This world. This place. This life.

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Omnipresence and social media

connectionsEmerging from my reading this week is this: in a social media world, power depends on being everywhere, and being in each place well.

That’s a daunting thought.

What it means for individuals is that if we have a message to share, we have to learn multiple platforms, never resting, never believing that we’ve mastered enough social media tools. It means developing insatiable curiosity and deep humility. A new-to-me blogger wrote this:

I suspect the unnerving truth is that the trade-off for the benefits of an unfathomably complex technological society is the disquieting reality that understanding is now beyond the reach of any intellectual, public or otherwise. (The Frailest Thing, February 16)

The picture is less grim on an organizational level. If we join together with others who share our values, and each of us learns continuously, our skills form a massive Venn diagram, overlapping here, stretching into new territory there.

But only if we work together.

I pour most of my thinking energy into Unitarian Universalism, which has a streak of individualism a mile wide and centuries deep. We have a newer commitment, to “the interdependent web of which we are a part.”

We want to share our message—our saving message. Much will depend on our learning to work together.

Photo by fla m, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.


A community of lifelong learners

Yesterday at the Anchorage UU Fellowship I had a casual lunchtime conversation about technology with a small group of fellowship leaders.  I was the second youngest person at the table (and I just turned 40).

We talked about Skype, Go-to-Meeting, and Persony.  We talked about costs and benefits of using something like Persony, which would have a monthly fee.

One of the people at the table expressed deep reservations about all the digital devices that seem so disruptive.  Those concerns are quite valid.

I said that I believe the generations need to stay in touch with each other, learn from each other, help each other look out for pitfalls.  Older adults need to help digital natives remember to value face-to-face interpersonal skills; digital natives need to serve as tour guides to the brave new world that is coming, like it or not.

Maybe I should say that it has already come.

Last night on PBS I watched Digital Media:  New Learners of the 21st Century.

To say that I was blown away would be an understatement.  And I’m pretty tech-savvy.

Here are a few things I realized that relate to Unitarian Universalism.

The cost-benefit analysis at yesterday’s lunch table had it backwards.  We were asking, “What are the benefits of this technology to the people who have already found Unitarian Universalism in Anchorage? Are those benefits worth the cost?”

What we should have been looking at is the cost of doing nothing.

If those of us who are not digital natives refuse to throw ourselves into intensive, deliberate learning of this new language, this new culture, this new way of life, then we will be unable to pass on our faith to a new generation.

And not only that.  We’re going to have to let the kids drive.

We’re going to have to really believe that inherent worth and dignity begins before age 35.

Our vision of shared ministry will have to expand dramatically to include the ministry of younger minds.

We have not been particularly good at this as a movement.  Our usual pattern is to reject the gifts of a new generation, only to have them come in the back door anyway, completely transforming our way of life.

Maybe it’s time to do something new.  Maybe it’s time for more graceful and intentional generational transitions.

Change happens.  We waste an inordinate amount of energy fighting it.  What would happen if we chose to cooperate with change, to shape it gently, like a pot on the wheel?