My underwhelming return to Facebook ….

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I made it through Lent without Facebook. 40 days without social media. I accidentally clicked on the Facebook link a time or two, but then I walked my trespassing ass right back out of there. It’s been nearly two weeks since I came back to the fold – just after Easter began, in fact. “Began” you say? Yes, began. According to Catholicism, this past Sunday was the 7th Sunday of Easter. Easter is not just a weekend – apparently, it’s 50 days long!

Theology aside, I thought it would be difficult to be away from Facebook. I was wrong. It was peaceful. I didn’t have to subject myself to the boredom of being party to the minutiae of people’s lives. No fascinating updates like “traffic was so bad today” or “painting our kitchen” or “my little kid said insert totally-predictable-little-kid-statement here“. No pictures of what people ate for lunch. No political hoopla or look-you-guys-my-life-is-so-awesome staged pictures. Nobody felt the burning need to reassure me that they are #soblessed. No love-me-love-me-love-me selfies posted for the sole purpose of receiving compliments. I didn’t have to read the same ungrateful statuses from the same collection of whiners every day. The acronym FML fell off my radar. When crazy things happened, I didn’t have to listen to the analysis and processing of 50 different people. I could just quietly think the event through, maybe talk about it with a pal. And there was no pressure to craft and post exactly the right response.

Sure, it was strange not to wish Ryan a happy birthday on Facebook, or create a tribute to my father on the fifteenth anniversary of his death. I missed some people with whom I only communicate via Facebook. I was taking pictures, but I wasn’t able to share them with my dozens of Facebook friends. I just had to enjoy them myself, then print them for our family albums. Like people used to do with pictures. It was frustrating not to be able to share links to my blog posts. I kept writing through Lent – in fact, I published five posts. They didn’t get nearly as much attention as they usually do. Ten readers at most. However, this caused me to consider just why I feel like I need lots of people to read my blog.  Maybe I don’t. After a couple of weeks, the pleasure and satisfaction of simply composing a blog post was the same as if I were about to hook 100 readers.

I thought I would be excited to return to Facebook. Wrong again. After a few weeks away from it, social media looks more ridiculous than ever. I feel increasingly alienated from Facebook. I don’t bother to post nearly as much as I once did. I didn’t even share with the Facebook world that Ryan and I were going to New Orleans until I assembled an album a week after our return. I didn’t post a drippy Mother’s Day salute, either. Another precious little soul is going to be calling me Auntie Beth some day. I didn’t share that news. Occasionally, I think of things that could be fun to share – and then I don’t bother. It just isn’t as important as I once thought it was to give a digital audience a breathless update of my everything all the time. Moment of shameless honesty here: I love attention. Good, bad, laughing, shocked – I don’t care. One of my biggest fears is oblivion. But the price one pays for the kind of attention social media dishes up is starting to look rather steep.

Many days, I scroll joylessly, waiting in vain for something – anything – that cuts through the banality. Advertisements. Quizzes. Do you actually think you’re brilliant because you got 9 out of 10 right in the quiz-of-the-moment? Do you really believe that by sharing the result of four minutes of multiple-choice questions you will establish yourself as a genius in the minds of your digital acquaintances? Most of us are rolling our eyes so hard we have to stop scrolling until we can see again. Drama. Oversharing. If you took eight pictures of the same baby in the same clothes with the same background, we only need to see one. Maybe not even one if we saw a shot of the same baby yesterday.

Bullying. You can be anything you want on Facebook and nobody will bother you about it. Unless you’re religious. Or conservative. Or pro-life. Whatever you do, do not be openly pro-life. It will be a matter of minutes before people start piling up on your page, ferociously defending their right to kill their babies under any and all circumstances. You will get called names that would make a sailor blush.

And the ignorance …. Good gravy. A while ago, I fought openly with a blatant racist on Facebook. He is convinced that Islam is a religion of murder, and Muslims are inherently evil – and that one Muslim in Canada is one too many. Never mind that he is a redneck jackass from the arse-end of nowhere who’s never even met a Muslim – he is determined to make sure he never will, either. Sadly, he’s from my home town, and we used to be friends. Many people from Robert’s Arm are lovely, but not him. He is so hateful his Facebook account was shut down. I found out this week that he started another one under a new name, because he showed up on my “people you may know” list. The new account has been suspended multiple times. Apparently, he doesn’t care. He continues to spout evil and – much to my dismay – the asshole has 155 friends. How?

