Desperately Seeking Community

My post for this month over on BigBible can be found here.

In a small departure from the norm, I wanted to unpack a bit more personally here.

My break from Twitter has made me reflect and ask myself several questions, some of which I mentioned on BigBible, some I didn’t:

  • Have I been expecting more than is possible?
  • Have I put more faith in Social Media than is sensible or right?
  • Is social media doing me more harm than good in the place where I am at the moment?
  • Have I actually even really missed it?
  • Have I even been missed?
  • Do I want to return?

I maintain wholeheartedly that the church should have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and anywhere and everywhere else it can – for wherever people are, is where God is – and where God is, is where we should be.  My reflections here are more on a personal level.

I found myself with this pressing question, in the way only The Clash can express it

So I am grappling.

Have I been artificially trying to construct a community for myself, given the rootlessness that I feel, being in a place I have not chosen to be in a way I would prefer not to be? It has been a hard experience moving to new physical surroundings without being able to utilise any of the usual tools of ‘fitting in’ because I can’t get out much and put the energy into getting to know people in the way I would have in the past.  There are activities, but I can’t join many of them.  That doesn’t mean people don’t want me, or I them, just my limitations make it restrictive.  And that in turn makes life very lonely.

So, what am I actually looking for social media to do? To give me comfort? Company?  Somewhere to have a place to inhabit and be?  Am I in it out of sheer nosiness?  Or a true exploration of a ministry and calling – in which case I cannot step away…

But is social media the place to find any of that?  Twitter is very transitory and relatively shallow.  It moves on very quickly.  Facebook has more of a community feel to it, as recent experience has shown, but it has its limitations.  As I’ve dipped back in to Twitter, I have found it rather overwhelming, and very quickly come across some of the things that made me step away in the first place.  I accept that some of this is where I find myself at the moment.

Yet for those who have  no other source of community, do they offer a solution?  There can be a tendency to  ‘look at me’ on social media, whether we recognise it as that are not, and maybe that is what I don’t need right here, right now (and that’s about me not you!) – though I recognise that as also part of people seeking community and connections. But there is also a lot of great depth, much humour and some good people to know.  I think the great lesson is to not put more faith in something than it can return to you – that way leads pain and disillusionment in all things.  But if we (I), take social media for what it is, accept what it can offer and not be disappointed by what it can’t, then it has much to offer.  Community – yes of a kind; lots of fun – yes; and the rest, well don’t take it or myself too seriously 🙂

I’m still thinking – what do you think?  It’s a conversation I want to have, so please join in.

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16 thoughts on “Desperately Seeking Community

  1. Hi Pam
    I enjoyed your post, i always do, and I for one have missed you on Twitter. Like you, I’m severely restricted in personal contacts and activities through ill health and I do find a sort of sense of community on Twitter. Largely in two fields – God/spirituality issues, and health issues. Having a chronic illness or disability can be very isolating and it’s good to find ways of relating to people that are possible with limited energy. Also, I too feel called to some kind of ‘ministry’ (for want of a better word), but I’m unclear exactly what that is. I’d love to blog more but my brain won’t always allow it. So mostly I see my ‘ministry’ as prayer. I follow people, lots of religious people – priests, friars etc – and I pray for them, and anyone else who has particular needs or concerns. I’d like to do more, but for the moment this is where I am.
    I agree that Twitter is often very superficial, annoying, frustrating, but it’s also often profoundly moving, and I never cease to be amazed by Twitterfolk. So I stay and learn, and give a little… Not much, but sometimes all I’ve got…. So maybe you answered your own question about ministry and calling… Twitter needs people like you, (and maybe even me?), and I for one would miss you a lot if you left…

    Petra

    1. Thanks for your kind words.
      I think prayer is a vital ministry to twitter. Twitter, like every community, needs people like us all… Maybe I just need to remember that

      1. re prayer – yes, but i suspect I’m defining prayer very widely. I think I meant it simply underpins evrything we do and say and think until it becomes part of our essence and then we end up making porridge and washing up and it’s all prayer…

  2. I was on twitter for 18months in a very shallow,sporadic way…then broke my arm quite badly,just after moving to a new place…Suddenly it became a lifeline, and in the 4 years since a real community has emerged for me, including some friends with whom I feel safe to share my deepest thoughts and struggles. But it was a long, slow build…it introduced me to people I clearly needed in my life and would not have met otherwise, but beyond them is a wide circle who are just names, or situations to pray for. I’m thankful for both

