It Can Be Hard to Keep Track

Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis

This Week at Plymouth, June 14, 2024

I am finding it harder and harder to keep track
of the new gods and the new loves,
and the old gods and the old loves,
and the days have daggers, and the mirrors motives,
and the planet’s turning faster and faster in the blackness.

—Christian Wiman, “All My Friends are Finding New Beliefs”

Recently, I have confessed to friends how frustrating and dissatisfying I find social media. Perhaps the too-muchness of everything—the clickbait headlines, the conspiracy theories, the overwhelming number of movements and justice issues, the celebrity culture, and the fads, trends, and products—makes it hard to track what’s going on and keep steady amid so much change. But the dissatisfaction should come as no surprise, as researchers have consistently demonstrated the connection between social media use and increases in anxiety, depression, loneliness, and fear of missing out. However, short of those outcomes, there appears to be an impact on something more fundamental, like how we talk to each other, how we see others who are different from us, our grace toward and willingness to approach difference and the unfamiliar with curiosity. When does the dissatisfaction turn into feelings of threat?

The poet Christian Wiman explores how his friends’ interests, habits, and beliefs have changed as they’ve aged instead of focusing on the anxiety-inducing chaos of social media. But his experience feels like what the virtual world does to many of us. He honestly confronts the difficulty of understanding “the new gods and new loves, and the old gods and old loves” that his friends have embraced. Despite feeling threatened by his friends’ growing, unfamiliar preoccupations, his friendships endure. Amid the days that feel like daggers and mirrors that seem to have motives, a frightening, diabolically menacing strangeness to him, his love for “my friends, my beautiful, credible friends” remains. Perhaps the key to coping with the whirlwind of change and distraction is to love more deeply and compassionately and to resist letting the noise, junk, ideologies, conspiracies, and propaganda damage our connections, relationships, and community.

Yet, as we navigate the digital landscape, we are also increasingly confronted with the reality of mortality. Our exposure to constant news about war, death, and violence is a profound reminder of our human finitude—a concept that social media often obscures with its steady stream of updates and distractions. This continuous stream of information distracts us from reflecting on making the most of our time with family, friends, and loved ones. Keeping track of everything happening so quickly is challenging, but we can stay connected. We can sharpen our vision to see humanity striving, hoping, and reaching out amidst the chaos. We can help ourselves weather and combat anxiety, depression, loneliness, and the fear of missing out by allowing ourselves to be loved, held, and seen by others. May it be so.