The Table Video

Gerald Sittser

Are You a Social Media Voyeur? [From the Table #3]

Professor of Theology / Senior Fellow in the Office of Church Engagement, Whitworth University
September 26, 2014

The world of social media encourages a social, relational voyeurism, Jerry Sittser suggests. We prefer to look on, and be looked upon, rather than to interact and be present to the moment. But Jerry has discovered a very effective treatment for this: adopting spiritual disciplines in a community, intentionally fasting from technology, and seeking to live in the present moment. Jerry Sittser is author of A Grace Disguised, and professor at Whitworth University. Music: “Higher Still” by David Arnold/Cinema Cycle (cinemacycle.bandcamp.com)

Transcript:

We’re always sort of watching. We’re always spectating. We’re always on the margins of things looking in somebody else’s life and kind of hoping, hoping they’ll look in on our life too. And it’s turned us into a kind of culture of social voyeurs. I take students about every other year up into the mountains for a three-week class during June term and it’s called Christian spirituality. We kind of study the history of Christian spirituality. We read a lot of primary texts. Students follow them and ask routine, they worship four times a day, they serve each other. There’s a lot of quiet and so on but I have them fast from all media for the month, so they can’t check Facebook, they can’t email, they can’t text, they can’t talk on the phone, their cell phones, they can’t look at Instagram, nothing there. They go cold turkey and the first few days, not all of them, but many of them are somewhat agitated by what’s going on and in retrospect this is what I’ll hear them say something like, “I feel like I’m missing out”, “I’m not able to follow my friends on Facebook”, “I’m not able to text back and forth.” And it’s curious to me that they use that word missing out and I sense that in a world that is so saturated by social media are so connected to so many people. I wonder if we’re so connected, we’re not really connected at a more intimate level with anyone and what happens to them after maybe four or five days a week is that they they start to be present to what is happening right there. And they start to see that where God is their life is. And that God can be there with them, when they’re studying, when they’re praying, when they’re preparing meals, when they’re doing dishes, and they end up becoming more present to the actual experience and more confident. That what is happening right there and right then is significant, it’s it’s spiritually significant for them. So they start to inhabit time and be present to what is going on right then, in a way that’s rich and full and meaningful to them. It’s actually quite a lovely discovery and I think all of this goes together. They they shed this kind of imprisonment, enslavement would be a better word, enslavement to the world of social media and they become more present to what is happening right then and there. [calm relaxing music]

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