A Social and Spiritual Dilemma
Suzanne Cain

The Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, is a disturbing revelation about the technology industry and social media platforms.  Former top level executives from Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and others tell of their personal dilemmas about the practices of companies they worked for.  The “Big Brother” concept we sometimes joke about, according to this piece, is no laughing matter.  The tech industry has evolved and advanced in such a way that we aren’t aware of their manipulating and seducing tactics that keep us digging further and further into a rabbit hole of bogus “connections”.  Honestly, it is a numbed out version of ourselves with a severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and desire for escapism.  Certainly, not all escapes are bad.  Some of my favorites are, beach escapes, happy-hour escapes, Pinnacle Mountain escapes, and piano playing escapes. 

Deep and frequent dives into our social media feeds coaxes us into isolated bubbles that in turn contributes to mental health issues, vast polarization, and deep-seated depression.  Everyone is competing for our attention and we are falling victim to click bait that lures us into consumerism and a false sense of belonging.  This is especially true of our kids.  Navigating their place in this world was hard enough before the deluge of technology and the descent of its influences. 

As many of the former execs admit in the documentary, I believe that the original intent of social media platforms were meant for good.  Through them, we have found old friends.  Relatives living far apart can keep up with each other.  We utilize the platforms to rally around friends and communities in need.   It is in outlet to share thoughts, ideas and inspiration. 

I have been more than a little disturbed by what this movie revealed and have come to realize my own lack of restraint against a system that is vying for my attention.   The need to “check in” pulls at my subconscious and before I know it, I have spent way too much time numbed out scrolling through Facebook.  Afterwards, I am disappointed in myself for not having more focus and fortitude to embrace the day. 

Finding balance is critical and the circumstances of this year have caused the presence of uncertainty to disrupt balance – at least it has for me.  Schedules and rhythms help us discern where and how we spend our time.   

In my desire to regain balance, the spiritual practice of examen is something I’ve been working on. Reflecting over the day inviting God to reveal where Divine Presence was with me.  Inviting God to also show me where I fell short of Christ’s likeness.  Self-examination of consciousness, helps wake me up to God’s presence.  It helps me to see and recognize God in all things and calls me to a posture of gratitude. 

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works . . . ~ Psalm 139:1-3, 14

Self-examination of conscience helps me see myself more clearly.  It helps me notice where I turned away from Presence and allowed the shadow side of my ego to have its way.  It calls me to a posture of confession.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. ~ Psalm 139:23-24

As I reflect on the past seven months, God is showing me that He is doing a new thing.  God is showing me that She is nurturing this season to be cultivated for transformation.  My friend and fellow minister, Shantell Hill, said in her sermon recently, that we need to “dig up the dirt” for racial justice and equity.  She gave practical examples of ways to turn over the soil of white supremacy in order to cultivate transformed systems that are good for ALL people.  God is also digging up the dirt because we have soul work to do.  Be certain of this, God will never manipulate.  God will not vie for our attention. God lovingly invites us to come closer to the place we most belong.  Divine Presence.

I’m not saying we have to eliminate all social media from our lives forever.  BUT, we should examine how much time we give to it.  And we should examine what happens in our bodies and souls when we allow what we read to draw out our shadow selves.  Maybe these last weeks leading up to Election Day would be a good time for a media fast.  Perhaps you log off altogether or perhaps you simply spend less time in them.  Transformed systems come from transformed lives.  Transforming lives is God’s work.  And digging up the dirt with an examined heart and mind is our work.  Let it be so. 

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