My friend Todd recently passed on an insightful little op-ed piece from Bill Keller, the executive editor of the NY Times. His musings about social media are well worth reading and contemplating:
Until the 15th century, people were taught to remember vast quantities of information. Feats of memory that would today qualify you as a freak — the ability to recite entire books — were not unheard of… [But] as we became accustomed to relying on the printed page, the work of remembering gradually fell into disuse.
Social media… are aggressive distractions… Twitter is not just an ambient presence. It demands attention and response. It is the enemy of contemplation.
My own anxiety is less about the cerebrum than about the soul…
[This generation has] information, but no context. Butter, but no bread. Craving, but no longing.
I am happy that urban Christians are using social media to engage and to communicate the gospel. But we must not trade social media savvy for the time-honored practices of reading, reflection, conversation, hospitality, and contemplation. If you read your Bible regularly, go ahead and Twitter. But if you’re more likely to read Facebook than Philemon, maybe a media fast would be a good idea.
In the “Dark Ages” of the medieval era, it was the monks who preserved and passed on the disciplines of study, learning, and prayer – so that they could be recovered during the Renaissance. If, as Keller’s article suggests, “new technologies… may be eroding characteristics that are essentially human,” may God’s people be the ones who preserve the truly human things.