I was guilty of a few of the things I just complained about. I shared things that no one would – or should – care about. I said things that would only be entertaining for me and a handful of my friends. I posted three pictures where one would have done. I got a kick out of compliments on my pictures, even when I knew the compliments were knee-jerk reactions to my pictures by sycophants who just wanted me to notice them – and maybe compliment them back. I eagerly participated in drama (I loves me a good throw-down sometimes), and maybe there are people out there who feel I have bullied them. I thought this was all fine for the most part until I pulled away from it for a while. Surveying it all from the sidelines changed my take.

I don’t really know where this is going. Maybe I’ll quit Facebook altogether. Maybe I’ll go along with it for a little while longer, trying to find my groove. Maybe a thousand words is too much to spend on this subject. Either way, thanks for reading. I love it when you look my way.

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Walk by faith, wherever your faith lies.

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I love Maclean’s magazine. I’ve been a subscriber for years. A flip through any issue yields a number of interesting, well-written pieces on a wide range of topics. Recently, an article appeared in Maclean’s called “Did Jesus really exist?” The article was centred around the work of Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar. I read it, wondering if there might be anything new on the subject. There wasn’t. Alot was said about the concepts of false memory, social memory, and the fact that tales grow in the telling. The children’s party game of telephone was mentioned to illustrate how a message can change each time it is repeated. Apparently, there are some dates that don’t line up, and there is some confusion over whether Jesus’ death warrant was signed by Pontius Pilate or King Herod. Some of the gospel accounts differ on a few details, or focus on different parts of Jesus’ life. The apostle Paul’s lack of interest in the life of Jesus is mentioned to support the idea that he never really existed. There is a possibility that some of the documents supporting Jesus’ existence were forged by zealous early Christians.

Basically, the same things people have been saying for years – and the same things people could say about many famous ancient figures. Ramses, Homer, Confucius, Plato, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Genghis Kahn, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, William Shakespeare …. How do we really know any of them existed? If they did, how do we know they really did what we think they did? Oral memory is sketchy. Forgeries are possible. Not all historians agree on what happened and when. Shall we use this to drum them out of the annals of history, or will we keep telling stories about them? Does every detail matter? A human being is not simply a superbly designed machine. There is head – and there is heart. There is more to this life than what we can see.

We struggle to quantify and prove what is important, and we demand evidence of everything – but it’s never been so easy to forge everything. Photographic evidence isn’t even reliable anymore, thanks to technology that can seamlessly blend images and change any detail of any picture – and filters that convincingly mimic many different time periods. Statistics show that more and more of us see ourselves as secular and cynical. Yet, we live in an era in which we are increasingly walking by faith and praying for miracles – whether we know it or not. We’re a global village, and the next pandemic or terrorist attack is always just around the corner. Some very unstable people have access to weapons that could destroy us all if they ever decide to use them. Our planet is heating up and drying out. Many of us are plagued by anxiety, and feel like we’re not safe anywhere. Yet we make a daily decision to walk out the door into uncertainty. We keep making art and poetry and music and plans for the future – and babies.

Why? Because we are believers even when we don’t know what we believe in. Because we have decided to keep walking, however dark the path ahead. At the core of all of us, though it may not be acknowledged or even recognised, there is faith. Faith in science, faith in humanity, faith in ourselves, faith in love – and, for some of us, faith in Jesus. Did he exist? Does he, as Christian tradition teaches, still exist? I’m not going to try to prove anything or persuade anyone. I’m just going to give my opinion. Partly because this is a subject dear to my heart, and partly because I just love giving my two cents to everyone on everything all the time. I have chosen to believe he does exist. I feel his presence whenever I talk to him. I see his face in the faces of everyone I love. I see his hands in the kindness people show each other in times of trouble – in Mister Rogers’ oft-referenced helpers. I hear his voice urging me to push through my fear and keep going, to share what I have, to reach out to others who need a friend, to show love to people who have none for me. I use the stories of Jesus to guide me when my faith is low or I don’t know what to do. When I’m disappointed in myself, I remember that he knows me well and loves me anyway, and that his grace is freely given to me every day in the form of second, third, tenth chances – and I forgive myself because he does. Whatever does that for you, whatever gets you though the frightening, beautiful mess of being alive, hold onto it. You don’t need proof that it exists, and you don’t need experts to agree with you. People can speculate all they like on whether he’s real – he’s real to me, my faith in him compels me forward no matter what I have to walk through, and that’s enough for me. Happy Easter, whatever you believe!