I travel a good deal with my job. I regularly commute to Murfreesboro from my home in Tullahoma (about 40-45 minutes each way). On Thursday, I had an appointment in Nashville and I began the routine drive after dropping my son off at the High School. About 30 minutes into my trip, I became aware on how alone I felt. I frequently drive in my car with no one in the passenger seats. Things were normal from that standpoint. But on this day, I was aware of a different quality to the empty car. I had logged out…no Facebook.
I have likened Facebook to non-Facebook friends to being in a large room with acquaintances from all periods of my life. There is the constant buzz of conversations going on in this room. At any point in time, I can choose to join in a conversation or start a new one. These conversations range from silly to sublime. Family, sports, spirituality, politics, news, religion, art, music, books, reunions… The list is endless. Sometimes, you just want to sit in the room and relax with your thoughts. But always, there is the comforting buzz of family, close friends, high school and college buddies, church members, work colleagues, etc.
What became vividly clear during these first few days of the Facebook fast was that I had stepped out of that room. I had closed the door. A deep sense of silence and a different quality of “alone” permeated my empty car. I know how this might sound a little crazy to the folk that have been trying to intervene in my Facebook thing. But the effect was profound.
There are several implications to this but I’ll mention two. First, I have rarely been truly alone over the past year or so. Being connected “virtually” via my cell phone and social media is something significantly more real than I realized. I’ve missed the renewed relationships with people from my past. I’ve recognized that conversations with my friends locally are enhanced and deepened via social media. Rather than typical small talk, on Facebook we move on to snarky comments and humor. We also begin to ask the second level questions and make comments that move conversations to deeper levels than might happen when we merely bump into each other in the grocery store. I also have become more aware of why the most brutal from of punishment for a teenager these days is taking away their cell phone. In a way, it places them in “solitary confinement”. I think at times, that’s exactly the punishment that is called for in a situation. However, it also might be more extreme than the situation calls for. I need to think a little more about this next time parental justice comes down.
The second thing I’ll mention is that…well, I’ve rarely been truly alone over the past year or so. Rather than solitude and quiet, I’ve taken comfort in the noisy room. I think true solitude is something extremely important and is in fact missing from my spiritual life. I don’t think merely logging off of Facebook is going to provide the solitude that I’m talking about here. I fill the space constantly with podcasts, music, email, newspapers, magazines, TV, YouTube, etc. We are constantly barraged with media, information…noise. I think this constant sensory overload might just be overwhelming the still small voice of God’s Spirit…of my own spirit.