Friday, June 26, 2015

A Fool's Medium

In both my recent preparations for adult ed classes and in my recent preaching, I've been immersed in wisdom literature, both canonical and non-canonical.

Last week, for instance, I preached out of the Book of Proverbs, something I realized I'd never done over the decade-plus of my sermonificating.  It was interesting, but what was more interesting was  the impact of steeping myself in Wisdom writing had on my social media engagement.

Because I've been with this media from the git-go, from the days of Myspace and xanga to now, I have a sense of it.  I'm on Facebook and Twitter, and I blog, and I engage with other social media daily, I couldn't help but notice that the dominant ethos of social media isn't exactly the ethos of the wise.  Meaning, my friends, that it's pretty much the opposite.

Wisdom is deliberative, and considers carefully before acting or speaking.   Social media is instant and reactive, about the impulse and the right now and the outrage and...oh look, a puppy!

Wisdom is calm and intentionally reserved, recognizing that the fires of passion immolate the fool.   Social media feels the big feely feels, right now.  Tears.  OMFG.  I just can't.  I am so done!  This!

Wisdom does not seek attention.  Social media is all about the likes and the clickthroughs and the comments, about anxiety and grasping self-promotion.

Wisdom takes criticism, listens, and changes.  Social media is where you look for those who affirm what you believe, where we choose our own virtual echo chambers.  It calcifies positions, hardening lines both left and right.

Wisdom seeks balance and peace.  Social media screams wildly, stirring discord and tension for the sake of drawing eyeballs, spreading outrage, an endless fractal Fibonacci sequence of manufactured umbrage and trollery.

Wisdom is wary of dangerous company, of the mob mentality and of the power that gives to the unjust and the rabble-rouser.  Social media goes with it, often becoming full-on virtual mobbery, just as filled with passion and destructive potential, and just as easily manipulated.  The "wisdom of crowds?"  Honey, please.  That ain't never been true, say I, with the emphatic double negative.

And so, a conundrum, for the faithful.  Here in the cybernetic aether, we inhabit a medium that seems designed to grow fools, just as surely as a petri dish full of agar grows microbes.

Against that reality, we have within our sacred texts an aeons-old pan-cultural tradition, one that cautions against so much of what we encounter in this strange new imaginary place we have created.  The question: which governs how we act, and how we engage with others?