station and work, I am the only statue NOT staring down at a personal screen (text text text text text).

      Lunch time at work, I am the only one NOT staring at a phone or tablet screen.

      Only the Virtual is Real.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Oh, and did I mention I work in IT at a shop where the managers outnumber the grunt programmers two-to-one? My job consists of staring at a screen while everyone above me runs around in circles screaming “INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY MULTITASKING MULTITASKING MULTITASKING URGENT URGENT URGENT FASTER FASTER FASTER FASTER FASTER FASTER FASTER FASTER!!!!!!!!!!!”

      • HUG, see my post above.

        I do get on the internet on a desktop computer but I haven’t owned a cell phone in eons. The few number of times I do go out and about, I notice just about everyone has their face buried in a cell phone.

        I think it’s horrible that people have become THAT attached to being on the internet or to gizmos, and I do like the internet, and I do like tech gadgets. But I don’t understand why people can’t keep off the things while in a doctor’s waiting room and such.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Anyone remember the old Max Headroom episode where the Blanks take down ALL the network broadcasts and the entire population immediately goes into full-honk withdrawals?

          “You want to see Separation Anxiety on steroids, hide someone’s Smartphone.”

  10. One of your best posts, and a big reason why I “lurk”, but do not spend the multiple hrs here that I used to. Great balance and thought here, Mike: my relatives do not give a rat’s behind for ANY christian blog, but care about daily stuff (meals, chores, financial worriew, etc).
    There is a lot of work to do out there.

  11. Yes, the Internet in general (and social media in particular) can get ugly, and can be isolating. On the other hand, it can link like-minded people who might otherwise never have met. *I* certainly would not be where I am now without Michael Spenser, Chaplain Mike, and The Internet Monk, and I know many other commerters (not to mention the lurkers) would say the same.

    In the congregations where we actually live, we are typically lone voices who get funny looks for our opinions about evangelical church life – at best.

    Here, we remember that we are not alone.

    • Thank you, Eeyore. We are certainly trying to make this something different from what I talked about in the post.

    • Here, we remember that we are not alone.

      I tend to only find people I can relate to online.

      Says things about me and others, I guess.

      Yet increasingly I want to unplug, yet there’s nothing/nowhere/no one to go to when I do.

    • Could probably do a whole blog post on the online world differences between singles and married people. Especially how it relates to the church…

  12. brianthedad says:

    Yes! I am so much more content since I stopped watching all TV news, local or national, and dropped national talk radio altogether. The news I get comes from 10 minutes or so reviewing headlines on a web aggregator, or the top of the hour radio news if I’m driving. Too many strident voices on the left and right and they are amplified on Facebook, often incorrectly so. I block the rants and ranters, or maroon them to a hidden group, and keep up with faraway friends instead.

    • In the last couple of years, I’ve cut down on the amount of news and politics I keep up with. I notice I am less frustrated as a result.

      I do kind of keep up, I will check on headlines, but I don’t keep up near as much as I used to, so I find myself less angry at the state of the nation as I used to be. I have a Facebook friend is still engrossed with politics, she keeps up with it closely, so she is always angry. She is always posting angry rants on Facebook about how Obama is an idiot, or whatever.

      I told her since I stopped watching the news all the time and stopped keeping up with all the political stuff as much, my blood pressure has gone down a lot. I was trying to hint to her to give it a try, to limit the amount of news she takes in (at least the political stuff), but she has not done so.

      And Facebook anytime major elections are about to come off. I try to avoid social media whenever we have Presidential elections coming up because everyone and their granny has to rant up a storm for days on end in the months leading up to an election. It’s all over Facebook and Twitter, so I stay off social media quite a bit during those times.

  13. Senecagriggs yahoo says:

    I never forget, a blog is just a blog; ain’t gonna change the world, ain’t gonna make a serious dent.
    *
    I actually have one; after the first 1,000 posts I slowed down. I might have 10 followers but only if I remind them.
    *
    It’s just a blog. Sen

  14. I don’t think information overload is the issue. What some people have is filter failure. I too have friends that have quit Facebook citing reasons like “it takes up too much of my time.” I know people in real life that stayed up late and made themselves miserable at work during the day because they were busy building their farms on Farmville.

