Holy Relating in the Facebook-Era

I watched The Social Network last night, mainly because I was curious.  Similarly,  I joined Facebook five years ago, shortly after it started and around the same time that I entered my community, because I was curious.  Curiosity is usually what causes me to conform, even if I have mixed feelings or I am not really sure how an action may fit with my Christian living.

The story of the creation of Facebook is very real:  it’s friendships, energy, ideas and passions spiraling around young, talented people in a legalistic, money-driven era.  The true story felt like a visual time-capsule to me, like something that historians and psychologists will be able to study in 50 years when they are trying to make sense of why humans relate as we will then.

The film reminded me that it’s true that organic, creative projects change the world and humanity forever.  This fact echoes my understanding of the Gospel- the call to build the Kingdom that gives me great joy.  In collaborative communities we create change and help people connect more deeply, and it’s really powerful and good.  Plus, the story got me thinking about how relationships can be twisted collisions of trust and distrust, hope, love, faith, confusion and betrayal.  Is that a tragedy?  I am not sure.  This reality seems to fit with the story of Jesus, too.

Nonetheless, I am disturbed.  I have found it fascinating- and frustrating- to participate in the evolution of human relating and communication during the past five years, since Facebook (and now Twitter, etc.) have become as common as eating. (At least for the 8 percent of us on earth who actually have internet connection, I suppose.)

Lately I have tried to be more conscientious about how much I use Facebook, mention Facebook in conversations and hear others talk about Facebook each day.  Naturally then, I was amused at mass this morning when the priest told a story about how he reconnected with an old friend through the internet and Facebook.

I suspect many of us have had similar experiences.  I imagine that a lot of us have found Facebook a helpful tool in fostering relationships and reconnecting with friends.   I have, and it is very exciting.   I appreciate being able to read headlines and see pictures of babies, weddings and ordinary life stuff of people I know with as much ease as reading a newspaper.  This is good, I think, because I believe that relationships are the meaning of life.  We grow in union through communication and communion,  through all of our relating to each other.  In addition, the technology permits a different type of Gospel witness, and this is good.

Nonetheless, I have questions and concerns.  I heard a story about a friend-of-a-friend who learned about the sudden death of her aunt through a Facebook post recently.  I know of other tragic- and joyous- momentous news that has been shared through family and friends exclusively through technology.   I doubt that this is good for our souls and spirits.  When things are deep and meaningful, it doesn’t seem healthy to relate with each other without the raw mess of human emotion, inflection and reflection.

Does it hurt us when we learn about big things in our close friends’ lives at the same time as their other 650 Facebook friends/acquaintances?     Why does it suddenly seem so hard to relate to each other in real, old-fashioned types of ways, like through visits, phone-calls and hand-written letters as we live and love?  Have we lost our human touch?

Certainly, our society has been drastically changed by Facebook technology.  Likewise, the way we relate and communicate has radically shifted.

Is this God’s will for us? Is this what Jesus intended when we were commissioned to build the kingdom?   How does our modern technological communication impact our souls, our freedom, our prayer and our ability to relate to each other as God designed us?

On this Feast of the Holy Trinity, we are blessed with renewed focus on God who is perfect relationship and who is Love and Truth.  In the Trinity we know a love so self-giving and constant that the union changes all creation.  We learn how to Love if we listen in prayer to how God the Parent, God Incarnate and the Holy Spirit relate together as three-in-one.

How did God design us to relate to each other? Since we’re made in God’s image, I believe it’s just like the Trinity.  Let’s love, give, share, care, hold, touch, heal, help, communicate, commune and just be together in the real, raw mess of relational love.

Let’s love each other, in the boundless, eternal non-technological, human ways.  The Bible tells us so:

Brothers and sisters, rejoice.
Mend your ways, encourage one another,
agree with one another, live in peace,
and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the holy ones greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.         –  2 Cor 13:11-13


Fascination of the mundane

Guest blogger: Elizabeth Diedrich

“Hola. Hello. How are you?” For the past two years every conversation I have had with Carlos has been the exactly the same. “I am well. How are you?” Or every once in a while I will respond in Spanish. “Buena. Como estas?” Then, Carlos in his heavy accent laughs at me and says, “Good. Thank you.” You have candy for throat?” I hand him his chough drops and he leaves the office.

Around André House everyone knows Carlos. He has a very distinct voice and he has some version of the same conversation with everyone. Actually, he has the same conversation with a person each time he sees that person. This means I may say “Hello. How are you?” with Carlos five times a day. Two years of the same conversation. I never really thought about this.

Then one day we had a different conversation.

Pencil, notebook and eraser

It was just Carlos and me in the office and he asked for a pencil, eraser and pencil sharpener. He told me he likes to draw. He picked up a small piece of paper, a piece no larger than a playing card, and sat in front of me at the desk and drew me a picture. He drew a simple picture of reeds, a fish, birds, a scene from a pond. I was mesmerized as he drew. It was not his drawing that was mesmerizing; it was that after two years of exactly the same conversation Carlos was now a different person to me. He had learned my name two years ago and had practiced many times saying it correctly. Today, as his drawing was finished he took a second piece of paper and practiced writing my name. Eight times he practiced writing my name.

It is easy for life to become mundane. It is easy to become caught up the daily grind. It is easy to follow the in and out of a daily schedule. How often do you sit down at the end of the day and you cannot even remember everything that you did throughout the day? I think this is especially true in relationships. It is easy to become static in relationships. I can often see this very clearly in community. After 10 months together we can exchange thoughts without words, we can predict when a person will not be able to follow through, we know each others’ likes and dislikes and can read each other with fairly good accuracy. This brings comfort and fluidity to our daily work.

Yet, it also inhibits us from challenging each other and being open to listening.

Similarly with family or friends, often conversations operate on a superficial level and lack the depth that brings about new ideas and the possibility of transformation. I think what we need more of is a healthy, childlike fascination with our daily events and the people in our lives. Fascination is a strong word, but I think it is the best one to describe what is needed to make a relationship flourish.

In the preface of The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell writes: “Our instinct as humans, after all, is to assume that most things are not interesting. We flip through the channels on the television and reject ten before we settle on one. We go to a bookstore and look at twenty novels before we pick the one we want. We filter and rank and judge.” Gladwell suggests that we must move beyond our human instinct and develop a constant consciousness to our lack of knowledge of each other in order to gives us the freedom to continue to learn and transform relationships.

Furthermore, a constant fascination of apparently mundane events grants us the ability to see the miracles of our daily lives. It may seem awkward to try and hold a conscious fascination with the world, but if you take a moment, take a breath, and stop to wonder and awe miracles will appear everywhere.

Photo credit: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/34348