Archives For Socal Media

In a world of “noise” it can be difficult to step up and say something unique. That act risks rejection. It involves vulnerability, humility, courage and honesty.

The key to interaction, we’re told, is more interaction. We’re encouraged not to limit ourselves to just one media arena. Build followers, “friends” and establish a “market presence”, in a market overloaded with sell, sell, sell.

Twitter is a fast-paced, here one minute, gone the next platform and Instagram isn’t much different. Blogs are in the plenty and are always a step away from losing what little readers they do attract to the next biggest thing that can hold the already dwindling internet attention span of the masses.

Facebook has it’s usefulness, but as someone said to me in a conversation last night, it’s a two-edged sword. It should be wielded wisely.Pick your fights, sheath the thought. This is juxtaposed with its algorithms, which by default, push new posts to the bottom of the pile, only displaying those with the most responses. Social media is largely a popularity game that few will ever really win.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt to make our own contribution. We can’t just wish away the responsibility to speak into that overloaded arena. As the aptly named axiom goes: “don’t compare yourself to others, just stay in your own lane”.

Or as Spurgeon stated:

‘If you, my Brother and Sister, have a little company of about a hundred people to deal with, be perfectly satisfied. Or if, my Sister, you have a class of ten or a dozen girls to teach, be content with that number and do the best you can to glorify God in your own proper place. Depend upon it, if you exchanged your burden for mine, you would not be able to bear it– and if I had yours, I dare say it would not fit my back so well as my own does!’
(Lowly Service, circa 1870s) [i]

Stay in your own lane. Speak with your own voice. Make your own contribution.

Yes, think before sharing. We should ask ourselves if whether or not what is being shared further pads the “noise”; pads our own egos or irresponsibly invites strife. We shouldn’t give up or give in there. Refine thought, argument and lofty opinion, “taking them captive to obey Christ” (2. Cor. 10:4-5). Then under conviction or consolation, either jettison it or seek a way to speak it.

For Christians, what guides this process is God’s eternal redemptive spiritual and physical presence; His voice spoken through Spirit and Son. One that pierces darkness and sheds light onto an otherwise difficult to see front line.

It’s His authority that we rest on. It’s His voice that will linger because in the end that which is wished forgotten, doesn’t serve the downtrodden.

‘Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it in many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth […] He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.’
(Ecclesiastes 11:1-4, ESV)

Therefore brothers and sisters:

‘The altar must never lose the glow and heat of its holy fire and the lamp of the sanctuary must never be permitted to go out, so these sufferers, as they lie, night after night, watching the long and weary hours, keep the lamp of prayer brightly burning and the incense of intercession perpetually ascending to the Most High. And so the earth is never without the sweetening influence of saintly supplication.’
(Spurgeon, ibid) [ii]

The poem featured below is a little on the heavy side, but it isn’t without redemption.

[For those interested in the creative process:  It takes about 3-5 hrs to put these tunes together; just me, God, my guitars, an amp and audacity. Another 2-3 for mixing and then creating the video.My most liked part of this weeks art project is the high-end lead parts and the bass. The lead for this was all done on a semi-acoustic.]


References:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H. 1870s,  Lowly Service [online version available here]

[ii] ibid, Lowly Service

dmitry-ratushny-67024If you’re close enough to me and my interactions on the internet, you’d know that I regard the internet as a place for conversation, not genuine community.

Although I concede that there are select examples where this is not the case, most of social media and the “online community” involve transactional relationships.  Ideas are bought and sold through a currency of likes, shares, comments, followers or “friends”.

Click bait articles con us with various controversial headlines. We are enticed to react and feed into the hype created by its authors. We are consistently bombarded with the next ‘’shock and awe’’ post, that will snatch our attention and rile us all up. Our tears of rage or sympathy are gold in this environment; cash in the bank for those mining for them. Fake news sells.

A large part of the internet is about smart marketing. It can bolster, foster and ignite community, but it cannot be community. From promoting Trump to benefiting from the capitalist system in order to ironically undermine it for Socialism, if it’s effective, every post and every link will involve a polished sales pitch.

Anything deemed ugly, ersatz or imperfect; any article that exceeds three paragraphs and doesn’t pump out catchy ear pleasing half-truths; anything that doesn’t catch our attention, or agree with a political agenda, gets pushed to the bottom of the pile; easily overlooked and dismissed.

Social media, as it currently exists, can be nothing more than an ongoing conversation with conversation partners. It fosters community, it isn’t one.

In Koine Greek, Community or ‘plethos’ is defined as being a large number; a [physical] gathering of people [i]. In ecology, it’s considered to be: a group of interdependent organisms inhabiting the same region, and interacting with each other.

Mirriam-Webster notes that it is a ‘a body of persons or nations; social activity – fellowship’

Where social media fails to accurately represent the physical community because it’s become what many are calling an echo chamber, it no longer facilitates community.