    The people that quit Facebook (or Twitter, or blogging) remind me of the preachers back in the 80’s that bragged about not having a television. Yes, you can watch dirty movies late at night on HBO. You can also watch the Billy Graham crusades or Charles Stanley. The same set can play Family Guy or Sesame Street, it all depends on who is holding the remote. I wondered, even back then as a child, if they ever thought about getting rid of all books. Playboy magazines and the Bible are both printed on paper you know.

    I agree with Mike. I visit the Internet but this is not where I live. I try to post 2 or 3 times a week to my blog but often do not. I use Facebook and Twitter to point people to my blog. The biggest benefit I have found to Facebook is connecting with long lost friends. Even if we “never talk” I look at their vacation pics, school photos and send birthday greetings to classmates from high school and college that I would never have seen again otherwise.

    I weigh too much because I eat too much. But getting rid of all food is not the answer. There have always been people that have trouble knowing when to say when, whether it’s late night snacking or something more serious like alcohol addiction. The internet is not an inherent evil that we must warn others to stay away from. It is a tool. The same hammer can be used to create or destroy. Like the remote control it all depends on who has it in their hands.

    • Good points here. I agree about there being a filter problem, but overload is a part of that, too. I like your point about people quitting FB being like people who stop watching TV. It’s how it’s USED that’s a problem, not that it exists.

    • Amen Clark. Social media is merely a tool. IF I use my tin snips. (One of my vocations was being a ‘sheet metal man’) as a hammer to drive a duct hanger in, it doesn’t work. The solution. Is NOT to throw my snips out, but instead to use them for what I bought them for….to cut metal.

      I ‘use’ Facebook…..it neither controls me nor defines me. Through Facebook, I’ve been able to reconnect with a plethora of people I lost contact with 20-30 or more years ago. every couple of months, those who can meet at a local pub to snack (and sjp) and catch up on each others’ lives. Sometimes there’s 4 or 5….sometimes there’s 20 or so. We all shared some horrendous experiences together (working in Maximum Security Prisons) that n
      NO ONE could fathom…who hadn’t experienced the same….it created a bond that transcends whatever other personality differences we had….and might still have.

      IF one was to take this topic to it’s logical conclusion, we should all quit posting or lurki.g at IM as well, since this is merely one more ‘Mars Hill’ for like-minded people to decry those ‘wascally Evangelicals’, and dissenting voices aren’t always treated any more gently than some at Facebook treat people.

      I moderated a Christian debate forum for years, and have experienced the insidious compulsion to post ‘just one more argument’, but have become much more discriminatory in what, where, and when I post.

      There is no substitute for personal responsibility, IMHO.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        My complaint about Facebook is not conceptual, but pragmatic. Yes, it is a tool. I just think it is a poorly designed and executed tool. The one thing it is unquestionably good at is making contact with people you have lost touch with. But then what? Rarely do I it find good at replicating the sort of interaction that led me to connect with these people in the first place. Often it is because we are at different places in our lives now, and I can’t blame that on Facebook. Often it is because online interaction cannot substitute for personal interaction. That is why you use it to schedule actual meetings. But even for matters that do lend themselves to online interaction, the format is terrible: this constant stream of snippets of conversations passing by. There is a reason why so much on Facebook is either personal trivia of daily life or political rants. The medium is well designed for these. I am tolerant of personal trivia. I can’t imagine posting it myself, or why anyone would be interested (including me), but that is fine. Political rants will get the “friend” unfollowed: even if I agree with the politics.

        You know what I find works better for nearly all uses? Email. I too have a group of former coworkers who get together occasionally. We arrange this by exchanging emails. You can set up a list of addresses so you don’t accidentally leave anyone out. Email is also better for serious discussions. The format lends itself to longer messages, and you can cogitate for a week or two before replying and that is fine. You automatically get a searchable archive. And it is easy to have no ads. I have participated in special topic email listserves for going on twenty years now, and consider it a far superior format to anything that has come along since.

        • Richard – yeah, it’s a mess. I used to belong to a now-defunct social blogging site that was really great – social media for grownups, basically. Iwish someonewould revive the concept, as it has real potential and can work extremely well. FB killed the site in question, though. : ( But a fair number of the people i “met” there are still in touch, nd i know of one marriage and one engagement (recent, in this case) between people who 1st encountered each other there.

