This time around we explore a new social media experience that is designed not to drain our souls, and I share links to the now complete Nicene Creed blog series I edited for Coram Deo Academy this Fall.
If you happen to be in Dallas for Christmas and are looking for a place to worship, you are invited to join me and/or the family at a number of Christmas Eve services at Incarnation.
Last week I woke up in the middle of the night and had trouble falling back asleep. Why wife is a night owl in the midst of her busy season, so we crossed paths. I wanted to read something fictional and mindless so I could fall back asleep, and she reminded me that the last time I asked for that she bought me a used copy of The Firm.
About an hour later, I was on page 100. It is no surprise that a John Grisham novel is a page-turner. But the reason it was a page turner may not be what you think.
Next to no thrilling content is found in those first 100 pages. You get the sense that the novel is moving in that direction, but you aren’t deep into the mystery just yet.
Instead I was met with page after page of enormous salary package offers, signing bonuses, and the relentless pursuit of a new employee by a wealthy … Firm.
Much to my surprise, I was hooked.
I work for not one, but two non-profits. My Masters degree is among the least lucrative you can earn, financially speaking. The first 100 pages of The Firm, with all its recruitment of top talent with over-the-top offers, is something I simply will never experience.
And yet I was hooked. Probably because this is something I simply will never experience.
All that to say: I think John Grisham knows exactly what he is doing. Action and thrilling suspense can hook readers. But perhaps not as much as the allure of being pursued or the temptation of instant wealth.
What is broken about today’s popular social media sites? Is social media inherently broken, or is there a way to share information with a group of people online without weakening our souls and highlighting our depravity?
My current answer? Maybe. Places like micro.blog are trying to explore these very questions.
There are many ways it differs from traditional social media, but here are a few highlights. Each of these are, in a sense, responses to some of the more toxic aspects of social media.
Problem: Social media platforms show you the content they want you to see. Content that is designed to do two things: (1) keep you on their site or in their app longer, and (2) sell you something. An algorithm that is constantly updating itself decides what appears in your feed, and in what order.
Micro.blog Solution: Your “feed” is made up of posts created by only the people you choose to follow, in the order that they post. This means two things: (1) It gets boring, fast. Once you have seen everything that the handful of people you follow have posted, there is no reason to keep reading. You move on with your day. And, (2), there are no advertisements.
Problem: It is very easy for self-worth to be tied to your follower count. “Influencers” rise to the top of the social media ladder, usually for an expertise or popularity in one aspect of culture (Fashion, comedy, music, politics, etc.). The bigger issue is this: their opinions on anything and everything are then taken as if they ought to be influential. This happened before the rise of modern social media, yes. (Hollywood actors speaking on topics they know little about, for example.) But it has become an epidemic since the rise of social media. Fame now matters more than knowledge, wisdom, and experience.
Micro.blog Solution: There are no follower counts. You cannot see how many followers someone has. You cannot even know who is following you, and who is not.
Problem: Content is posted not because of the conviction that it ought to be shared, but because of the responses it might garner.
Solution: There are no likes, retweets, hearts, or any other form of digital affirmation.
Again, these are features of micro.blog, not bugs. For many, not knowing how many followers you have and not being able to see who enjoys your content is a major turn-off. But this only shows how engrained the modern broken form of social media has become in all of us.
Is micro.blog the way forward? Maybe. After toying around with it myself, I think I can confidently say that I certainly hope that something like micro.blog is the way forward. Note: it can be tricky to sign up for something like micro.blog. You have to have an existing blog that you then link to micro.blog. The fact that it is hard to get up and running might also be a feature, not a bug…
Along these lines, I recently switched this newsletter from running on TinyLetter to using buttondown.email for one primary reason: Button-down allows you to disable analytics. This means I don’t know how many of you are opening the email, reading all the way to the end, subscribing, unsubscribing, etc. I find that very refreshing. It might mean that I am writing a newsletter to an audience of one, but it certainly means that I have more peace of mind hitting “send” and walking away than I would have if I kept refreshing a stats page to see who has read, finished, subscribed, or unsubscribed.
Speaking of an audience of one, a parishioner captured this photo of a time this Fall when I was (literally) preaching to an audience of one. Hilarious, and one of my new favorite photos.
This semester I have been editing and contributing to a series about the Nicene Creed for my school. We have used the Nicene Creed as our statement of faith since the school was founded, and took time this semester to introduce the Creed and explore some of its more confusing phrases.
If you are in Dallas and looking for a place to worship on Christmas Eve, here are a few services the family and/or I plan to attend! All of these are at Church of the Incarnation.
12pm - Traditional Service (Jon)
2pm - Traditional Family Service (Jon - preaching the Children’s sermon)
5pm - Contemporary Service (Jon & Family)
10:30pm - Traditional Service w/ Incense (Jon)
That final service would be a real treat if you are interested in seeing all of the smells and bells offered at Incarnation. Let me know if you are interested in joining me and/or the family for these services!