Categories
Every Thumb's Width

A Fun Conniption Fit

I think it’s fun that Elon Musk bought Twitter.

I’ve always preferred Twitter more than Facebook. In the early days, the most that someone could waste my time on Twitter was limited to 140 characters. Plus there were a variety of apps to choose from, the timeline was chronological not algorithmic, replies were more limited (and also limited to 140 characters), there weren’t long tweetstorms/threads, and again, a tweet was just a tweet and not a treatise.

I signed up for Facebook a few years ago because it seems to be the preferred place of communication for a lot of the people in our church and school. Fine. I decided it was important to carry my own digital man-purse. I’ve never had FB installed on my phone, though, and still don’t enjoy the experience of using the service (let alone being used by the service).

As for Twitter, it has gradually become more fussy and less fun. I actually thought Trump’s tweets were entertaining, not least because his tweets clearly weren’t run through any White House PR person. Banning him seemed wrong, and later suspending The Babylon Bee was petty.

So I’ll admit that it’s fun to see someone effectively hassle the expurgators. “Free speech” requires a definition, and, at least at the moment, I wouldn’t say I’m for absolute free speech, but I certainly think that political (and medical, which was obviously political these past couple years) disagreements should be uncensored. Let the best arguments and ideas and data fight it out. But don’t put your thumb on the scale and call that democracy (though we don’t live in a democracy anyway).

I’ve already seen some “Elon isn’t the savior” church-lady scolding. Who knows for sure what, if any, changes (or Twitter prison breaks) there will be? I don’t think Musk is a social media messiah, but I can appreciate watching the conniption fit being thrown by at least some of the corrupt/censor-happy liberals who wouldn’t know true liberty if a bird bit them in the face.

Categories
The End of Many Books

Trust Me, I’m Lying

by Ryan Holiday

This book is full of bad news, and I mean that in a couple ways. So much news is no good, as in fake, and I certainly have even less trust in the headlines than ever. Holiday also offers little more than heightened awareness of digital conmen and their schemes, he doesn’t really provide an antidote.

It gave me more reason to appreciate Dorothy Sayers’ question from 1947:

Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy throughout Western Europe is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined?

The Lost Tools of Learning

Holiday points out that we are a culture of fools, fooling others and being fooled by them.

3 of 5 stars

Categories
The End of Many Books

Digital Minimalism

by Cal Newport

There used to be a short answer to the problem posed by Newport that he takes almost three hundred pages to answer. What should we do about all the time-wasting, social-media-hyped, internet-exacerbated problems in society? We need self-control. So all he really needed was a hyphen, not hyperventilation. Though I thought Deep Work was a smidgen too precious, this book is supersized precious. There’s very little fun, though there are occasional common sense reminders about the benefit of focus. The primary way Newport suggests getting better at social media is to avoid it. And it goes against something I wrote recently about carrying my own digital man purse. As I said in that post, I don’t love FB at all, but I wouldn’t recommend this book by Newport as the antidote, to FB, Twitter, email, or to a wealth of online opportunities which also carry some risks.

2 of 5 stars

Categories
Enjoying the Process

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.

Categories
Every Thumb's Width

Him Who Is Weary

I read a mass of complaints about social media, <irony>many of which come on social media</irony>. I have been on Facebook for over a year now, and it is worse than I imagined it to be. At least on Twitter, the most that anyone can irritate me is with 280 characters (though I would be happy to return to the 140 limit). I have curated my list of subscribed RSS feeds to a smaller number than it used to be. All of the information/bellyaching is enough to make a man tired.

And also, this technology is an amazing gift. The Lord could give us whatever He wants, and, while these modern communication outlets are not necessary, they certainly transmit a multiplicity of blessings and not merely bile.

I am very thankful for the Lord’s grace to me through some of these means. I really enjoy reading the updates from some of my friends, wherever they are and whatever they may be posting about.

The prophet Isaiah wrote,

The Lord GOD has given me
   the tongue of those who are taught,
that I might know how to sustain with a word
   him who is weary.
(Isaiah 50:4)

I am not identifying my Friends or Follows as prophets, nor do I take their word as inspired. But God often uses them to encourage my heart.

If you have been “taught” by the Word and want to share a verse, a quote, a link, a short story, then go for it. Use your tongue, or your thumbs. And thanks for being used as His instrument.

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

The Art of a Calm Heart

My Bible class started to read through The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment the last Quarter of the year. We didn’t quite make it halfway, but I wanted to start rereading it again for myself this summer anyway. Though a repetitive Puritan (is that redundant?), Burroughs convicted me many days in class. If I can keep up the reading I’m sure I’ll have more quotes to share.

The following one made me think about a few things: social media and Matthew 15:10-20 and emotional control. It’s easy to blame our negativity and fear and irritation on external things, when in fact the problem is in our own hearts. We can, and should, learn the art of a calm heart even when the outside is neither smooth or still. (Also, we can unfollow as necessary.)

“A great man will permit common people to stand outside his doors, but he will not let them come in and make noise in his closet or bedroom while he deliberately retires from all worldly business. So a well-tempered spirit may enquire after things outside in the world, and suffer some ordinary cares and fears to break into the suburbs of the soul, so as to touch lightly upon the thoughts. Yet it will not on any account allow an intrusion into the private room, which should be wholly reserved for Jesus Christ as his inward temple.” (23)

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

A Gaping Void

On the subject of social media, except not really, because it was published in 1835:

“If an American were to be reduced to minding only his own business, he would be deprived of half his existence; he would experience it as a gaping void in his life and would become unbelievably unhappy.”

—Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America