        • Like you, I’m a fan of email. And forums, and even some Yahoo groups., clunky as the last can be. They are far better for expresding thoughts in writing than FB or Twitter will ever be, imo, though both can be used in a good way. They’re certainly not my favorite sites, though!

      • I have to disagree with the idea that social media is “only a tool.” Social media is not at all neutral. See Illana Gershon’s article “Unfriend My Heart” for a sense of the ways in which FB (for example) embeds a certain way of seeing the self and others in its very structure.

        I think that information and opinion overload is also a problem for a lot of people, if not for you or Clark. I’m not actually sure what the difference is between a “filter failure” and information overload. Much of our social media and online opinion and news sites are specifically designed to make information overload worse. Hence the proliferation of “click bait” titles and endless “think pieces” that often ironically begin by decrying the proliferation of think pieces on their subject before proceeding with the piece anyway. Reminds me of Zizek’s notion of ideology.

    • That Other Jean says:

      Absolutely, Clark. We have more information coming to us daily through all forms of media than at any other time in the history of the world. We know about plagues in Nigeria, volcanic explosions in Hawaii, bombings in Syria, and explosions in Texas in very nearly real time that we would never have heard of in most of the past, or heard about, perhaps, months later, when ships or travelers brought distant news. It can look as though we are surrounded by disaster and that the world is a horrible, disintegrating, fear-inducing place; but it has always been so–we just haven’t heard about it.

      We need filters, or we will be overwhelmed. We need critical thinking, at a time when it is widely denigrated. We need to learn how and when to listen and look, and how to sort through what we see and hear to figure out what to believe and what to do about it. In short, we need to find the tools to use the media which saturate our lives to keep us amused, informed, in touch with our distant friends and relatives more immediately than letters can do. We don’t have to believe, or give equal weight to, all that media bring to us. We need to think our way through it.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        “We know about plagues in Nigeria, volcanic explosions in Hawaii, bombings in Syria, and explosions in Texas in very nearly real time that…”

        Conversely, perhaps as a result, we know next to nothing about the places immediately around us.

        “It can look as though we are surrounded by disaster and that the world is a horrible, disintegrating…”

        Indeed. Even when, arguably, the opposite is true. When crime rates are at record lows, when the number of people [worldwide] living in poverty has been declining every year…. yet people are terrified. At a local meeting someone asked the audience to guess the rate of violent crime… nearly everyone over-guessed by an order of magnitude. It is crazy making.

        “We don’t have to believe, or give equal weight to, all that media bring to us”

        But this is very hard to do, in practice. Even if you rationally ‘ignore’ much of what comes at you, the tone and mood will reach the lizardly regions of the psyche. That needs to be actively countered.

    • “Playboy magazines and the Bible are both printed on paper you know.”

      I only read the Bible for the pictures.

  15. My addiction to television was not severe but I lost the rest of it in my recent move. It had been my habit to listen to NPR news on my car radio until it quit working. I recently started listening to an internet jazz radio station out of Denver that broadcasts five minutes of news on the hour and I’m questioning the wisdom of that. Haven’t looked at Drudge in over half a year. News slowly filters thru, but no one I run into discusses it. This is all to the good.

    Have so far strongly resisted Facebook pressures. I looked on the opening of Facebook here as possibly an early warning sign. I have continued to maintain my occasional writing online which technically is a blog but really is a monologue as there is no interaction. Surprisingly my neighbors on both sides of me read it, and a few old friends, but my total readership might be somewhere around seven. If I didn’t enjoy doing it I would probably quit, and as it is, it surprises me that anyone at all besides me finds it of interest.

    There is no one in my local real life that I can talk with about the things that interest me. I’m guessing that they all would be bewildered by iMonk. I’m guessing that out of a county population of 23,000, I might be the only one coming here. From time to time I note in passing someone from Michigan, but out of ten million people, how many come here? A hundred? A thousand? Probably not a thousand. Maybe not a hundred.

    But this is my main daily come-to place online. For the most part you all are my kind of people and this place is an introvert’s dream. I’ve said this before and it still holds true, if the root word behind “church” denotes a gathering or assembly, the Monastery works for me. My world view includes the likelihood of the internet no longer available at some point, and in the meantime I am very grateful for Chaplain Mike and all of you who keep the place running.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > From time to time I note in passing someone from Michigan

      That would include me. In know of two others, and you makes three.

