Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Spiritual Social Media

We live in a world dominated by social media.  No matter where you turn, something is prompting you to check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any of the countless others.  I've had to use social medial to contact businesses or inquire about services.  And of course, when it comes to social interaction in the modern world, not only are you faced with social media, you are faced with using many different forms of it.

I'm not the most savvy of social media users.  I do use Facebook quite a lot, and I love Pinterest!  I am sort of confused by both Instagram and Twitter.  And that pretty much is the extent of my social media experience!

But I think that the potential exists to not only make social media work for us, but to use it as a tool to create real and wonderful change in the world around us.  Social media definitely gets a bad rap.  Many people feel that Facebook is so full of negativity, and so addictive, that they need to walk away from it entirely (only to often get dragged right back in a little while later).  I think, that like many other things, Facebook is fine in moderation, something I talked about when I wrote about Fixing your Facebook Feed.

I also think that many social media sites discourage actual conversation and interaction.  I think this is why I have never really gotten into either Twitter or Instagram:  neither feel to me like they encourage actual discourse, but rather are just places for people to post something (either a picture or a short word blurb) and then other people can react with emojis or likes or whatever (you can totally tell I don't use these....)  I am a big fan of Bringing back Conversation, and I am pretty wordy most of the time, even though I am also a fan of stickers, I prefer to type in paragraphs rather than short blips or pictures.

And a lot of people feel that because so much social media is focused on sort of superficial things, that it isn't something that can encourage deeper conversation, spiritual growth or true connection.  I very much disagree!

Don't get me wrong, I do tons of silly and 'just for fun' stuff on social media.  I am a sucker for cat videos, for amusing memes, and for those crazy reddit 'wouldn't this make a great story...' threads that get screenshot and posted.  I often surf social media as an escape, looking for something to make me smile or just as a distraction, as a way to waste time.

But I also have some very great groups that I am a part of.  I belong to groups for just about everything that I am interested in, and I love being able to connect with people who share those interests. 

In particular, I am a part of many spiritual groups.  These groups not only encourage great conversations, but they are also uplifting.  I get to see beautiful memes with inspiring words, things that just make me feel good and happy and like there is hope for the world.  And this is a very important thing, in the world today. 

I also know that if I am struggling, if I am having a hard time, I can post and there will be people to help me.  If I need advice, I can ask and get many different perspectives, numerous options for things to try.  If I just need to be heard, I can have my words witnessed.  If I need comfort, people will support me with words and images and the outpouring of love is amazing.  And that is a pretty incredible thing!

But we can do even more, with the tools of social media!  Many people really like those chain letters, you know the ones, where you will get a message from someone, often with an image, and be asked to send it on to X number of people, who will all be blessed, or get luck or receive money or something along those lines.  I remember when those were printed on paper and mailed with stamp!  Now, I'm not typically a fan of these types of chain messages, mainly because I don't like to flood my friend's messenger with random message.

However, I like the other versions, where you post it on your wall and invite people to participate.  I've done chain activities like this, where every day you post one thing about yourself you are proud of, one thing you are grateful for, one person you love, or even a book that changed your life.  To me, these are so fun, AND they spread positivity.  It is a more active thing, because you are making it personal.  You are taking the time to think about the topic, to make your post, and to invite other people to join in.

I do a version of this in my local group.  It all started with a year of gratitude.  Every week, I'd post a topic, and invite people to share something related to that topic that they were grateful for.  It was an amazing experience, and I loved doing it so much that I did another sharing project the next year.  We followed it up with sharing a photo, which was also really cool, to see each week a new picture from so many different people.  Then, last year, we did a fellowship sharing.  Each week, we would share some kind of personal detail, some aspect of our life and about our selves.  And this year, we are doing Magic Mondays, sharing how we experience and express our spiritual path.

And this is why I love discussion.  Each week, each topic, is an invitation to share, to start a conversion.  People can absolutely just post a picture or a single word, or even an emoji or sticker, if that is how they wish to respond.  But they can also share a story, or a memory, or give a little instruction.  And often one person's response will spark a conversation.  People will reply to what was said, and it becomes something so much more.

I love the sharing of memes, as I think there is something really powerful about the combination of words and image.  When we share a meme, we are identifying with what is being said.  Sometimes it's just about the laugh, but sometimes something much deeper is being shared.  And, we can enhance that through invitation or intention!  We can invite people to find a similar meme or to share a thought about the meme.  Or we can infuse our meme with an intention, the intention to bless everyone who sees it, or to inspire people to take action, or to make people feel loved.

I have been using memes as part of my Year of Magic.  Even something as simple as sharing a blessing for a Sabbat is increasing the presence of my spirituality.  It is one small way that I can help educate people, to show them that what I do isn't scary or evil.  To help normalize other faiths and practices.  I am blessed that I am able to do this, on my personal page, with my legal name right there.

It was hard, the very first time.  I didn't use to post spiritual stuff on my page.  I knew everyone could see it, and that was a bit scary.  I was worried about how people I knew, but who might not actually know all the pieces of me would feel about what I was saying.  I had friends, good friends, who were also Christian, and I was worried they would hate me (they didn't!).  Then, I had family who had friended me, and that was a whole new level of weird.

But, every time I posted something personal and meaningful, I reminded myself that I was being true to myself.  That I might be making it a little bit easier for someone else, someone who might not be able to post the way I could, and who was feeling alone.  That my posts might help create change, so that one day no one would have to be afraid to speak the truth in their heart.

I also share memes to express the things in my life that I am grateful for.  Part of my work with the moon cycles includes expressing and sharing gratitude during the Disseminating moon (right after the full moon).  I choose to do this in meme form, to not just share to the people directly involved (although I do that also sometimes), but to the world.  It's my form of shouting it from the rooftops. 

I think about it in the same way that I think about asking questions.  They always say that if you have a question, it is likely that other people also have the same question, and so by asking it you are helping them as well as yourself.  I feel that way about being grateful.  Not only may other people feel grateful for the same things, and my sharing might remind them to express their own gratitude, but also, people may feel unappreciated, and my gratitude for the people in my life, while not directly speaking to them, might make them feel more appreciated by the people in their life who may not have remembered to say anything. 

The power of social media is in it's ability to pass information to large quantities of people, across the globe, in seconds.  What information we choose to pass is entirely in our control!  We can harness that power, and share things with intention, with purpose.  We can share to shine light on the past, to change the present and to create a brighter future.  What are you sharing?

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