I'm sitting here in my office, watching a sliver of a hazy moon slip behind the crest of Lookout Mountain. The crickets have started their evening serenade. It's beautiful, and peaceful, and so comforting. It's balm to a confused heart, and soothing to a racing mind. The moon is gone now, moving on to throw his silver light on some other tree top and some other soul.
Tonight I made the decision to take a break from my facebook newsfeed, and also to be really honest on my blog (which you will most likely find through a link I post on social media, just call me hypocrite, ok.), which I realize may seem a little counter productive. But maybe it's not. Honestly, I love social media (I mean, so many CAT videos guys!). I always have. I have it to thank for some of my dearest relationships. It's an amazing tool, and very often has been the source of life, and goodness, and really great and productive interaction. However, lately it has begun to feel like an intellectual and emotional battleground, and I guess I might be one of the casualties.
Let me get this straight right now: this is not about social media, or it's various evils. I'm not about to start telling people to put down their phones, or frowning at you when you discuss facebook or selfies or turning up my nose when I see that picture of your dog on instagram (in fact, I'm pretty appreciative of you letting me live vicariously through you). Hell, I think the internet, and the social interaction that happens within its wide arms will be a HUGE part of our cultural and collective future. In fact, it may BE our future. I don't know. But the point is, this is not about the internet, or social media. It's about me. And maybe a little bit about facebook. But mostly me, although, I don't think I'm alone.
Lately, I have felt bombarded with opinions. And while the first waves felt like some annoying stings, I'm currently cowering in the trenches.
I have always been an issue engager. I remember discussing the virgin birth when I was eight with our family photographer (a progressive who had travelled on several archeological trips to the middle east), and finding it exhilarating. His views excited me, and challenged me, and made me hungry for more...more pushing and delving and disagreeing. It made me feel alive. Not because I enjoyed the conflict (I hate conflict. It took me two years of marriage to stop leaving the apartment every time an argument started), but because I enjoyed the mental and emotional engagement. I enjoyed the challenge. I'm a passionate person, and I care about the things I believe, even if I'm willing to let them shift and change and bend. I still care. And that became a defining feature of who I was, and am.
My whole life, the vast majority of discussions I've had with the people who cross my path have led to more intimacy, not less. We've left the topic with lots of emotions I'm sure, but one of them is not the feeling that enemies share. Rather, I have felt like comrades, two souls wrestling through the deep complexities of this life and the universe it inhabits. Disagreement does not always lead to decay, and sometimes it leads to life.
The entrance of social interactions on the internet have changed the way we do a lot of things, including disagree, and I'm not really sure that we've got it figured out yet. Of course, disagreements have always had potential to be ugly nasty beasts. They literally cary the blood of millions on their heads. Disagreements have murdered kings, and spouses and children and friends. I am not for a minute saying that dissension and pain are not the closest of friends. What I am saying is that social media has created a world where we can feel removed from the people we're disagreeing with, and a world where every disagreement or discussion is essentially a public forum. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. I believe it's probably here to stay. But honestly, I don't think I really know how to handle or interact with that world yet. Maybe none of us do.
Opinions are beautiful things. I love the fact that each of us is unique, with a story all our own, and perspective that adds color and texture and depth to humanity. But lately, opinions, and my interaction with them on facebook has led to far more feelings of alienation and pain than connectedness and love. Maybe it's because my opinions have changed. Maybe that hurts and shocks and angers people that I love. Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm too unsure and disagreement shakes me. Maybe it's that joe-blow and god-knows-who, who are friends of friends are constantly interacting with everything I have to say and suddenly it feels like the whole world is constantly angry and against each other. Maybe it's one of those things, or all of those things or something else entirely. But for now, I'm backing up. I'm taking a breath and reading a book and engaging with people who's breath I can see and whose voices I can hear and whose eyes I can meet.
Perhaps we'll reach the point where we understand how to use this crazy thing called the internet. Maybe I'll learn to handle the widening world. Maybe we'll all learn to be a little kinder, a little less sure, and begin to feel those fellow beating hearts pounding away our shared life breath through a keyboard.
For now I'm hanging out out here, watching the moon.