      You + me means Michigan has pretty good representation among commentors.

      > I can talk with about the things that interest me

      What kinds of things interest you?

      > I’m guessing that out of a county population of 23,000

      What county? [~23K makes it Menominee, Osceola, or Antrim?]

      • Osceola. Just about where your ring finger ring is on the mitten. If I recall right, you are in the GR area. I was near South Haven previously. The Georgia Mule is also from the SW Michigan neck of the woods. My main interests are often discussed here, the others either in my own online meanderings or occasionally over a beverage of choice. Would be glad sometime to do that with you. Anyone can contact me by clicking on my name.

      • Twin Cities represent, so we got some upper Midwest on here

    • There is no one in my local real life that I can talk with about the things that interest me.

      Amen.

      So amen.

      I’ve had people tell me they can’t talk to me about things that interest me because they know I already disagree with them and am deceived.

      I can’t honestly share my opinion on most things because it would cause problems, build walls, or paint me as apostate and reprobate.

      I realize that there is not a single person in my “away from keyboard” life that I can 100% trust on everything. Not a single one.

      • I can relate, Stuart!

      • Amen, indeed.

        I am a pastor serving two small, rural churches in the UMC. My closest friends are hours away. The only person that I can really talk to is my wife, and I really hesitate to bother her with the things that are bothering me. The local pastor’s association is of no use since it all is about the inevitable boasting, bragging, and one-upsmanship that can (and does) occur. Don’t get me wrong, some good things happen as we find ways to work together, but opportunities to share deeply are few and far between. No one that I would feel comfortable sitting down over a beer or two and going deep.

        Sometimes the anonymity of the net does give me an opportunity to get things off my chest, but the clutter is very distracting.

  16. God post CM! Everything must have balance. As for me, I don’t use ant social media. Imonk is the only blog I read or post on. Don’t.listen to any political radio except for a local station here in SoCal. I basically don’t watch any TV except for the occasional sports thing. I don’t go to movies, I view Nerflix I read a lot. Its probably why most of the pop or cultural references on this blog are about But I now know what “jump the shark means”!

  17. One. At breakfast with a local pastor the other morning, he told me if there was one thing he could change in his congregation, it would be that people would stop listening to news and political pundits that make them angry.

    I’ve had to do this multiple times in my life. I realized it was making me angry, I always hated others and wanted to start fights. My life improved dramatically each time I cut things out. Yet now I’m “uninformed” and “swayed by the liberal media”, yet all I did was quit listening to those who only told me what to think, instead of giving me the facts and teaching me how to think.

    In a way, it parallels my church relationship as well.

    Oh, and now I automatically block or unfriend anyone who shares anything from those old political cesspool sites. If you can’t take two minutes to confirm or deny some shock value story, I won’t put up with you online. Share in person where we can discuss.

  18. I don’t post much anymore but still read. This is actually the only blog I read because the discourse is civil. Since the majority of my work consists of peering into a laptop screen I would rather be out talking to people or getting some physical activity (maybe even swinging a hammer or digging a ditch). I do peruse the news sites but try to stay away from extreme on both sides since in reality it causes angst about things I cannot control. Social Media like facebook has really limited a lot of people’s interaction with real people so I don’t go there, and I really am not interested in people’s daily habits. If I am not talking to you in person or on the phone then I guess it really wasn’t that important. Twitter is even worse, one sentence about what you are thinking is too short….

    It may come down to the way I think…. if it’s on an issue… you have every right to say how you feel…. but I probably won’t take it seriously if there is no fact or experience behind it to base the opinion on. On internet-facebook-twitter there is a lot of that – which is why I probably only visit this blog… much else is noise.

    As for the big issues that comes with the internet, well… I am a conservative (yes I said it)… but I find that the big issues railed about at a 10,000 foot view look mighty different when confronted on a one-to-one person-to-person basis.

    Stories like Tokah’s the other day make me stop and say hmmmm… which is good as it challenges or causes me to see things from other, and more human perspectives…

    So… to all those (and especially young folk) who spend a lot of time linked in… there is sunshine trees and good ground outside for digging… lots more satisfying in the end than banging away at the keyboard…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      So… to all those (and especially young folk) who spend a lot of time linked in… there is sunshine trees and good ground outside for digging…

      But that’s (sneer) Meatspace.
      That’s where the Meat lives.

