I have, I'm sure, now heard the phrase, "social networking", about as much as is needed for one lifetime. I am frequently asked why I'm not on Facebook, why I don't Tweet, will I become a friend of someone on this or that or some other "social network." Not that many readers would be inclined to invite me, but let me spare you the keystrokes anyway: I do not respond to invitations to join social networks, especially by those who use that phrase in their invitation. I'm as wary of this phenomenon as James Morris seems to be, in his article, "Divided" (Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2009): "Even otherwise sober folks have felt the need to put themselves out there, if not on TV then on social networking sites in the spaceless space of the Internet...With how many friends, pals, associates, contacts, fans, objects, institutions, life forms, can they claim connection?" Count me not in on this current craze. I'm the Henry Higgins, I suppose, of my day. I like to be at home. My wife is my best and closest friend. I have a few cherished comrades and colleagues with whom I chat on the phone from time to time. I like to read, write, meditate, and get my work done, and I don't need to know what hundreds of my "friends" did during the day, nor to have them be properly updated on my doings. If we never go out to dinner again or to see a film in a theatre, I won't miss it one bit. Now I know many readers are social-networked to the hilt and having a great go at it. That's fine - for you. But count me not in. I used to challenge businessmen to keep track of their time for a week in 15-minute segments, then, at the end of each day and week, add up the wasted hours in their daily schedule. This challenge was typically greeted with snorts of doubt, but accomplished with horror and dismay. It would be interesting, I think, for the socially-networked to keep track of their time a-Twitter or checking their Facebook account for, oh, about a week. Then tally up the minutes - or hours - and ask themselves, What hath all this achieved for the Kingdom? Perhaps James Morris is correct: "Face it: The machines have won. And they did so not by growing Terminator-big and -mean but by going all Lilliputian on us,,,We've put our private selves up for grabs, and what we risk surrending or having taken from us seems more than we care to imagine. We traffick in airy impulses and boast of emancipation while trailing invisible, adamantine shackles." What we surrender and have taken from us is more than our private lives. It's our time, our attention and focus, and our sense of the things that matter most. Count me not in.
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