Let’s face it. We live in a loud world. Not the kind of loud that breaks the stillness of a bucolic spring day. This loudness emits upward through our iPhones and electronic tablets. It is the glowing screen showing off a friend’s party or Nicholas Kristoff’s Twitter feed announcing his latest column in The New York Times on Anheuser-Busch and Indian Reservations. Or how about the split second it will take to check in to that trendy lounge wine bar where your friends are headed.
We are easily tempted by the social networks that purport to connect us to friends near and far. Not only has it become a need to connect with people via Facebook, Foursquare, or Twitter but it comes seconds after we greet our friends with a hug and pick up that first round of drinks on a Friday night. Moments after we walk through the doors, our fingers find the icons for Facebook or Twitter to broadcast our lives in a timely fashion.
In the world of 24-hour updates and news, the loudness never settles. We have become tethered to our gadgets as a way to keep the conversation going. Our friends post updates and photos from a night out on the town. Then we comment on what they post. And the conversation is non-stop until next weekend when another adventure begins. My eyes and thumbs tire of these endless updates.
No doubt this disturbs whatever inner quiet we have cultivated as adults. It is hard to sit still without grabbing our cell phone to reach out. Even Pope Benedict XVI has picked up on our loudness. He started a Twitter account, @Pope2YouVatican, earlier this year and during Lent shared spiritual nuggets with the Twittersphere. And just this week, in an effort to support balance in our over-connected lives, The Pope tweeted about the Campaign for Silence (#Silence2012) to mark World Communications Day May 20.
The idea behind #Silience2012 is to encourage people to embrace moments of silence in their lives and spend time speaking and listening to God. The Pope explains: “In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves.” This message is necessary in today’s world where social media and Internet search engines are where people turn first instead of toward God.
Oftentimes in my own life, there is an immediate desire to post a quick update on Facebook letting people know which friends might be in town for the weekend. Or tweet an immediate message to a friend instead gathering my thoughts. More recently, I have begun actually calling or e-mailing those close to me with news and letting experiences sit for a few days before posting something pithy on Facebook. It’s an attempt to slow down in my own life.
Bringing the conversation back toward silence is a personal reminder to set boundaries for e-mail and social networks. From sun up to sun down on Sundays I refrain from checking e-mail and social networks. Weather, news reports, and bus schedules are all I allow. I try and hold fast to the idea that Sunday is a day to be mindful of rest.
I look forward to Sunday morning silence. I appreciate that for the majority of the day as I am catching a bus or train heading to Mass, hanging out with friends, or heading to improv comedy classes, I can just enjoy life instead of worrying about how I can best capture my thoughts in a 144-character (or less) Tweet.
The reminder to slow down and find silence is necessary from time-to-time. Think about observing silence from your social networks. Take that extra time to sit on a park bench and think of five things you are grateful for that day. Or simply close your eyes and feel your breath. You can’t slow the world down, only your reaction to all that is around you.