The age of idleness.


The word is idleness. That’s the word that flew out from my lips as I meandered through the rows of chairs in the church auditorium, placing my hand on each seat.

I joined a prayer team last month at my church. The prayer team is basically the people who come in before and after the events and cover the whole thing in prayer. I like this job. I like being able to talk to God and listen as I say prayers over every seat. It keeps me optimistic and open. I want people to have whatever encounter with God they feel they need to have.

The word that I kept hearing as I prayed is that one mentioned above: idleness. I go to a dictionary the next day to read the definition. Idleness is basically the sister of laziness. Idleness is taking precious time and not using it for good or productive things.

As I am thinking about this word, I think about social media. I think about all the time I am prone to wasting when I pick up my phone and begin scrolling.

 

I’m fearful sometimes. I don’t want to give fear a big role in this story but I am scared sometimes of who we are becoming when we focus so much on watching other people live their lives. We have our own lives to live but we would rather be spectators. Assuming the role of a spectator is easier than going out and living. Watching and interpreting from behind a screen is easier than reaching out to have the hard conversation.

We do it more habitually now. We consume Facebook statuses, tweets, stories, and snaps. We peek into the lives of other people and, whether we admire or envy them, we allow their daily routines to seep into us and take space in our hearts.

I think there is a fine line between consuming content because we adore it and it inspires us and then consuming because we feel bored or we think we feel entitled to the pieces of someone else’s life. I say all of this because I have struggled firsthand with it. I have gone from watching stories innocently to suddenly being unable to control my emotions of envy, jealousy, or comparison with another person. I watch to stay in the loop. I watch to keep an eye on the person.

For a long time, I allowed social media to dictate my emotions and I floundered because of it. This does not help me. It only hurts me. I stopped watching these stories eventually. I turned a new leaf for myself.

 

I’m a believer that we either give people life or we give them death. That sounds pretty serious. I try to remind myself of this death/life dichotomy when I am going online to post something. I try to ask myself the necessary questions: Is this important? Do people need this? Am I posting because I feel full or because I feel empty? If I am not giving something to the world then maybe I am taking something way from it.

If I cannot find a reason in myself– or if I am posting out of a need for validation– then I try to step back and reevaluate. I think the more followers you have, the more weight you carry as an influencer. I want to take that influence seriously. I want to be able to say, when all is said and done, I steered people in a direction that made them feel safe, seen, valuable and able. I don’t want to say I used social media only to puff myself up and give myself false feelings of being safe, seen, valuable and able.

 

In my senior year of college, the administrators of our clubs on campus made all the student leaders participate in a service day. We scattered all over Worcester sweeping sidewalks and reading to the elderly.  I ended up playing cards at a nursing home with a group of women were around age 80 and upwards.

Maggie was the queen bee of the card game that day. She was the most outspoken of the bunch. I made the mistake of checking my phone while waiting for Maggie to make her next move. I was probably waiting on a text from a guy, fishing for some sort of approval. I don’t remember.

“I don’t understand all you young people,” Maggie said, directing her comment at me without a tinge of hesitation. “You are always talking to one another on a screen. My grand-daughter talks to all her best friends on a screen. That is not a best friend, I want to tell her! You need to be able to see your best friend, touch your best friend, smellllll your best friend.”

That conversation was 7 years ago. I still remember it. It still sticks in my brain as I recall Maggie playing gin. I didn’t know, and Maggie didn’t know, that social media was just beginning back then. We’d yet to see an era where business happened on a screen, friendships blossomed and broke on a screen, and texts became the way to reach out and ask: are you okay? The year is 2017 and, still, nothing can replace the feeling of someone sitting beside you and learning to cradle your pain like their own.

I think we can either participate in each other’s lives relentlessly or we can watch from the sidelines. Life never called us to the sidelines. It never asked us to watch people go through life from behind a screen. So when did we bench ourselves? When did we accept 2-d versions of ourselves as being enough for other people?

 

One day I’ll be the new Maggie. I’ll be playing gin and hoping people remember to feed me. I don’t know what the world will look like when that happens. All I have in my possession is this meager time in between. I want to fill it with real stuff. Tangibility. People meeting up. Friends showing up at my door with food. I want meal trains and conversations where the wine runs out. I want a collection of those thick moments you have when you sit with someone and you don’t say anything. The pain is thick but you stay. You stay and you wait for the resolution to arrive. You quit waiting for the lightbulb to go off in the room and you wake up long enough to see: you are the lightbulb. You are the carrier of that necessary light.

I want the richest life and I am making my steps towards it. I want to say I am making progress. With each moment where the phone stays face down on the table and I pull my husband in for a kiss, I stay and make progress. In order to make progress, I think you have to stay in moments long enough to feel them wash over you. Feel the pain. The love. The lack. The weight of being human. It’s rich. Really, it’s the opposite of idle.

18 thoughts on “The age of idleness.

  1. This is great. I moved to Nashville a few years ago and am now putting down some roots. I’m developing new friendships and rather than keep up with their lives” on insta, I’m really trying to get to know them in person and through shared experiences. Here is my big question that I’m wrestling with: what if your best friends (true forever friends) live out of state? I want to “see their faces and smell them even,” but I literally can’t afford it. How do I let them know they are still a priority?