Where a large portion of people fail to be heard because they don’t have the means to compete; or are too scared to speak and make a contribution, social media fails to facilitate community. Social media, instead, becomes toxic to it.

To illustrate this, two weeks ago I made the decision to remove myself from an ongoing conversation. It had become clear to me that my contributions were no longer all that welcome.

Before doing so, I placed this decision before God and prayerfully took the time to consider the right response.

I wanted to make certain that my internal receptors were not just blinking because of something that “triggered” me or because I found disagreement or offense with the politics being exchanged.

To be clear, I in fact agreed with, although was, at the same time, cautious about some conclusions being drawn by those involved in most of the discussions. The overall exchange was as healthy as most communication online can be.

Our interaction was sporadic, but consistent enough to build rapport. When we did engage in conversation, it was mutually beneficial and my well-educated interlocutor reciprocated with respect.

However, over the past few months this seemed to change. It was easy enough to see that my contribution was no longer all that welcome, even if it did bring balance to the conversation.

My own posts and comments appeared to become something of an irritation. While not openly hostile, each exchange had deteriorated. I was starting to get the impression that my position on some issues embarrassed my friend in front of his intended audience.

So, I chose to graciously remove myself from the conversation. A few weeks later I received a message asking me why I had “unfriended” him on Facebook.

In a 200 word scripted response I explained my reasons. Stating that I felt as though our sporadic communications had dissolved to the point where we banging our heads against each other; frustrating one another.

Opening up the opportunity for my “friend” to correct me, I took a humble approach and apologised if I had misinterpreted the tone of our exchanges.  Instead, his response confirmed that my chosen course of action was the right one.

He largely ignored what I’d written, then proceeded to try to get to me to confirm that my decision was as an attack on his politics. All based on the assumption that I’d “unfriended” him because he was not ‘’conservative’’ enough. Something I denied and continue to do so.

Paul, to the Galatian Church, in his famous pericope on what it means to ‘live in freedom under the grace of Jesus Christ’ [ii], wrote:

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” [iii]

Adhering to this will sometimes include removing ourselves from the conversation for the sake of peace, and peace of mind.

It certainly includes redefining abusive relationships through the implementation of boundaries, which also applies to the internet, synthetic community and especially, social media.


Notes:

[i] Goodrick, E & Kohlenberger III J. 1990 NIV Exhaustive Concordance, Zondervan

[ii] Romans 6, English Standard Version

[ii] Galatians 5, English Standard Version

Photo credit, Dmitry Ratushny

The Rise of the TechnocratIn ‘Augustine and the Limits of Politics,’ political scientist, Jean Bethke Elshtain lamented:

‘Albert Camus’ work, ‘The Rebel’ is understudied and underestimated.’ (p.115)

Elshtain’s work is peppered with references to Camus. Her affinity with the French agonistic and “existentialist” philosopher is easy to observe. Elshtain sees a good amount of Camus’ questions and conclusions as relevant to contemporary discourse.

That is of course, where dialogue and dissent are allowed, which to the keen observer like Elshtain and Camus, are things fast being forced into private. This is because the pathos in post-modern monologues (such as: facebook rants, easy likes, mob put downs and whip statements) are taking over. (It was from this that Elshtain later asks if ‘democracy can survive social media and the rise of the technocratic class. See: ‘‘State Of Democracy’)

Earlier in her book, Elshtain provides some commentary on  a post war lecture Camus gave in 1946 at Columbia University:

‘To what was no doubt a hushed auditorium, Camus went on to enumerate the clear symptoms of what he called a ‘crisis of world-dimensions; a crisis in human consciousness.’ He described these as a rise in terror, following upon such a perversion of values that man, woman or historical force is judged today not in terms of human dignity but in terms of success (consider here: doing and saying whatever makes you popular – or gets the most likes). The crisis is based, as well, on the growing “impossibility of persuasion.” Human beings live and can only live by “retaining the idea that they have something in common,” a starting point to which they can return […] Camus noted two other symptoms of the crisis. One he called the substitution of the “political” for the “living” person.’ (p.70)

Citing Camus, Elshtain then points to the unhealthy ‘growth of bureaucracy.’ – ‘For what counts now is whether or not one has helped a doctrine to triumph, not whether or not one respects a mother and spares her suffering” (ibid). All these, Elshtain asserts, ‘can be summed up in a single tendency – the cult of efficiency and abstraction.’ (ibid)

Camus’ conclusion is then highlighted:

 “That is why the man in Europe today experiences only solitude and silence; for he cannot communicate with his fellows in terms of values common to them all, and since he is no longer protected by a respect for man based on the values of man, the only alternative henceforth open to him is to be a victim or an executioner.” (Ibid)

What stands out the most, though, is Elshtain’s own conclusion about what Camus was on about:

