I definitely feel a traffic jam in my mind this Christmas season as I already feel required to rush, shop, decorate, cook, and party. This Christmas craziness seems magnified by a persistent hum–the ringing and dinging of smart phone, emails, posts, updates, and tweets.
I feel compelled to respond to every ping. “Yes,” I want to hastily reply, “Yes, I am alert. I am working. I am ready. I hear your question. I have the answer.” Then, I hit “Reply All.” But instead of tapping “Reply All,” what if I hit “Advent All”–a button to remind me to pause, reflect, wait?
The journey to Christmas Eve requires patience and contemplation. It is no coincidence that Christmas lands right after the longest, darkest night of the year. The soul, too, requires a long night’s journey to its center, even longer than I could describe with Twitter’s 140-character limit.
So, like a lot of my friends and family who are in love with social media like Twitter, I am struggling to find balance.
For inspiration, I consulted with Google Books and found the poet John Clare, a 19th century English farmer. He said, “It is with religion as it is with everything thing else, its extreames (sic) are dangerous & its medium is best–enthusiasm begins in extravagance, degenerates into cant & hides at last into hypocrisy.'” (Quoted in John Clare’s Religion by Sarah Houghton-Walker.)
So if I replace the word religion with social media, I discover that it is in moderation–the medium–that I best find meaning. I don’t have to fast from digital media, but neither do I have to allow my extravagance to “degenerate into cant and hypocrisy.”
Deepening the Spiritual Journey
While social media increases our need for speed, in this holy season of waiting, we need to slow the digital connection down, quiet all the online chatter, notice the beauty of the season, and connect more deeply with those whom we encounter in our daily lives.
While social media can be a gift for hummingbirds like me who flit from task to task; it can also be a place for the dedicated woodpeckers to chip away at long-term projects. Woodpecker or hummingbird, for all of us, social media is a useful tool that, at times, we must unplug from in order to enter into moments of quiet. At these times, we can reflect on our spiritual journey and our connections to one another.
Resisting my urge to check my smart phone on my walk to work this morning I noticed the smell of pine trees and the smiles of strangers. In this Advent season, an ordinary daily walk can become extraordinary. And as I quiet down, I become grateful.
Mary Coudal is a writer living in New York City. This is part two of a two-part reflection on slowing down and quieting social media chatter.
Photo by socialmarketer. Used with permission.