Wednesday, June 28, 2017

And another thought

Another thought (well, two, one is courtesy of Lynn) on the "Facebook as a replacement for religious/civic groups" thing.

First up: Lynn's observation that you have to wade through an awful lot of dross on Facebook (repost after repost, political stuff, ill-formed opinions, dumb jokes) to get to the stuff you want. I hadn't thought of that because I don't Facebook but yeah. I can see that. And to me, that does seem to be a lot of modern life: there's an awful lot of trivia. There's an awful lot of noise mixed in with the signal, and it gets harder to discern "signal" and find it.

And I also don't really have the patience for wading through all the Useless Stuff to find the Useful Stuff - just the other day I was complaining on Twitter about not being able to find good information in a websearch because so many of the sites that popped up early in the list were crummy sites (which probably paid people for "search engine optimization") or else they were sites that got upvoted because lots of people either like stupid stuff, or are willing to believe incorrect information (Nutrition information on the Web, outside of a VERY few sites, is largely useless).

Hm. I wonder if eventually there will be a Big Sort and people like me will just throw up their hands and go back to bound printed matter that has been through some kind of peer review first. (Which is why I cringe when I hear of libraries cutting their book collections in favor of more online access)

But the second point, and I was thinking about this while watering my research plots this morning: I think people want to be part of/believe in something bigger than themselves. Or at least, I think we have that desire in us, if we don't always recognize it.

For some of us, that takes the form of faith. I take great comfort in knowing that there is a Being that is bigger and wiser and better and more powerful than I am, and when I am at my best I can hand over control to Him and try not to worry about stuff. And even beyond the "bigger Being" idea, being part of a congregation means I get to do things that are bigger than what I can do - I referred to helping support a food bank, and driving meals for Meals on Wheels. And we've done other stuff - there have been times when we've "passed the hat" (at Board Meetings, at CWF, even sometimes in church itself) when someone either in the congregation or in town in general was facing some big medical issue that insurance wouldn't fully cover. Or, for example, we extended the stipend we are providing the music students who sing in our choir over the summer because when the choir director brought up the issue, a number of people pulled out their checkbooks, and the amount needed to continue the stipend was raised in about 5 minutes. I couldn't do any of those things on my own, but my little contribution, pooled with others' makes those things happen.

And there are more intangible supports, as I alluded to: driving people to doctor's appointments. Or just driving people places when they CAN'T drive any more. (We don't really have public transport here). Or sitting with family members when a loved one is in surgery. Or praying. Or taking food to people recovering from surgery, or who have a new baby at home, or who have had a loss in the family. Or even sending cards - there is one woman who makes it her ministry to send cards to people who are shut-in, or who have moved away, or who are facing challenges, or who have had something exciting happen in their lives. And all of those things are very firm reminders of how we're connected, and it's really only by helping one another that we make it in this world.

And yeah, I know: some of that happens online. I've contributed to Go Fund Me's to help people with medical expenses and I've donated supplies for classrooms and arranged for Amazon to send things to various charities at my expense. But somehow, when you are SEEING the person you are doing something for, it reminds you that, yes, there is a person behind that need. (Sometimes I wonder if giving money is "too easy" for someone like me - it allows me to remain detached).

I think this is also perhaps tangentially related to our culture's love of superhero stories. I DO think there is a hunger in people to do something bigger than they are, or be part of something bigger than they are. And the problem is, I think a lot of online behaviors try to make stuff small - the snark, the running-down of things because they are insufficiently ideologically pure, the idea that "everything is problematic." It's like we're all a bunch of frustrated sixteen-year-olds: we want things to be better, we don't quite know how to achieve that, and so we take out our frustrations by sniping at each other and finding people who are "weirder" or "dumber" or "less cool" than we are to pick on. And I don't know. It makes me tired. I get so tired of what I see as a lot of posturing by a lot of scared kids who don't know how to fix things. And I think that is some of my frustration with the way stuff goes online sometimes. I am not cool enough or grown-up enough to be able to enjoy things ironically, or to make fun of something I used to take joy in, or cringe at someone who is enthusiastic about something I think is weird. And it does seem, once again, there's the cool kids all forming a closed clique, and here I am, wanting to be part of it but also not really wanting to be part of it - I want the acceptance but I don't want to have to pick on the kids less-cool than me.

When I'm lucky, I find a few other "uncool kids" (or maybe not even "uncool kids," maybe just "maverick kids who don't want to be part of the dumb clique) who accept me and want to hang with me. But it seems like the snarky cool-kids clique is so huge and so overarching...and I wonder if, in the absence of being able to do very much to fix things in the world, that's what we've turned to, that we've turned on each other.

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