For years I refused to succumb to the web of social media. I told myself there were too many other things worthy of my time.
But then, at some point – actually, it was when my teenager informed me that something like one out of every four people on the planet had a Facebook account, including those in the most obscure villages of Africa who had no computer access and senior citizens who didn’t care (his words, not mine) – I did. Not because I wanted an account. But because I caved and allowed him to get one – and of course I felt it my motherly duty to follow him.
My skepticism was soon thwarted by the fact that countless friends from high school and college reconnected with me virtually overnight. So I told myself, “It’s OK to keep up with the world – as long as I don’t waste time posting every minute detail about my own life,” and I didn’t.
But I DID discover my Newsfeed. WOW!
Before I knew it I was checking Facebook every chance I got. While waiting in line at the grocery store, cooking dinner, waiting for the kids to finish an activity, and even on my way to bed at night. I spent weeks scrolling through my Newsfeed, devouring events and postings made by everyone I know, as well as by Catholic priests and news organizations I liked to follow. Not only personal information, but inspirational sayings, articles and photos passed along instantly to everyone in cyberspace – all so intriguing – captivated my time and attention, until finally I realized – almost in a state of disbelief – that I’d been sucked into the world of gossip and frivolity. I’d find myself chuckling over some video, pulling it up on my computer to show the kids or my husband, and passing it along for others to share. Unbeknownst to me, I’d become a Facebook junkie. And my Twitter feed wasn’t far behind – social media whetted my appetite for knowledge like no source I’d ever found.
Whether we desire to keep track of loved ones, stay in touch with long lost friends, follow the news or even stay abreast of the best in Catholic blogging, social media promises to serve that desire for knowledge that can be found in the depths of each and every human soul. Sadly, the know in this world is an ever-moving target that we can never definitively reach, no matter how hard we try. We’re like that terminally punished Greek, Tantalus, ever thirsting for something that will be forever just out of reach.
It’s not that the information age is our first foray into gossip and frivolity. These things have always existed. The only difference is that there was a time when they were shared in hushed tones across a kitchen table, whereas now they are heralded across the world. Today, useless (and even useful but unnecessary) information is broadcast from the proverbial street corners of Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Clip after clip is passed along as part of a social network of idleness – one in which we are encouraged toshare with our friends at the touch of a finger.
Unfortunately, all this information, while drawing us in, serves to distract us from the real purpose of that innate desire for knowledge that we all share. This desire is not for a knowledge of the inconsequential or the trivial, but for enduring, edifying and powerful TRUTH.