Lonely

…the continuing saga of a Facebook Fast…

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.

Homeless

I read an article in the March issue of Harper’s Magazine that I think will be worth your time.  The writer, William T. Vollmann, spends some time with homeless people in the city and provides an interesting look into what I think to be a misunderstood world.  I would urge you to read the article from more of a sociological perspective first rather than putting on your political glasses (regardless of what shade of political glasses you might be sporting).  I’ll grant the obvious left leaning slant of Harper’s…something that might keep some of you from clicking the link below and reading the article.  However, I think this is an interesting (and well written) glimpse into this world.

Homeless in Sacramento: Welcome to the New Tent Cities

Withdrawals

So I’ll confess…I’m addicted to the little red flag that signals a response to something on my Facebook page.  The Internet browser I use is Apple Safari.  Normally I have a tab open with my Gmail account, another tab with Facebook, and then any additional tabs I might use for surfing the Internet, checking out the news of the day or to do research for the tasks of the day.  In addition, I have my mail app and my Facebook app adjacent to each other on the home screen of my iPhone with “push notifications” turned on.  What this means to the non-techno-geeks out there is that I’m aware practically immediately whenever someone posts a message to my wall or sends me an email message.

One of my motivations for this Facebook fast was my increasing awareness of my addiction.  While the designation of addiction might seem to be a little melodramatic, I have to admit that it fits.  The simple definition of being addicted to something is to be physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance leading to adverse effects when that substance is taken away.

On Ash Wednesday night, not 30 minutes after my “final” sign-off…I recognized I had a problem.  My Bible Study group at church has a fairly active Facebook group (our page is not as active as the Facebook Group but here’s a link).  I intended to post scripture passages and prayers daily leading up to our class time last Sunday (March 14, 2011).  I knew there was a way to post to the group via email that would keep me from having to login to my account.  But I didn’t know the proper email address and I didn’t know the procedure.  So I innocently logged in…and there was the little red flag…with a 7 on it!  I couldn’t resist…I had to see who had commented on my wall.  The next morning…I “needed” to make sure my Bible Study post was up…same thing…red flag…my mouse could have simply clicked the Bible Study Group link…

Well…the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Facebook Fast

“Really?!?”, replied my wife.   “I don’t believe you!” commented my daughter on my last post before signing off Facebook for Lent 2011.  I have to admit, I was at best skeptical.

A little context/confession here…I’ve never completed a Lenten fast.  I’ve only tried it one time before.  I was a “fail” as the kids like to say.  I couldn’t even tell you at this moment what I failed to give up for lent that year.    More context/confession…I’m a Facebook junkie.  I was a very early adopter.  Facebook opened membership to anyone over the age of 13 with a valid email address in September of 2006.  I was aware of Facebook on college campuses prior to that time.  I opened my own Facebook account in the Summer of 2007.  That puts me pretty much in the Total-Facebook-Geek category in most people’s books.  I check it on my computer, on my phone, while I’m at the office, while I’m driving in my car…just about anywhere.

Part of this lent deal for our church this year was to “give up something” but also, add something.  As I’m writing this, I’m aware of my failure in the add category…I was going to write more consistently…fail.

So the doubts of my wife and daughter are pretty much justified.  I’m still pretty skeptical about the chances of my success with the Facebook portion of this thing.   Here goes nothing…


(‘bama) FANS

It was rather surreal for all of us to hear the story of the poisoning of the 130 year old Toomer’s Corner oak trees at Auburn University.  It’s sort of mind boggling that someone would come to think that would be the thing to do.

Full disclosure…I’m a zealot of the southern brand of college football.  My particular denomination is LSU.  However, I do expand my allegiance grudgingly to other Southeastern Conference schools when they are playing outside the conference…well, most SEC schools.  I mean really, I can’t pull for ‘bama ever with that whole Nick Satan…uh…Satan…sorry…Sabin…thing.  Of course now we have the poisoning of 130 year old trees where Auburn fans TP themselves…after every win?  really? Is that a tradition you want to kill?  And then Florida…who really likes Florida except, well…Florida fans.  Of course South Carolina has Spurrier…that’s a HUGE strike against them…(read the previous sentence re: Florida).  Auburn is questionable at the very least…I mean the Tubberville era…that cigar incident in Tiger stadium in 1999 (enjoy the championship for a few months by the way WAR(read PROBATION) EAGLE).  So, I pull for the SEC…oh yeah…GO TO HELL OLE MISS!!!!!!!!  (sorry…couldn’t help that…sort of slipped out).  So while I’m in Mississippi…I’m still bitter about the beat downs we got consistently by Mississippi State of all people back in the ’80s when I was a poor struggling college student.  I mean, who wouldn’t be bitter braving a trip all the way to Starkville, sitting on splintery wooden bleachers and losing!  To Mississippi State?!?SERIOUSLY!? (and I received a speeding ticket from a FOREST RANGER while driving my Chevy Chevette through the back woods on that trip…VERY embarrassing).  Then there’s Georgia…they whine ALL the time…(I mean, win your “half” of the SEC before you start whining about the BCS).  Arkansas…well, they aren’t REALLY an SEC team…they are a SouthWEST conference team that doesn’t matter in the whole scheme of things.  Vandy…they’re harmless.  Tennessee…”dreamsicle” shouldn’t really be someone’s school color.  That’s never a good choice.  Then their’s Kentucky…I mean they are basically harmless too when it comes to football.  And they really don’t get it that the rest of us don’t really care that much about basketball…it gets us through to baseball season and spring football but…that’s about it…

So…uh…what was I talking about…oh yeah…crazy ‘bama fans…uh…

Maybe we are all taking this a bit too seriously…mmmm

PS: here’s a nice piece about some of the response by ‘bama fans following the poisoning of the trees:

Poisoned Trees Bring Truce to a Civil War in Alabama Football

PSS: These aforementioned universities do have a few other things going for them other than football:

University of AlabamaUniversity of ArkansasAuburn University, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky, Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University, University of Mississippi, University of South Carolina, University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt University