Facebook Timeline: narcissism or spiritual formation?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

So, I just activated the new Timeline today, and it was a fascinating experience. Primarily, I noticed that my 15 minutes of allowed social web time on Chrome ran out very quickly.* I wasn't spending a lot more time looking at others' pages, new Twitter accounts, recommended friends, or any of the other normal rabbit trails that make you lose 15 minutes in the blink of an eye. Instead, I was deep in the historical archives of my own Facebook page.

When the message popped up, Shouldn't you be working?!* I was forced to think, what have I been doing for 15 minutes? I was looking through old photographs. Oh yes, I remember meeting up with those girls at the Japanese place for Rachel's birthday? or was it Erin's? I was perusing old Facebook wall messages. Apparently my college roommate, Roomie, and I were very concerned about graduating and not seeing each other all the time. There's plenty of What will I do without you? going back and forth. Ha!

Then I wondered, is this narcissistic? I certainly could get lost in the annuls of the past 7 years of my life and spend plenty of time passing judgment on myself for past relationships or dumb pictures that are now permanently on the web. Or I could relish so much in past trips and graduations that I fail to lose myself in where I am right now.

Or, could this even be a spiritual formation exercise? Larry and I have been spending the past few months in a series of self-evaluation activities. We've developed rules of life, a la St. Benedict. We've drawn timelines to trace education, relationships, moves, victories. We've analyzed core lies and designs. By Tuesday, I'll have written more than 90 pages on myself. (Don't worry, I'm not going to post it or anything.) The point is, all that looking back with the guidance of the Holy Spirit has helped me to see where God was providentially moving in the places of opposition and of rest in my life. It's helped me to see that I've been designed uniquely in such a way that my giftings are revealed whether I was working as a telemarketer, a seminarian, or a project manager. I function in relationships similarly whether we're talking about my marriage, my friendships, or my family. All this has been a spiritual formation exercise. It has helped me to understand where I am right now and how the Lord is currently teaching me.

So I'm thankful for the question, Shouldn't you be working?* It called me to attention. And I think that's the point. You could waste endless hours reflecting on highs and lows of past places in your life. Or you could look back in order to see where God is moving you now. You might just find that you enjoy yourself and can even look back at that 21st birthday party with a grin and a prayer of thanksgiving.

*If you want to discipline yourself, too, you can add the Chrome extension Stay Focusd. You can set a time limit, and it'll cut you off from any site you want after a certain amount of time.