‘Camus lays the crisis squarely on the doorstep of an unchecked will-to-power. And from that flows the terrible notion that one can cleanse the world, purge the old, the tired, the imperfect, though terror.’ (p.71)

Directly connected  to this is a post-war assessment made by Albert Camus in 1948:

‘Between the forces of terror (coercion) and the forces of dialogue (persuasion), a great unequal battle has begun. I have nothing but reasonable illusions to the outcome of that battle. But I believe it must be fought, and I know that certain men and women have resolved to do so. I merely fear that they will occasionally feel somewhat alone, that they are in fact alone, and that after an interval of two thousand years we may see the sacrifice of Socrates repeated several times.’
(Camus, A. ‘Resistance, Rebellion & Death: Essays’ pp.73-74)

I agree with Elshtain, Camus has the potential to wake The West up from its slumber; to bring technicolour back into focus and persuasively correct the current politically correct technoblur. He names that which should be named and wasn’t afraid to address what needed to be addressed. It’s also helpful to note that after he published,’The Rebel’, French communists (among them was J.P. Sartre) labelled Camus, who was one of their own, a reactionary et.al. Simply because he questioned the ideology and where that ideology landed. He disagreed with them and spoke out against it. As a result he was threatened, ridiculed into submission, excommunicated and disowned by his friends. Which, for the Christian who participates in these realms and seeks responsible dialogue translates into:

‘You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.’
(Jesus, Mark 13:13)


Sources:

Camus, A. 1960 Essays: Resistance, Rebellion and Death, Vintage Books, Random House

Camus, A. 1946-1947 The Human Crisis, pp.20-24

Elshtain, J.B 1998 Augustine and the Limits of Politics, University of Notre Dame Press (pp.70-71 & p.115)

The image used here is my own.

Postal Ambiguity

July 23, 2015 — Leave a comment

Postal Ambiguity

I liked the joke that was posted.

That one they posted,

Posted not too long ago.

It was a post that I liked;

A good post.

Posted, not too long ago.

You might know the post.

It’s the joke that was posted.

The one they posted.

A post about a joke, posted, not too long ago.


(RL2015)

When it comes to improving context and expression on social media, #hashtags can empower written communication.

For example #hashtags can provide:

 sharp relief…

8830305566_b67bb323af_z

Image: AdamRobertsEF, sourced from Flickr 27th May 2014

They do this by allowing improved delivery of the message. Such as providing context, enhancing dialogue and uplifting an otherwise impoverished form of expression. Hashtags allow the author and the reader to reach beyond the limitations of non-verbal, faceless communication.

However, used on their own #hashtags can be:

hashtags

Jasmine Henry, writing for ragan.com, suggests six areas of social media etiquette where businesses (and I think people in general) should use caution when wielding the might of the hashtag.

Jasmine writes:

First, beware of using ‘too many hashtags. Overuse is annoying and can be difficult to read’.

Second, be careful of the ‘irrelevant use of hashtags.’ There’s no need to hashtag every post.

Third, proper social media etiquette requires a limit of only ‘three to four words’ behind a hashtag. This allows for improved readability.

Fourth, don’t ‘over promote a self-made hashtag‘. Be careful you’re not over stating what is obvious to the reader.

Fifth, understand the mechanics behind hashtags. ‘Be considerate of the trend in order to avoid looking like you are jumping into a pre-existing conversation without having something relevant to contribute to that conversation.’

Lastly, be sure that the hashtag relates to the trend. Avoid ‘hashtag sampling, by misusing or miscalculating the contextual meaning within a hashtag trend’

The Church would do well to not overlook the usefulness, significance and potential of hashtags. Their use allows for bridge building as the hashtag mechanics can carry the message further. One outcome suggested by a hypothetical scenario might be when a person in need of encouragement lands upon a ”trend” directing them back to the Gospel, or the sender opening up opportunity for fellowship, responsible care and/or contextual mission.

Some of us might be unaware of this ”etiquette”, since a lot of people are all awkwardly still working out how to use this technology in community. I had some idea, but it wasn’t until I looked more into it that I realised the use of hashtags is actually not a bad thing.

The fuss in using hashtags appears to involve nothing more than concerns about their overuse and the uncertainly of their usefulness, significance and potential.

These are also important points here that can be made about how this relates to pastoral care and evangelism in an online mirco-blogging environment. For instance, hashtags can avoid a passive aggressive tone when presenting shared material. In a pre-emptive sense, used properly hashtags have the potential to defuse rather than ignite misgivings about the Church, the Bible and God.

As long as the mechanics are understood and not hindered by their programmers or our own poorly considered words, the hashtag allows a way for us to reinforce the context of what we are trying to say. As result we have a way to overcome the limitations of faceless-expressionless communication and the obstacle of misunderstandings unique to social media.

 

hashtag Merriam_Webster

Image: Merriam-Webster

 

Source:

Henry, J. 2012 The 6 most irritating ways to use hashtags on Twitter, sourced from ragan.com