Stepping away from social media.

I quit MySpace in 2006. I stopped texting in 2007. I deactivated my Facebook account in January. And in keeping with tradition and conviction, after a few years in its bonds, I quit Twitter last week.

My journey into a world sans social media seems to strike nerves, even in strangers.

“Why are you trying to shut yourself out from the world?” -an old friend.

“Facebook is an amazing application to keep in touch with old friends. (You have) some social interaction issues to deal with.” -some stranger.

“It sounds like YOU have the issues, not Facebook … you took it too seriously.” -some other stranger.

“You’re just trying to hide from modern inventions.” -guy I’ve never met.

Forgive my being blunt, but way to miss the point.

Social media is to relationships what fast food is to nutrition. It makes us feel like we’re getting what we need, but compared to what we really need, what we get is insubstantial. For the lonely, the bored, the socially awkward or the socially phobic, it — in the long run — perpetuates what it’s supposed to alleviate. It teaches us to value the reaction to what we express more than we value the opportunity to express it. It casts the vote for convenience, further supressing the ability to wait.

It enables us to avoid. It creates an illusion of busy-ness. It distracts us. And I don’t want the use of it to play a big role in my life.

I don’t disagree, though, that social media has benefits. Even I’ve reaped them. I have friends I wouldn’t have without social media. I’ve scored interviews solely because of it. But I can make friends and score interviews without it, too.

I very well may be a neo-luddite. And maybe that means my life will be only more complex for opting out of all extra ways to communicate and my friends won’t be my friends anymore because it’s too much work. Maybe I’ll never be invited to another party because Facebook will monopolize the invitation industry and I’ll be single forever because meeting people like our parents met people is officially passé. Maybe stepping away from social media is condemnation to a life inside a hermitage, a life out of the loop. Maybe the stranger is right: I am the one who takes it all too seriously.

Maybe.

But I doubt it.

One day, I realized how unimportant these loops are. Why do I need to be in them? How do they help me to more wholly live my life? Why do I need to know what TV show so-and-so is watching? How much better is my life for knowing that lead vox in a band at a bar in Ybor just spilled his beer on the stage? Why, when people spend more time uploading photos from a party than fully being present at the party and sleep with their cell phones and read and respond to text messages from behind the steering wheels of moving motor vehicles, am I the one who takes this stuff too seriously?

I understand, though, why it strikes a nerve. And I appreciate the reasons some choose to stay. But for me, stepping away from social media, so far, is like liberation. And I look forward to learning what life really looks like without it.

My prayer for you. Yes, you!

A Four-fold Franciscan Blessing

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator, Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour, and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you and remain with you, this day and forevermore.

Amen.

Why I Love Halloween

This post originally appeared on Catholic Revolutionaries. I wrote it a week after Halloween last year. As the holiday approaches, it’s been on my mind. So, I thought I’d share!

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Last weekend, my dad dumped a giant bag of fun size candy bars into a giant bowl. I peered out the window.

“I wonder when trick-or-treaters will get here,” I thought out loud, watching my neighbor — a space alien that night — decorate a tent in her driveway across the street. “I wonder how many we’ll get!”

When the kids finally came, clad in costumes like Spongebob and ninja and princess, I reached into the bowl of candy and tossed some of it into their plastic pumpkins and pillow cases. They thanked me, mostly, and their parents waved. And between each ring of the doorbell, I really couldn’t contain my excitement.

I love Halloween. I always have. This year, I think I’ve figured out why.

As a kid, I didn’t care much for the candy (maybe minus Twix), but the experience made me glow. I’d dress up like a gypsy, a witch or a cowgirl and traipse around suburbia knocking on doors, trick-or-treating. Something in the sometimes crisp Florida fall air and in the rubbing elbows in the streets with kids and parents I’d otherwise never meet just made me giddy. For one night — just one — we’d all let down our guard.

As a trick-or-treater, I’d wave at people I’d never met. I’d skip across streets and when cars came by, their drivers would smile and stop until we’d crossed. As an adult, I watch my quiet neighborhood come to life. I embrace the one night when suburbia welcomes the stranger.

That’s why I love Halloween.

In a neighborhood of folks who stay separated from their nameless neighbors by fences and closed garage doors and “our convenient Lexus cages,” to quote Switchfoot, everything changes for a night. We don’t get suspicious when strangers walk past our houses. We don’t yell at them if they cross the grass. We invite them to our homes. And then we give them things.

Imagine a world where every day felt like that. But instead of candy, we could give guests what they need.

“Instead of monsters and zombies, people could not dress up as anything,” my best friend Laurel said the other day. We could all just try to be like Jesus. If only it didn’t take a mask to get us to welcome a stranger, and it didn’t take candy to get them to come. And in other ways, if only every day could be more like Halloween.