      • neckbeards

        that’s my love/hate relationship with most fandoms. i like the material, absolutely loathe the fans. and if they are bad online, they are even worse in “meatspace”.

        and i’m sure a lot of that is because i see myself in them. what i was. what i was becoming.

        you always hate the people who have the flaws you hate in yourself

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And WHEN (not if) The Singularity comes, they will upload their consciousness into the Cloud (or the Net), shed the Meat and Live Forever.

        Singularity: The Rapture for Nerds.

  19. David Cornwell says:

    This is such a good, and important post. It causes me to stop and think about why I say and write the things I do. It’s easy to slip into a mode of talk that is different than what I was taught as a child. Common courtesy can go out the door quickly. This blog is well moderated and people keep the discussion on a level of civility and respect— mostly. It reminds me of Miss Keeney’s high school English and speech classes. There we read the assignments and came ready to engage in moderated discussion. To do our best we had to be prepared properly and know how to conduct ourselves.

    However this class was also an extension of home life. At home we learned that some things were acceptable, and other ways of behaving were not. Within the family some behavior was permitted, because we were children under the tutelage of our parents. They set up the boundaries of what was good and what was off limits. This didn’t stop us from arguing with each other. Or four brothers fighting with each other. In my teens I argued constantly with my mother. However I knew my limits. And most of those limits were controlled by respect and love, not rules. I would never even consider calling her a bad name, or to accuse her of stupidity or of being dumb. And the opposite was also the case.

    Social media reminds me sometimes of the nastiness of television wrestling, with loud, rude braggarts boasting of their skill, then showing off in a display of contrived violence, bouncing around the ring and managing to make themselves into clowns. “Gorgeous George” was an early example of this, from back in the days of my childhood.

    For me, I have the need of weekly Sabbath, where I stop, and regain balance through the worship of God and fellowship with others. It reminds me once again of the sanctity of God’s good Creation, and hopefully makes a difference in how I interact with it.

  20. Social media can be very narcissistic. But it can have incredible value, too. If I’m changing my FB profile pic every 2 hours and posting what I ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I’m probably a narcissist and it’s hard for an observer to see the value. However, if I’m a woman posting an update every 2 hours on her husband who’s in ICU in critical condition and his situation is changing by the hour, then I’m probably using it in a very good way, by sharing updates with friends and family with relative ease. (This happened with a friend of mine a few years back, and taught me the value of FB.)

  21. Stuart B……You’re making me laugh too hard.
    .

  22. I have a lot of anger, and definite opinions but am burdened with early admonitions from mother and grandmother…..”there are two sides to every story.” I think, well, maybe they have a point. Husband said I was wimpy, but I prefer to think in critical way

    • LOL. This gets me in trouble with my wife all the time. She can be opinionated and state an opinion on something very definitively, and when I try to point out the OTHER side’s perspective, she thinks I’m just being argumentative and always against her. Gotten me into the doghouse more than once. 😉

      • Rick Ro. So funny, not only my husband, but my sister thought I was too argumentative and ” not on their side.”
        I just can’t bring myself to agree if I just don’t know for sure! I guess it’s in my DNA

      • Rick Ro, that sounds like me the older I get.

        I am still pretty opinionated, but in the last couple of years, I find myself seriously considering what my ideological opponents have to say on some topics.

        My views have not always changed, but I have found an appreciation for what the other side is saying. I can also see that some of their criticisms for my side of some issues are correct, at least partially.

        It really depends on the topic, though. There are some subjects I don’t see myself budging on, ever. But in regards to others, I’m willing to give the other side more of a hearing.

  23. -> “Carrying on the legacy of Michael Spencer, who had such a unique voice and perspective to share, is a joy and challenge, and I find it exhilarating.”

    Mike, I hope you still feel this way! Thanks for your efforts and work at Internet Monk. It’s a good, valuable community.

  24. A good sized portion of what I do on a daily basis is not where I live. Compared with those things, iMonk is a place where part of me that’s important to me definitely can live, even if only in a limited way. Maybe that’s sad, but that’s the way it is with me. And that’s why I value iMonk.

    • Robert, “sad” or not (i think not), it’s a reality for many of us.

