Giving a hearty welcome to Zondervan today!
I wanted to quit the internet again today.
Surely, you’ve had these days, too. Right? Where the dialogue over the controversy du jour has reached fever pitch and everyone is screaming at everyone in 140 characters or less? You know what I’m talking about. And it’s REALLY easy to get sucked in. I did for about five minutes, but then I closed the lid on my laptop and walked away slowly. As soon as the laptop shut, it felt like the muscles in my chest released, I took a deep breath and could pull my shoulders back. Even my posture when observing internet battles is defeating.
This week, it was a Supreme Court ruling. Tomorrow, it could be a careless tweet or blog post from a famous pastor. Or maybe an off-color remark from a celebrity. It’s always something, it’s always loud, and it’s always exhausting.
I don’t want to suggest that productive dialogue can’t happen in social media. Surely not. I think some of the best and most thoughtful conversations and commentary are happening online these days. But for some reason, our screens provide us with a false sense of anonymity and security, both of which seems to give the illusion that we have carte blanche to say whatever we want, however we want. We forget that behind the screens, there are real people with real emotions and most importantly, real stories that inform those closely-held opinions.
None of us are immune to our own experience. We all have rose-colored glasses on, and when it comes to any host of issues, none of us are truly “objective.” Our stories – everything that we’ve been through in our lives – directly informs our opinions, politics and theology. The problem with the sound-bite culture of the internet is that there’s very little space to explain and understand each other’s stories in their full context.
This is where blogging, along with events like Allume, come in.
Blogging is sort of a funky platform. It’s got all the draws of the fast-paced culture of the internet (nobody likes to read 1500 word blog posts, am I right?), but it provides space for more nuance and dialogue, in a way that Twitter and Facebook can’t. Rather than 140 characters, you’ve got around 1,000 words to paint a picture, give context and most importantly, be vulnerable with people around the world in an instant. The blog can be on of the most powerful & effective places for you and others to tell and listen to each others’ stories.
Because really, that’s what it all boils down to. Our stories. It’s the stuff we’re all made of, the thread that runs through each of us. We all have a story. We’ve heard a lot about Story lately, it’s a pretty big buzzword in Christian culture these days. But I think it’s become popular because it’s actually really important. When we start being vulnerable and honest with the people around us (yes, even on the internet!) with the things we’ve been through, the ways we fail, the way Jesus has shaped us, it simply opens up the door for someone else to say, “Hey, me too!”
The culture of the internet has worked like a vacuum, violently sucking the life and humanness out of our cultural issues, out of our politics and out of our theology. They’ve become empty, hollow, full of cliché and void of empathy. By sharing and listening to each others stories, it injects the person back into the conversation. All of a sudden, we’re not just talking about a Supreme Court decision anymore, we’re talking about an actual person that was affected. It changes the game entirely.
I think it’s time for us to start changing the game in a big way. As you start to prepare for your time at Allume, I pray that you would be given a new sense of bravery and vulnerability. I pray that you would begin to write with a little more gusto, a little more power, a little more courage.
I pray that bravery gives you the courage to share pieces of yourself that could open the door for someone else to walk through and say, “Hey, me too!” And during your time at Allume, I pray that you are equipped to tell your stories in prophetic new ways.
Nish Weiseth is an author, storyteller, speaker, advocate, and trouble maker with a serious Dr. Pepper addiction and affinity for Texas barbecue. She’s amazing at talking about herself in the third person. It makes her feel important. Her first book, “Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World” is being published by Zondervan and will be released in August of 2014. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband and two kids.