I suspect I’m not the only person who has grown increasingly frustrated by the tone of much of social media. I think I understand some of the causes of this situation: frustration, collapse of social and human context, deep cultural and social divisions, etc.
I have come close to disconnecting on many occasions and, during times like Lent, have often found it helpful to take a social media fast (controversial though some have found that idea).
Almost everyone experiences social media space as, by turns, informative, witty, anger-inducing and depressing. That’s because it’s a human space; it does rather reflect us.
This Advent I want to try something. Advent is one of two seasons (along with Lent) when Christians have traditionally fasted, reflected and prepared for a great feast. Obviously, Advent precedes Christmas.
In addition to my usual practices – studying, reflecting, praying – I’m going to try something new (for me at least!) on social media.
With every tweet and post I want to offer something positive and hopeful. I want to build someone or something up. I shall be using the hashtag #KindAdvent to focus this.
I’m not doing this because I’m some sort of Panglossian fool or natural optimist. It’s just that rather than instinctively do what I normally do – point out the negative, complain about a situation, sound off, be an eeyore – I want to make a small, tiny offering. A gift of kindness.
I can’t tell you how counter-intuitive this is for me. I instinctively recoil at cheesy positivity; I’d rather be ironic or clever-clever.
However, in the crappy world we find ourselves in, I sense that a discipline of kindness might not be too ridiculous.
It won’t address deep injustice or stop a narcissistic president from retweeting fascists, but it may change the tenor of a conversation. It may help us look in a different direction – not so much that we ignore the deep issues, but we meet them with a different kind of solidarity.
#KindAdvent is, in the first instance, something that I hope helps me focus on some richer seams of life than the usual warzones and fractures that drive us.
It might be something you want to have a go at too, whether you’re a person of faith or not. I'd welcome fellow fools to share the journey!