After my uncharacteristically bold (brash?) post yesterday, I’ve been wanting to write more contemplating virtue and social media. What does it mean to love my neighbor — both those in front of me and those that I’m following — in the context of social media? (When I refer to social media in this post, I’m not just including Instagram and Facebook. Blogging is also social media, and — while I probably won’t get to it tonight — I’d like to also think about what aspects of various social media encourage virtue or vice).
In terms of loving those in front of me, here is some of what I aspire toward (though often fail). With my children — I’m not watching them through the lens of social media. I’m not always saying, “Freeze! Right there! I need to get a photo so that I can post this.” I’m not oversharing about our family. I respect privacy. I don’t always feel the need to publicly record every lovely moment. I want to cultivate beauty in our home and sometimes keep it hidden.
As an overarching principle, I aspire to be attentive and grateful for my real life. That means not using Instagram as an escape hatch, so that I can avoid dealing with problems. I want to be intentional and not at the mercy of my impulses to avoid boredom or discomfort
In terms of loving those on the other side of the screen, I aspire to take the people behind the photos/posts seriously. I want to respect the amount of care and work inherent in each photo/post and give the dignity of my full attention. For some reason, even though Instagram is full of “creatives,” it’s too easy to forget the work and care behind each square and just scroll, scroll, scroll.
On both sides of the screen, I think that virtue here comes down to self-control and gratitude. Self-control makes me intentional. Gratitude makes me see what is here before me in my real life, bestowing clear eyes and heart to also see what is before me in social media, without jealousy, comparison, envy, etc. All that means greater attentiveness.
And with that, here are few things I’ve noticed about this #bloginstead experiment that relate to social media and virtue: a responsibility to comment on others’ blogs radically changes things for me — in a really good, humane way. It feels more like real life. Thoughtfully commenting takes energy. My introverted self gets tired. I can more easily identify in myself the fact that I need a break from my laptop/phone. On the other hand, receiving comments from others is just wonderful. I feel such gratitude that others would take the time to read and respond.
Today, I was in my backyard with my children and had many of your words (blog posts and comments) at the back of my mind. But I didn’t feel cluttered or vague. I felt more clear and attentive.* I don’t attribute that to the medium of blogging; I attribute that to the words of you writers. But, I do think that this medium and this way of using it encourages intentionality, encourages attentiveness, encourages virtue. And, with that, I need a break.
*Featured photo results from attentiveness to berries with rain droplets on my fence.