pay attention: setting boundaries and building community through technology


The new year came and I resolved to pay attention.


So far, this has been my favorite resolution to keep.


At the same time I am reading the book Boundaries.

Boundaries change everything.

They definitely affect my ability to pay attention.


I hadn't thought of myself as a boundary-less person . . .
the book has been around forever but I didn't think I needed to read it.
Somehow I had developed the perception that boundaries are selfish.
They're not.


I probably won't be writing any more about the book-
but I encourage anyone-
guilt-driven,
unable to say No . ..
to read this book.
Then, if you are a parent read Boundaries with Kids.


One of the places difficult for me to set boundaries is in (of course) technology.

If you have read this blog at all you are familiar with my continual grappling in this area.
Maybe I feel so frustrated by technology because it can end up controlling me.
(I actually feel guilty when I do not engage with friends' status on fb- which is so many levels of ridiculous.)

Wendell Berry said he is not anti-technology, he is pro-community.

(I read this somewhere and now I cannot find it- I hope it is true and that I attribute this to him correctly, it seems like a statement he would make.)

This has been my goal in January, to pay attention by setting boundaries with technology and, if possible, to seek community through technology.

I started by unsubscribing to any and every newsletter that was filling up my inbox.
So long, JCrew, Land's End, Eddie Bauer.
Good-bye Today's Christian Woman, I never read you anyway.

Next, it's blogs.
Anything too snarky, mean-spirited, anything leaving me insecure or anxious, with more pressure to do, be, perform. We only have so many minutes of this one wild and precious life and I refuse to spend any of them comparing myself to others. I am paying attention after all, and that means right here and now, this beautiful messy ordinary. Many blogs do just the opposite- rooting me deeper, shining light, and these I will always follow.

And of course, there is facebook.
Oh, why can't I just bring myself to delete my account completely?
(and why, facebook, must you have such an inelegant name? You would annoy me less if you weren't called facebook).

One would think that facebook is a way to build community, and it can, but after five years I do not necessarily feel closer to most of my friends, and often it seems to do the opposite.

There are exceptions. This is why I am still on fb:
1. My friends in other parts of the world or the country who I do not get to see and want to stay connected with.
2. I have some really intelligent friends and I enjoy their links and thoughts on things.
3. I sincerely love to be able to rejoice with and weep with my friends, and unfortunately fb seems to be the best way to do that.
4. The Onion.

I am in general remaining logged off, but for the times when I do log on I am once again guiltlessly, ruthlessly unsubscribing. This is the best way for me to build community on facebook- because I want to still like these friends, and that may be best protected if I am blissfully unaware of all of their opinions.

Some ways to build community with technology:

1. Our small group at church has been unable to work out a time that suits everyone to meet, and so we used Google+ for a hangout one night. It definitely doesn't take the place of meeting IRL, but it's a nice way to connect with a group of people.

2. I am liking Google+ more and more

2. Facebook threads; personal, thoughtful email; Skype

3. I have a friend who sends beautiful handwritten letters, I need to be better about sending mail.

4. I still find blogs to be my favorite online form of connection. Blogs can offer more than a detached thought or opinion; they are stories and journeys and can be vulnerable and honest and open, inviting thoughtful discussion and building community, even among people I have never met.

5. The very best way to build community through technology is still by turning it off.

How do you build community through technology?

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