The is my second post in a five-part series for my seminary course at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg on Media and Religion.
For my “Religion and Media” course that I’m taking this week at LTSG we’ve been learning about how people use or can use various forms of media to create community and proclaim the Word. As part of this we are reading Click2Save by Elizabeth Drescher and Keith Anderson, and it has had some great insight and guidance on things to keep in mind as you blog and Tweet (among many other forms it addresses). The most challenging? A blog post in 500 words or less. I’m an elaborate writer, brevity is not my strength. But I think there is often wisdom in the art of being succinct.
I have been reflecting on what media I actually use day to day, and while at first I only thought of the obvious ones– calling on the phone, Facebook, Twitter and e-mail, there are many more ways I live digitally. The ones that have been most helpful the past week has been MyFitnessPal, a smartphone app that lets you log the food you eat, your weight, and your exercise habits, and Pinterest, where you can find recipes for healthy foods, among crafts, humor, fashion, and of course everything related to weddings. Between those two forms of media, I have been far more successful with having healthy eating habits than I ever could with more traditional forms of food-based media, like cookbooks. A lot of times we focus on (generalizations) about how digital media may build community or tempt us to not be full-present at physical events, but digital media is helping me to be a better steward of my body.
The popular critique of media, social media in particular, often goes something like this: “Those people are always on their Facebook, they aren’t building real relationships.” Let’s save the debate about what a “real relationship” is for another time, and in the meantime, follow me for a second. While I think that relationships are at the center of our calling as children of the Triune God, I don’t think that something has to be primarily focused on building positive relationships for it to have value for us as Christians. Which is where MyFitnessPall comes in– it helps with stewardship of the body. Apps that track your running routes do the same thing. Sure, there may be ways to add friends and share your progress with others, but the main point of these apps is health. Another app I use quite often is Mint, which lets you track your banking and credit accounts as well as set up a budget. Financial stewardship. Bam. A third app that I used a lot over the summer was the National Geographic Bird app. It became my little hobby and way of enjoying God’s Creation.
Sure, you can make arguments about how physical and financial stewardship or watching birds is relational, but I think that primarily these apps were things that did not necessarily build my relationship with others.
And that’s my point. We often complain about social media or other digital technology because it sometimes gets in the way of building physical face-to-face relationships, as if that is the sole benchmark for whether or not media is useful. But I think we need to expand how we think about media and its usefulness or faithfulness.
What are ways that you engage in media or digital technology that you find worshipful or related to your Christian discipleship in ways other than primarily fostering relationship-building?