    1. Such a good question! I live in DC, all literally all but my boyfriend are back home in Northern VT. I make one day of every trip home for the holidays a friend day to see everyone. In between I send cards and letters and often will make small care packages for big day I am missing. When my best friend has her heart broken I always send reasonable flowers

  2. How did you overcome those emotions of envy and jealousy when getting caught up in social media? Did you just separate yourself from it? Or was it a long process?
    I struggle with that, the competition of proving whose life is better than whose, envy and judgement. I know those emotions aren’t from the Lord and I should separate myself from whatever makes me feel that way but it’s so. hard. sometimes. Help!

    1. You need to understand that it is YOUR life that should matter the most. You should not compare it to anyone else’s because no two lives are alike. Some people seem perfect “on paper”, but you have no idea what happens behind closed doors.

      Studies have shown that people rarely post anything negative on social media; just the best, making you think their life is picture perfect. Yep, life is not fair and some are “luckier” than other, but try not to focus on that, but on how you can improve YOUR life so it is up to YOUR standards.

      Good luck!

  3. Oh dear, I’m going through that too lately. Thanks for sharing and opening up, Hannah. Though social media can be used positively, there is still that danger of using it too much… I’m currently in that stage where sometimes I would post, and I would see that no one or just one person liked it, I already feel like I’m invisible, a nobody, and I amounted up to nothing. Getting unseen in social media is pretty obvious. And it’s getting poisonous the more I attach my identity and worth to it. We’re giving room for pride, envy, and yes, idleness to grow in that space. Thank you for sharing the questions you ask yourself when you’re about to post something too. It helps to evaluate first if what we’re posting is for God and for lifting others up and not validating ourselves. Go, Hannah. Thanks for your honesty. We can all grow from this! 🙂

  4. Lovely post! I feel this issue acutely myself. I feel like since I moved out of my family’s home and started Uni in a way I met so many more people and had more interesting experiences than ever. At the same time living alone (flatmates don’t count when you’re all working and don’t see each other all that often) allows you to get into a routine of your own which very much consists of checking social media and watching Netflix as there is no one you’re obliged to have dinner with and chat face to face to when you’re on your own. I wish checking social media wasn’t the first thing I felt the urge to do every morning but it seems like I and most of my generation have developed an almost unhealthy curiosity about other people’s lives. I do hope that we’ll find a way to learn to experience life again without looking at a phone screen 🙂

  5. Lovely post! I’m glad I stumbled on to it. I cannot agree more with you. But spending more time on the social media is considered ‘normal’ these days so it’s a problem very difficult to detect. I have seen both sides of the situation. We didn’t have phones till we completed school and the happiness and contentment that mark those days is absent today. We used to have more time those days. And our free time wasn’t spent scrolling through somebody else’s lives. We would go outside, take a stroll, meet new people, meet up with old friends in a bookshop. Those days were the best. So thanks for the post. You got me reminiscing. I could write a poem now 🙂

  6. Yes Hannah, I absolutely agree. It was a fun coincidence that I got this post of yours as I had just written one titled: “Hi, my name is ____, and I’m addicted to my Smartphone” on my blog. I guess I don’t hate technology or even social media, but I think we are too lax with putting up boundaries about how we use it. It’s still a new thing and we haven’t seen the ripple effect of how all these changes will play out in our lives- good or bad.

    As always, thank you for your kind, genuine and inspiring writing. Keep it up.

  7. Hi Hannah!

    Thank you for your writings and vulnerable reflections. They’ve been like gifts of grace for me.

    In 2015, I graduated from college and entered into a season of loneliness and worry. Recently, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. Since graduating, I’ve been praying for authentic, consistent spaces of community. Yet, the journey has been difficult and sometimes discouraging. Your blog has helped me to keep faith and savor my life.

    I’m still striving to compare myself to others less and cease my addictive social media use. I’m still striving to feel at peace with who I am and where I’m planted. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for your stories. They mean something real.

    Sincerely, Jess

  8. Hi, I found your blog true and exactly the problems and worries in my life. The aspirations. I open my phone everyday and wonder if I open my phone and stear away from people and from what is going on or what I could be doing around me. This is the first blog I have read on WordPress. I have published a beginner blog and It would be great if you could guide me to how to post it on the main view WordPress to get replies or comments and share with people?
    Rebecca

  9. Hi,
    I have found the blog true and what worries and problems I have to have real worthwhile conversations and spend time with people. Your blog fits to the worries I have in life. I open my phone everyday and turn from people rather than being open. I find that I am on my phone instead of doing and being apart of what’s around me. This is the first blog I have read and I would like to ask how to share the blog on sharing blogs to share my blog and have replies and comments.

  10. Speaking truth to our generation and the ones to come. Thank you, as always, for your words, Hannah.

    On Fri, Jun 9, 2017 at 9:48 AM, HANNAH BRENCHER wrote:

    > hb. posted: ” … The word is idleness. That’s the word that flew out from > my lips as I meandered through the rows of chairs in the church auditorium, > placing my hand on each seat. I joined a prayer team last month at my > church. The prayer team is basically the p” >

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