So Andy has been working on “Social Media & Online Theological Discourse.” In these posts, we’ve been thinking hard about several things. 1) How does social media necessarily and substantially affect theological reflection? 2) Shouldn’t Biblical wisdom regarding the “tongue” be applied to the typing? 3) Shouldn’t the Christian social media community think carefully about an ethic of blogging, Twitter, Facebook?
I’d like to take the conversation down a slightly different road. What about the effects of this social media frenzy on us? I’ll explain:
Turn on computer. Check email. Check other email. Check other email. Check other email. I hate checking email.
Open Twitter (Tweetdeck, Echofon, or whatever it may be). This is fun. So much better than email. Who has said what? Have they said anything about me? Well, yesterday I tweeted that. No one has replied? No one has retweeted? Should I have worded it differently? Would that have garnered more attention and response? How can I do it better?
Facebook. Any messages? New friend requests? Any comments on the status updates that have been sent via Twitter? Hmm…No one found that quote or comment particularly stirring. Dang.
Check blog. First, go to the stats. How many people have been reading? When I tweet a line about my post, how many more people does that seem to drive to the blog? How soon after I tweet or blog is it read? From where does the majority of the traffic flow?
Monitor all the above activity all day long via a mobile device. Seriously? Yes.
I’m proposing that we have to be very, very careful about self-absorption in all of this. The above exchange is certainly exaggerated and I’m rarely conscious of those me-centered questions. But, there are days when I sense that I’m trying to make the world revolve around me.
This is bad.
Christian theologians have often spoke of incurvatus in se (turned/curved inward on oneself). This phrase has been credited to Augustine, but Luther, Barth and others have expounded this principle. We are always tempted to do this curving with everything in our lives — even “good” things. In many ways it is the essence of sin.
It’s not that we’re necessarily posting arrogant, pompous things.
It’s not that social media is inherently sinful or “bad.”
It is that we are absorbed with ourselves. We all know that, depending on what we tweet or blog, we can promote an image of ourselves, or an image of who we want people to think we are. We can create and so easily manage our brand. Do I want people to think I’m hip, erudite, connected? I can tweet accordingly. Easy.
We must be on guard.
However, being obsessed with not being self-absorbed and feeling guilty — wondering if your posts are being perceived as self-absorbed and worrying that you’re not being a model of a Christian ethic of social media and freaking out about all of this and questioning how you are doing and tracking your progress in social media and humility — is unhealthy to the same degree.
It would be another demonstration of incurvatus in se.
Oh the tension…