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Summer 6: Life without social media

Summer 6: Life without social media

Summer 6: Life without social media

23 January 2020

“I want my relationships to be of substance and depth,” – Envoy Craig Stephens. 

By Craig Stephens

The beautiful thing that Jesus has done in my heart is to bring about real substance and depth in my life. I was living life a ‘mile wide and an inch deep’ and he brought me into a place of just appreciating far more tangible and substantial things in people and in life.

When social media was becoming a ‘thing’, I was immersed in over a thousand different relationships within the context of my ministry at a local government housing estate in Sydney. My relationship world was very, full.

Craig and Danni Stephens lived and served at Ivanhoe Estate, a public housing suburb of Sydney, for 11 years.

When I transitioned from that context into managing a Recovery Services Centre on the NSW Central Coast [The Salvation Army’s Dooralong Transformation Centre], my email inbox got smashed with several hundred emails a day – something that has become the new ‘normal’ for any office worker today. To say I felt stretched was an understatement. I certainly wasn’t looking for another means of communication in or out. So, I made a decision to not switch on social media, because I really didn’t want to make another avenue available, either to generate communication or receive communication from.

I also, very determinedly, have in my heart a desire to be properly in relationship with people – to do physical relationship, connected relationship with people to the degree that I can. I do have a concern that while we can connect through social media, the depth and the quality and the substance of that, well I’m just not convinced that we can get out of it what real human relationships need.

I’m very intentional about the relationships that I have and want them to be meaningful; I want them to be relationships of substance and depth, which means I have to pick up the phone and talk to people. It requires that I go over to their home and visit with them or plan a coffee with them at a local café, and do the things that I feel are substantial relationship things.

Yes, I miss out on more broader and general announcements and so on, in the social sphere, but I just have to cop that one on the chin if I’m trying to manage substantial relationships, rather than peripheral ones.

Being a Salvation Army officer, your relationship sphere is always a stretching one. We weren’t called to live small lives; we were called to live substantial lives. There’s always going to be some sense of stretching as we serve the Kingdom and Jesus. To be available, relationally, is a very great grace. I feel like I have the capacity for that stretch today.

Social media can be an intrusion, so, not signing up to Facebook, Instagram and the likes has created space in my life for substantial relationships with people.

If you feel your life is spread across a thousand conversations and never getting to that genuine, heart-to-heart connection with people, see it as a trigger, or an alert to the fact that something’s not quite right. Let’s get to where things are real. Let’s develop the beautiful grace of availability for people, being present with people, rather than developing our online presence – just a thought.

 

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