If time in quarantine has revealed anything to me, it’s revealed who needs to be purged from my social media.
With the extra empty space provided by a social-distancing lifestyle, there is a lot of time to reflect on the past. (Or maybe it’s more accurate to say “time for the past to be churned up in our minds.”) I don’t think I’m the only one experiencing this – I’ve heard from several old friends and acquaintances in recent weeks, often over social media. With graduation approaching, and the end of my seven-year stay at Ozark on top of that, the inclination to look toward the past is increasingly strong. In doing so, I revisited my very first blog post, written almost exactly three years ago.
My first blog on this site was on the topic of “disintegration” – how our internal and external lives do not always line up. While I was concerned then with how we fracture inwardly, now I am interested in how we splinter out. There are many ways our lives may not reflect our principles, and one in particular stands out to me today.
For all its perks, quarantine is prime time for digital disintegration. Extra empty space means extra time for our various devices to invite us to distract and consume to our hearts’ (dis)content. The glass barrier of the screen prohibits us from being truly present (which might explain that Zoom fatigue you’ve been feeling). Texting is fine for maintaining relationships, but in times of extended separation, it can’t do much to sustain them. It becomes all too easy to see even close friends as chat bubbles more than flesh-and-blood humans. If that’s the case with friends, think of what it’s doing to our “followers” and the fragmented personas we project for them.
Like being Zoom-present without true physical community, seeing disconnection in post after post on social media is exhausting.
Digital disintegration changes the way we interact with the world and others living in it. Screens filter out any sense of consequence for our actions. You can curate touched-up untruths to present performatively. You can tear other people down without any fear of retaliation. You can puff yourself up with pride to the point that you wouldn’t even see yourself clearly in the black mirror of your own phone.
For the Christian, this disconnect between real-life self and digitally-disintegrated fragment can have especially troubling implications. Your Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram (yes, even your “Close Friends” Story) are all as much a part of your witness to Christ as your Sunday morning hands-raised-in-worship best. An untamed tongue is not a practice of “freedom in Christ” but an avoidance of healthy discipline, and private accounts aren’t an excuse to stop being wise (or sanctified). Look at your recent feeds and ask – what are your posts indicating about Christ to the eye of an unbeliever (or even a less mature Christian)?
On top of that, your social media presence is representing the Church, a body of believers with an eternal hope that does not bow to earthly trials. Are you contributing panic and confusion or life and peace to your conversations (and Facebook profiles)? What do your shares indicate about your eternal security and earthly mission?
Here I sit, with irritability heightened by exhaustion, typing into a computer screen words that I will eventually post on the Internet, functionally divorcing them from myself for any reader that doesn’t know me personally. Am I part of the problem?
Sometimes, the person I most need to purge from my social media is myself, so as to avoid both increasing my own exhaustion and contributing to that of other people.
Don’t get me wrong – the concerns for the Church and our Christian witness are good concerns, and I stand by them. (Perhaps irritability serves a good purpose if it motivates a good reminder.) But people much wiser than me have learned how to speak words of correction with nothing but grace for the ones being corrected. That’s a place I’d like to reach, though I’m not sure if I’m there yet. I need to be careful from behind my own screens to not judge people based on the disintegrated fragments I see. (If that’s you, I apologize, and I look forward to seeing you in person once this is all over.)
There are a lot of things about this quarantine lifestyle I truly don’t want to go back to “normal,” but increased disintegration is one of the exceptions. May this season teach us to value and practice integration in all areas of life.
If you find that all the muting and unfollowing online leaves you with even more free time, here are some recommendations from things I've enjoyed in quarantine: - Dune by Frank Herbert, a 1965 classic sci-fi novel (with a new movie adaptation coming soon!) - Spirits in Bondage, C.S. Lewis' earliest collection of poetry, written before his days as a Christian writer - Confessions by St. Augustine, a book I'm reading again (for class) which gets better the more times you read it - Forever Amen, Steffany Gretzinger's new album