Occasions for Pleasure, No Place for Joy
I'm going to make what, to anyone who has watched my Tin Whistle videos on YouTube, may be a startling admission: I regret doing it. I began posting videos seven years ago, just after I moved to Fordham University, because I had the in-built computer technology to do so. When I was later asked to teach a course on the Tin Whistle, I made use of YouTube to make sure each week's lessons were posted.
Several times each week, I receive a note from a viewer who will say something like, "I just wanted to thank you for the free lessons on the Internet. I live in a place without any Irish music teachers and your lessons are the only way I can learn." I'll admit - I do think that's pretty cool and, honestly, I'm glad to have provided a service.
Nevertheless, I still regret that I ever did it.
Not because of the good it has shared with others but because, after a lot of reflection, I realize that it has had a corrosive effect on my spirit.
Each time I post a video - and I posted one last night - I am beset with an enormous temptation to watch the view counts, to count the number of likes, and to read the comments as they are posted. Last night, for instance, I posted a video and then went to dinner with a friend. At some point, I needed to use the bathroom and actually took my phone with me so that, after I'd washed my hands, I could "check" to see how the video was doing.
It came as a jolt: I was putting a metric, a number, over time with a friend. I had put something out to an anonymous audience and I was worried more about what they thought than I was about my friend.
Then I got to thinking: this has become a pattern. Twitter, Facebook, the Blog: I actually worry about numbers, about who is reading, about what people are or, worse, are not saying. I regret having to say it, but I'm implicated in a culture of instant gratification where moments of occasional pleasure matter so much.
Pope Francis, quoting Paul VI, observes that our "technological society has succeeded in multiplying occasions of pleasure, yet has found it very difficult to engender joy."
I became a Jesuit because I desired to have and to share the joy of the Gospel, not to accrue "likes" and "re-tweets." I'll disable Twitter today and I need to consider how best to approach Facebook and YouTube. I'll keep the blog because it's my online journal, a chronicle of my ongoing formation.
Please don't interpret this as a dark post! Consider it a pivot, a renewal of spirit. I'm confident that social media can be a great tool for evangelization...it's just that I'm not strong enough to resist some of its temptations to make it "all about me."
I don't need a legion of followers on Twitter to tell me who I am. Nor do I need blog hits and Facebook likes to affirm me.
I need, I want, but one thing: to be a follower of the One who is enough for me and, in coming to know such joy, share that joy with others.