A Little Meta and a Few Apps

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 IMG_3283has 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?


Having Too Much

Confession: I still haven’t fully unpacked my apartment. The unsightly vision of brown boxes stacked one upon another has become normal and no longer makes me cringe in embarassment every time I enter my living space. The past few weeks, as Christmas has drawn closer (or Advent as progressed, however you view it liturgically), I’ve been motivated to finally clear my apartmentment of the unneeded “things” (to use a more tame word than what I feel about it most of the time) that have cluttered so effortlessly. Bringing boxes and extra furniture upstairs, it’s made me realize how little I need it all. The chairs for the formal dining table that I really like but don’t use all that much, the boxes of books that, let’s be honest, I will likely never read in the next five years, the random thing-a-ma-bobs and do-dads that I don’t even know I have. If someone took these things, would I realize they were gone?

This comes at the same time as I decide over whether to get a new couch, the magenta one I really liked at IKEA that is perfectly Courtney-size and is longer than I am tall.

I’ve been thinking about why I haven’t, thus far, given up the extra “things” that I don’t use and don’t really care about having. Extra furniture, extra kitchenware– why hold on it?

I think it is a struggle that exists for many people, though. The fear of not having it in the future when you need it. What if I finally move into my own house and I need that 20 glass set? What if I have an unfurnished apartment on internship and that wingback chair I never really sit in and the sidetable that is really awkward and not very “me” could be used? We tend (can I be so bold to say we?) to keep things out of fear of future scarcity. Now, I know I’m not the first one to come up with this idea, but I realize how it has shaped the current layout of my apartment. I was given furniture and household items as handme downs and appreciate that I didn’t have to purchase them myself. But just because we are given something doesn’t mean we need it.

So this Advent season, and probably knowing how fast I work during January as well, I’m going to try to pare down on my possession. It’s not only because I feel convicted to live more simply, but because it’s actually pretty practical for me right now (I am stressed even thinking about moving-out at the end of the year). Whatever my reasons, though, I hope the process reminds me to be thankful for what I have, but also to work towards providing for others.