On Carrying My Own (Digital) Man-purse

I am not a perfect minimalist, but I am drawn to it in certain contexts like iPad writers are to Starbucks. In my time as a more severe dualist I thought it very sanctimonious to carry the least amount of things with me as possible. My wife can not only bear witness, she has often had to bear my load.

When we would travel together, I would let her bring a bar of soap, and I would borrow. When we would go out to eat, I would let her carry my money-clip in her purse. I mean, she had all that available space doing nothing else, right? I needed to keep my pockets free for my hands. And when she would need to bring superfluous things, like more than one extra diaper for a kid, or her hair-dryer, or whatever it seemed like I might have to carry if she got injured, I often expressed my passive-but-perfervid disgust. Why couldn’t she make do with less, like me?

I’ve done the same thing to friends at conferences or other trips. They wanted to bring their backpack with them, so surely they wouldn’t mind carrying around my booklet or free books either. I’m sure that I always asked nicely, and said thank you, too.

Hopefully you can see that I’m trying to poke fun at my selfish self here. It’s not to say that we must always carry our own burden, but , actually, there is a verse about it (Galatians 6:5).

My main point, however, is about why I joined, and still have an account with, the Facebook. I resisted for a long time, not because I dislike technology or the Internet or social networks per se. I resisted because most everyone else was doing it. I resisted because the most that anyone can waste my time on Twitter is 140 characters (it’s now twice that, and yuck, but they didn’t ask me). I resisted because I already know enough ways to waste my time. I resisted because I had seen MySpace pages. I resisted because I had Googled some articles about how Facebook uses your data to target you for ads….

That’s all high-road sounding, and I fancifully suppose people in L’Abri communities would say similar things. But, and this is big, I mostly got away with my resistance because my wife had Facebook. That meant she could tell me about all the banality. She could tell me about who was pregnant. She could pass on prayer requests that others posted, or even prayer requests from our family. She could keep in contact with my sister’s friends when my sister was dying of cancer and was stuck in hospital beds and nursing home beds two-thousand miles away. She could carry my digital social media purse.

I realized that my precious digital minimalism was just no good. I still don’t like Facebook. BLECGH! I don’t have the app on a pocketable device, but I do open it up once or twice a day on my computer. After clicking through the notifications (so I don’t have to keep looking at the red circle of how many things I’m behind on), I scrim (that’s scroll-skim) through the timeline. About that time I question the meaning/vanity of life. But a bunch of people I care about communicate, even seem to hang out, there. Lots of people at our church use it to announce opportunities, ask for prayer, and/or encourage others to persevere. Lots of parents at our school use it for the same reasons, and also to share what’s happening with their friends, which spreads the word about how God is blessing. And amen!

If Facebook went away in an hour, due to a meteor, or a Federal lawsuit, or other, I might sing and dance, and not in lamentation. But for now, though lots of people seem to be abandoning the service, for understandable reasons even, I will keep carrying my own purse.

The Mirror of Our Love

*There are a few things I don’t need any help with. I’m good at these things. I don’t need tips from books. I don’t need advice from friends. I know what I’m doing and I do them well. If “Things I’m Good At” was a category on Family Feud, the number one answer according to the survey is: I’m good at thinking about myself.

Josh Harris made a similar observation in his recent post titled “My One and Only Week on Facebook.” Not only did he find Facebook a time-waster, what’s worse is that he found it stimulated even more self-admiration and self-absorption. (Thanks to Justin Taylor for highlighting Harris’ article, AboutFaceBook.)

I’ve considered writing about MySpace and Facebook and their online ilk before, but as bothersome as they are to me, I haven’t brought myself to utter any imprecatory posts into the void. And, yes, I also get that blogs can be equally narcissistic, but I still believe there is something expressly self-oriented about some sites. They make it so easy for online life to reflect what we most love in offline life: ourselves! Perhaps that’s one of the reasons they’re so popular.