I know it is fashionable these days to deride social media and mock virtual connection… But,

I would like to take a moment to say thank you to the techno-magicians behind those beleaguered purveyors of electronic interaction against whom so many attacks are routinely launched.

Thank you zoom

Thank you wordpress

 

 

Thank you mailchimp

yes… even, thank you facebook

In these days of COVID-forced isolation, you have all provided an enormous gift. You may not be perfect and, no doubt, there are drawbacks to each of your platforms. You may have caused technological headaches at times. You have undoubtedly been misused in grievous ways to promote troubling agendas. You may have made unwise decisions at times about access to your service. No doubt serious critiques can legitimately be lodged against all of you.

But, in my experience you have all provided opportunities to continue to forge a degree of human connection that, without your services, would be even more desperately hindered than is presently the case. You have enabled conversations that, while perhaps not at a graduate university seminar level, have nonetheless at times been meaningful, honest and, on occasion even vulnerable and wise.

In the absence of the casual contacts that used to occur around more substantive encounters, you have made it possible for me to share in peoples’ lives, to see their faces, hear their voices and keep in touch with their activities. Without you my awareness of my place in the human community would be diminished.

Technology is not easy for me. I have been supported in navigating the treacherous waters in these little communal vessels by the faithful tech-support of people much more conversant than I with technical matters. Without their generous help, I would never have progressed beyond envelopes and stamps… does anyone remember those?

I know there are people who feel reluctant to risk the uncharted territory beyond the safety of paper and pencil or the familiarity of face-to-face encounter. But, paper is slow and cumbersome; it lacks immediacy. And face-to-face encounter is simply not available. Facebook and co. are all we have. And it looks as if they may be the best we can do for some time to come.

I understand that appearing on a screen can feel vulnerable. Posting a comment that will be permanently launched into the world and read by unknown people can be intimidating. But risk is part of the human journey; it is an unavoidable challenge of relationship. And, in these COVID days, the risk of flexibility, openness and experiment are, more than ever, essential tools for sustaining some degree of community.

I have been deeply touched by the willingness of people, some even older than me, to persevere with these unfamiliar mediums. I have been inspired by people whose commitment to community has caused them to stare down their discomfort and show up on a computer screen for worship, study, conversation, or just to chat. I have been moved by the small sense of connection to people I no longer see when they have “liked” a contribution I have posted, or made a comment to a blog post I have sent out into the world. I cherish photos that have been shared that give a glimpse into peoples’ lives as they continue to try to find their way in these unsettling days. I value the chance to see the concerns and interests of people I know but am unable to share conversation with at this time.

Social media and virtual connection may not be perfect. No doubt they fall short of robust human in-person interaction. But, as much as I am tempted to use COVID as an excuse to retreat into my comfortable introverted little world, I know that humans are created to connect. We need to be with other people. And at the moment, being with other people means mostly being in front of a computer screen.

Now if someone could only help me figure out twitter, instagram, snapchat, pinterest, and reddit.