      • It is for me. Outside my wife, I have hardly anyone with whom I can be completely open about faith issues. I do not subscribe to many of the “approved” views in my tradition; in fact, would probably be more at peace in another but there is no place close and I refuse to drive 45 minutes to a church more compatible with my theological viewpoints so I serve in the place God has provided. And besides, these people are my family even if I am the crazy uncle in the attic. I’m just thankful there is a place like Internet Monk where I can be reminded that there are many other “crazy uncles (and aunts!).”

  25. About the only things I post to Facebook involve photos of cute puppies wearing ties and hats, or recipes to cakes and cookies, or photos of sun sets – but did you know THAT sort of content also hacks people off?

    My mind boggles. I’ve seen people complain on other sites about people like me who post harmless stuff. They view entertaining, harmless stuff as I don’t know, vapid or annoying.

    Well excuse me, but I don’t think Facebook is the place for political rants, photos of what you’re having for lunch (I can’t believe people are still doing that in 2014), or airing of one’s personal dirty laundry. I’d rather see cute puppy photos than that stuff.

    Thank goodness I don’t have any over-sharing parents on my Facebook friend list , as I do not like babies and have no interest in having to see lots and lots of baby or kid photos every time I visit.

    I hardly ever post anything of a controversial nature on Facebook (I haven’t posted there in a few weeks anyway), certainly hardly ever about politics.

    I’ve had to hide the Facebook feeds of a few people because they rant or post about politics often. I’ve done this for both right and left wing acquaintances. I am right wing, but I don’t enjoy seeing anything but political rants or links day in and day out when I visit.

    I don’t hardly ever post political stuff myself because all it does is annoy people who don’t share your views.

    I do wish some of my left wing friends would practice what I do and practice self restraint, and when tempted to post anti-Republican or whatever content, to resist that urge.

    Some of them (liberal acquaintances) post things like, at least one pro-homosexual marriage type thing a day, which I tire of seeing, since I feel that this issue is being crammed down everyone’s throats as it is outside of Facebook.

    If this one person I know on Facebook is not posting the pro- homosexual marriage stuff regularly, it’s the flip coin of that, where she posts memes suggesting that those who don’t support homosexuality are horrible, insensitive haters who just hate homosexuals for the sake of hating.

    I had to hide feeds of other conservatives. One guy was posting anti Obama screeds constantly. I think he lives on Facebook, and every ten minutes, there was another anti Democrat or anti Obama post.

    I do vote Republican myself, I can do without Obama, but that doesn’t mean I need to or want to visit Facebook to see angry people post tirades against whatever politician on a regular basis.

    I have an atheist Facebook friend who gets offended over imaginary slights, like school shootings.

    When Christians say in response to school shootings, “God has been removed from schools, what do you expect,” she takes that and runs with it on Facebook, and seems to assume Christians are saying all atheists shoot school children.

    Despite the fact I translated for her more than once what the typical Christian means by saying “when you take God out of schools” she continues to misrepresent Christians in her Facebook rants. I had to practice restraint and stop commenting on those posts of hers. Not that I was doing it a lot anyway.

  26. I said in my post above,
    “I have an atheist Facebook friend who gets offended over imaginary slights, like school shootings.”

    I worded that in an awkward way, it came out wrong.

    I did not mean to say that school shooting are slights, I am referring to my atheist Facebook acquaintace’s reaction to Christian reactions of school shootings and similar incidents – she totally misunderstands Christian views on some matters.

    Sometimes I wonder if she is deliberately being obtuse, because she so totally twists what Christians say or think on some things.

  27. Way late to this discussion as I am West Coast US and usually look at iMonk later in my day and not every day. First fear was that Chaplain Mike had become so enamored with real life that he was going to leave us in the darkness of the Internet by ourselves. Once that was out of the way, I thought about several things:
    1) How much I have valued listening in on iMonk commentary over the past several years as I dealt with my own frustrations with ‘Fundagelicalism’ (Did I get that right?).
    2) How much a couple of real, physically reachable friends have made a difference in a way that iMonk cannot.
    3) How blogging and Facebook are, unless you are a particularly gifted communicator in that format, mostly a time suck.

    Generally and mostly, just wanted to say thank you to Chaplain Mike for carrying the iMonk torch faithfully and also to the guest contributors and (almost) all of the faithful commenters for making this a life-giving forum — in sort of an intangible way. 😉

  28. One of the reasons I read your blog less and less is the negative critical reviews of the church