  3. Thanks for commenting.
    Twitter had become a real community to me too, which is, I guess, why I’m finding it hard to be disillusioned. It’s just like any community, and takes all sorts – including me…

  4. I’m sorry Pam – I didn’t realise you’d taken a break from Twitter… that’s because, having “fasted” from both Twitter and Facebook during Lent, I’m finding I rarely think of visiting either now when I’m snowed under with work (term-times!), although I still pray for and think of those I “met” on both, and I do follow a number of blogs which I first encountered on Twitter (including this one). And just over a week ago, when suddenly involved flat-out with someone for an entire weekend I did tweet a request for prayer support – and could almost tangibly feel that support at times in the weekend.

    However, my partial withdrawal from both has made me also realise that in a way I’d become over-dependent on the online community and that it’s now time to begin to build up relationships with people in this new area where we now live.

    But Twitter and the relationships I have built up there have been a lifeline for me at times and I wouldn’t be without it entirely.

    And Pam, I “met” you through Twitter and you know what that’s meant for my own journey… 🙂

    1. I didn’t make a big thing of it – that’s partly what I was rebelling against. And I did reply to messages like yours that named me. It was all the “noise” I was struggling with.
      I agree with what you say about building up relationships in the area you live – but that isn’t an option for me.
      I shall continue to ponder…

      1. I think I’m more or less where you are re Twitter at the moment – the noise can be overwhelming and it can become invasive. I tend to be very selective – it’s simply not possible to engage deeply with every follower all the time, just as in other relationships. there’s an ebb and flow. But of course with Twitter it’s all there in your twitter feed and somehow all clamours for equal attention.
        A real conundrum.

  5. Hi Pam, I found your reflection very interesting and one I have been having (internally in my mind – not having written anything down). The reason I joined Twitter was to see what it’s all about. As I understood it – it was something I needed to get into because this was the new ‘feeding-ground’ where the ‘faithless’ can be found and I would be able to evangelise to a ‘churchless’ society. Well the experiment continues because I don’t see this happening. What I have found, however, is that there seems to be a lot of committed Christians involved – some who just trot out quotes from scripture (which is comforting – sometimes), some who are having ‘private’ conversations in a sort of ‘code’ (of which I am not part and don’t understand), then there are the ‘stars’ who issue wise words and are involved in noble things (which I do like to see and hear and occasionally join in) and then there are a few ‘bloggers’ who I like to follow who have interesting things to say – and good angles to follow when I am preparing for worship.
    I have to say that I have been enjoying your ministry, especially since you follow the lectionary, as I do when preparing worship, and we seem to be on the same wavelength on many issues, so what you say seems to reinforce my thoughts and feelings, so I hope you don’t give up.
    On the negative side, I agree that most of the ‘stuff’ on twitter is shallow, and I don’t see that sense of ‘community’. Very seldom do I see responses to prayer when people ask for it – I have occasionally. It seems that most are out to have their face and thoughts ‘out there’ but not prepared to ‘follow up’. Having said that, to do it well would take up a lot of time – it does sort of suck you in some days!
    My concern is that as I only spend about an hour in the morning on it (as my self-imposed discipline) I maybe missing the best bits.
    It will be interesting to hear what conclusions you come to. I have set up a blog but seldom use it – unlike you, so perhaps this is where I should be spending my time more fruitfully. Keep up the good work and keep in touch.
    Every blessing, Greville Mills

    1. Thanks for your comments, I think they express some of my frustrations and sadnesses.
      It is useful and interesting for hearing others comments, but I think it needs quite a filter.
      Thank you for your kind words about my blog. I don’t intend giving up blogging – that’s my lifeline that keeps me sane.
      But perhaps I need to be on Twitter to hear the voice of others too, otherwise I risk becoming even more isolated.
      Hmmmmm…

  6. well lots of us comment on your blogs sometimes… that may help to alleviate some of the isolation. And I understand the impossibility for you of going out and meeting people in the community. For me, the challenge and current call is to dare to…

    1. I think that’s right and proper. I think what I’m asking myself is where and how I should find appropriate community.
      I am very grateful for comments, because it makes me think further – so thank you for yours 🙂

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