There’s a cartoon going round (on Facebook, of course) that shows a man running and shouting with the words: “I don’t have a Facebook or a Twitter account, so I just go around announcing out loud what I’m doing at random times. I’ve got 3 followers so far, but I think 2 are cops.”
I keep laughing every time I see this because it pretty closely monitors how I am feeling these days about our means of communications–they are usually short, shallow and without more wisdom. What makes the cartoon more humorous to me is that it comes in the form of an electronic card, one of the world’s worst ways to remember anyone’s special day, as if to say: “Look I didn’t have the time or money to get you a real card or even phone, but this was easy and didn’t cost anything, so here you go!”
The “real stuff” of our lives takes more than a few words over Twitter or the click of a mouse over a packaged picture or message. These days we hit words or pictures over the internet as if we were driving a tennis ball, more to say we hit the ball and less to indicate whether or not the other person hit it back. This is called “discussion,” a word with the same root as “concussion” or “percussion.” Dialog is very different requiring the actual presence of another person or two who practice listening to one another. The root meaning of dialog is to “seek the meaning between” not to shout the other person into submission–the mark of too much of our so-called “political discourse” these days.
Don’t get me wrong, I realize there are great things done with our modern means of communication, from showing a revolution up close to hearing from someone across the ocean you might not ever see in person. But I grow tired of trivia, what the philosopher Kierkegaard called “twaddle.” I am not interested in what you ate for breakfast or what color your new shirt is or tidbits like these. I am interested in what’s going on with your life and how you are really doing and feeling, and that requires more than a tweet across cyberspace.
I am thinking about getting off Facebook (I have stopped tweeting), saving my cell phone for occasional text messages, and using my email for communications that don’t require more than a sentence or two. I am tempted to put into practice what the cartoon shows and go around one day announcing what I am eating or thinking at random times to no one in particular and see how long it takes before someone tells me to keep quiet.
The problem is that many of us think in Tweets these days–brief sentences that say little and show no depth. It is taking me time, the rarest of resources these days, to think more clearly and more deeply without having to reduce my thoughts to less than a hundred words. Not all life problems can be resolved with the click of a mouse or a Tweet. Some things take time and presence. After all, the first and most rule of life–the one we seem to violate the most these days–is just to show up. That’s what life requires of us until we can’t show up any longer–be present in mind, body, and spirit.