Years ago, when I moved to the US, all my friends back home wanted to know how’s life in this new country. What are those people ‘over there’ really like?
I don’t know. They are all nice but they are very private. I said. It’s really hard to get to know anyone.
It was difficult for my closely knit friends and family to comprehend that you don’t just stop by your neighbor’s house unannounced. That you need to schedule a visit with a friend which may take weeks or even months!
They all marveled at the strange ways of my new country for I grew up where neighbors and friends check in on each other every day. Sometimes several times a day. We knew exactly what was going on in each other’s life. What’s for dinner. The ins and outs of local and international politics accompanied with a generous dose of heated arguments flaring up into neighborhood wars. We exchanged gossips, recipes and cleaning tips. Latest fad diets. Bad jokes. And more. Much more. It was a real-life version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding except it wasn’t Greek.
It took me years to get used to the private ways of my new home-country. I committed many a crime of cultural impropriety. I still do. But part of me began to appreciate the quiet space and the margin that people here give to each other. The old ways felt a bit… too much.
The wisdom of Proverb 25:17 suddenly resonated with me:
Let your foot rarely be in your neighbor’s house, or he will become weary of you and hate you.
Since that time social media swept over the world and dramatically changed the relational landscape almost everywhere. Overnight we were inundated with self-disclosures of unprecedented proportions. What used to be hidden behind the tall walls of privacy is now out in the open. Of course, somewhat slanted, Photoshopped and staged, but it’s information nonetheless. The steady, bulging river of kilo, mega and gigabytes begun to flow through our lives carrying miscellaneous debris in its wake.
After the initial honeymoon phase, the casualties of this cultural change were emerging as well. The rumors of internet addictions surfaced. We discovered that we might be more insecure, fearful, immature, opinionated and judgmental than we thought we were. That in the disembodied universe of on-line interaction, it is easy to misunderstand and be misunderstood. That being constantly plugged-in created a form of fatigue – emotional, relational, spiritual depletion unknown to any previous ‘unwired’ generation. That with the great potential for good and connection, there also came a great potential for damage, disconnect and isolation.
It may require getting unplugged and spending some time alone with God to sort this out. But I believe we would do well if we took an honest look and discerned the place social media has and should have in our lives. The beginning of the New Year might be just the right time to start this process. For only when we are fully yielded to the Spirit of God will we ensure that both our on-line and off-line presence is pleasing to Him. And, regardless of what our stats may be saying, His is the only ‘like’ that ultimately matters.
Guest Post by Gordana Sjostedt
I met Christ as a staunch atheist during my second year of English literature studies. Four years later, while I was still living in the Balkans, I joined the staff of Cru. Just as the war was about to overwhelm the region I met the (other) love of my life. We got married in 1995 when I also moved to the States. This is where I speak, write and live with the genuine Eastern European accent. We have two children and a pet guinea pig.
More from Gordana on eQuipping for eMinistry.
Source: The photo of the Greek wedding is by Nek Vardikos and is available on Wikimedia Commons.