A New Communion

by Parent Co. June 29, 2015

woman sitting on a couch looking at her computer

As a provider, I know that there are many studies detailing the adverse effects of social media on mood and wellness. In the worst cases, internet trolls tear down fragile souls daily. Brilliant, young girls leap from parking garages in Philadelphia, with the anonymity of the internet and the false perfect lives of Instagram partly to blame. And, we’ve all heard that heavy Facebook use can lead to depression and jealousy. I see my young patients struggling long into the late hours of the night, as their peers trade adulations, achievements, insults and conquests in the vast community of the Internet. When many of us were young, our insecurity-driven comparison was largely confined to the halls of our high schools, to telephone conversations, or sparked by television. Now it’s never silent. It never sleeps. We worry that this medium is taking us farther from center, farther from intimacy, farther from connection. Many have written about this. Instead, I write because we, moms and dads, also spend hours on social media and we often question its role and worth. A recent late-night rooftop conversation with friends was entirely devoted to whether this new forum was good or bad – whether it fosters community or compromises it. On another occasion, I was challenged for only posting positive updates and I certainly have messy “holy crap it’s just a lot!” days. Life isn’t as easy as it may seem. But thing is, as a single mom with two jobs and two professions, when I share brightness, it’s a necessary daily practice, not a whitewashed revision. Just think brightly. Just find beauty. Just keep going. There is light to find. I need to find it. Let’s find it, together. And then I had a revelation… Thing is, for many of us, this thing we do here is really about beauty- finding it and sharing it. And I realized for me the question is whether I am offering or seeking praise. Whether I am giving or seeking thanks. Whether it is pride or rather humility in the face of all this beauty that inspires me to share within this online community. Then I had another revelation. You see, I was raised as a spiritual kid- confirmed in the Episcopal Church, many hours with friends in Quaker meeting, Yoga, Zen Meditation in college, you name it. However, I left the church long ago. (I lost a sense of belonging to any set theology in all my wandering and learning and seeking.) I remember the lovely silence of meeting. I remember my teacher asking me to quiet my mind and hear the mantra in college. I remember the sober and kind pastor that lead the granite and stained glass church in downtown Rutland, Vermont. I remember him asking us just to see the beauty of this place we call home, these people we call family, this work we call labor. To see this and to necessarily work hard to help those that are not as lucky to find a beauty they could call their own. Fight for beauty and injustice in the same breath. Live this life deeply. And I realized that this is what we do online, in this new forum, on our best days. It’s not to seek praise but to offer praise: for this lovely flower, this shaft of light off the lake, or the magic wonder of our kids that are really not our own to claim. And we give thanks for these good friends and this good work and this good city. And we call out with fire against injustice and poverty and obstruction to all getting their share. And we revel in moments of equity found, as we did in a rainbow eruption for marriage equality on one Friday in June. And we do it on a vast scale that’s truly global: we share lovely perfect eggs from the coast of Maine, elegant pots thrown on wheels in Philly and Hilo, a sunset in Montana, marches in Ferguson, a friend’s child in Slovenia, touching street photography from the city, petitions to end hunger in our state or aid the earthquake in Nepal. And we celebrate the beauty of a world of people doing one creative thing daily for 100 days, and we marvel and the sheer immense clan of kids we’re rearing- these rugrats/imps/wonders- of us but really their own magic thing- just ours to foster and, oh my word, love. This forum – social media – has become, for many, a congregation. To be clear, what really matters is the life we live offscreen. That’s where we hold our kids. Where we get dirty in the garden. Where we quietly sit with a dear friend. We must be present for the world to honor it. This Internet society is not a place to escape from the work of living and the bodies and hearts that are right in our hand. But this is where, in balance with the gorgeous earthy grit of it, we can seek and find communion. Although it is imperfect, this is a way we, the world collective, share this mad, lovely, humbling, tiring, stunning, awkward, inspiring thing we are all doing together. And oh my word, I am thankful.
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