A Lenten offering of being fully present

Jesus Martha Mary

Image by Nancy Bauer/Shutterstock.

Finding a balance in life seems to be a never-ending challenge. There’s the work-play balance, spend-save balance, picking your battles-choosing your compromises balance, and many more.

One challenge that I’ve become increasingly aware of is the balance between digital presence and personal presence—social media or “social me.”

Social media is efficient. We can get a lot of communicating done with our smart phones and laptops, and we’re doing more and more of it. The Statistics Portal estimates that in 2016 the average person spent almost two hours daily on digital social networking.

Social me is not so efficient. When there are moments of downtime scattered throughout the day, I reach for my smart phone to fill in that time and check in on Facebook friends and family. Personal phone calls and visits don’t always make the cut. It’s just too easy to like and scroll.

We’re wired to our devices when really, we humans are wired for real connectivity. Too much social media can make us more efficient with our relationships, but less effective. Most of us would much rather receive the warmth of a phone call or visit from a friend than a sterile like on our Facebook status.

Nobody would want to go back to the days before digital communication. Our life is better with technological advances. Sometimes a comment on Facebook is all the time we have to let someone know that we’re thinking of them. And that’s something. Being on the receiving end of those comments is also appreciated.

But back to balance. Five or 50 “likes” still isn’t equal to one real and meaningful conversation where we are listened to and heard. Digital presence is fine if it doesn’t usurp personal presence. Time spent on social media should at least not surpass time spent enjoying phone calls and visits.

Recognizing my own increasing use of social media, I decided to make Lent the time to cut back on keypads and ramp up on personal conversations. Like any habit, it’s been surprisingly hard to make an adjustment. My goal is to limit my daily social media time to the same amount of social me time that I’m able to treasure—to find a balance. Electronic conversations still happen, but not more so than the personal ones.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus teaches how important it is to be fully present to others. He visits two sisters, Martha and Mary. Martha busies herself with tasks in an effort to be a good hostess, while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens intently to him. And of this Jesus says, “Mary has chosen the better part…” Offering food and drink remains a great act of hospitality, but it is not more important than listening to and connecting with your guest.

Social media will never be a suitable substitute for “social us.”