Social media pervades our everyday lives. It interrupts us with alerts on our phones or laptops. It brings us the latest news, updates from family, and topics of conversation — think YouTube videos and Grumpy Cat memes — with our friends.
Part of the reason for doing this particular Lenten challenge (writing 40 notes to 40 people in 40 days) was because I think it’s important to keep and further develop personal connections in ways that don’t involve instant messaging and emojis.
But the other day these two worlds — the tradition of Lent and social media — collided.
Now, I guess you could say that basically every day of my life the more traditional ideas and practices of faith and spirituality intersect with digital media because I work in the fields of digital media and, well, faith. However, I try to have some balance in my life. I don’t want to give my whole self over to social media or online everything. One way I fight against so much screen time is with magazines — the kind that come in the mail. Another: I don’t play many games on my mobile phone. And that would actually be no games during Lent because I’ve given up Candy Crush. Basically, I stare at a computer screen all day (and I’m staring at one now as I type this!). I don’t want to stare at one all of the time I’m not at work.
So, the other day I’m thinking, Who will I write to today? I check Facebook. Someone had a baby. How wonderful. Someone’s mom died. How sad. I type a quick “Congrats” and “Condolences” and move on to the next food pic and Buzzfeed quiz in my newsfeed.
A few more scrolls down the page, and it hits me. Why don’t I send a card to the new baby, a note of sympathy to the friend whose mom passed away?
Some of you may be thinking — You haven’t been using your Facebook birthday reminders to fill in some of those 40 days? Actually, I haven’t. (Although, I will now!)
This instance reminded me of something I usually say to explain or even defend the use of social media as part of ministry: Social media can be used in part as a tool to connect with people offline. In that way, people meet up in-person for coffee or a movie, or even, say, start revolutions (actual revolutions, people!).
I challenge you today — or for the rest of the week — to pay attention to those moments when you might make the digital more tangible. You see a friend has a new job? Give him/her a call of congrats. Someone’s birthday? Send a card. You notice someone posting great food pics on Instagram? Invite them over for dinner — oh, and ask them to bring dessert.