Day Seventeen: Instant Messages

I like the Facebook Chat function. It’s as if I can walk into a room and silently choose from a friend menu without potentially alienating the others. I’m not in the mood to talk shop, so I’ll go with my overly political friend and geek out about government. I like the way that I can turn on the offline button as well. It’s like a passive-agressive Harry Potter invisibility cloak for my cyber self.

For all the talk of being present and the layers of communication lost in a text-bound medium, I’ve had meaningful conversations with past friends, distant acquaintances and fellow teachers at some of the most random times imaginable. Thus a lonely Thursday transforms from a chance to watch an Office re-run to an opportunity for funny, ironic or serious conversation through the streaming text of a mini-box on a Facebook page. And, like a book, where I am able to imagine the characters and setting, I get a chance to be with someone while still imagining the story as it unfolds.

So, where at church holding our pens and our sermon handouts. The sermon is solid, but I’m distant and moody and not particularly excited about God. I’ve been busy lately and though I don’t think he’s angry, I still have this residual sense that he’s a little disappointed and thus things will be awkward at first. More than that, it’s a morning of doubt where I want to feel rather than think that God is real.

The chat starts out small. I scribble a cynical line in my clunky, barely legible handwriting. Christy responds with her beautiful script offering a beautiful reply that corrects without shaming. And so it begins. Imperfect lines of imperfect lines meandering crookedly around the reminders of VBS and Women’s Bible Study and please lift up so and so in your prayers even though we, as a congregation aren’t typically prone to levitation.

We both say some of the kindest words that we rarely say face-to-face. But I can see her smile. And now I’m thinking about God and it’s not awkward and I’m not feeling guilty and more importantly God feels real. And that’s the beauty of instant message. It’s like finding redemption at a McDonalds or finding hope at a Wal-Mart. It’s the sense that a medium of tedium can be transformed into something profound if we’re open to it.


2 thoughts on “Day Seventeen: Instant Messages

  1. Hi there,

    I really can’t remember how I got to your website, but I’m glad I did. Probably through Twitter. I’m an EFL teacher, passionate about teaching and want to know more about education technologies.
    Your experiment really strikes a chord. I have so many “friends” on facebook that would barely greet me on the school playground, and yet they know stuff about me that they really have no place of knowing – and vice versa of course. But it works the other way round too – they don’t really know anything about me, it’s such a weird amalgam of public and private sphere. I’m going through a divorce at the moment, and I would really like people to know. But I’d like the right people to know, who are interested in the real me. But of course, if I just “cull” people from my list, what does that say to them?
    So the quantity of communication is great, just the quality really lacks behind. And I think it’s time to make contact in the real world again. So thank you for your great idea.

    • I think it’s that ambiguity of Facebook that makes it so perplexing. It’s like a large party with everyone you’ve ever known. How do we possibly make sense out of that social situation?

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