Facebook and Twitter: Quaker 2.0 technologies

Today’s Times article on Facebook captures a lot a great insight into the connundrum of web 2.0 and it’s meaning to social networks of the future.  Covering the connective and disruptive power of uniting social groups under one public communication tool, journalist Brad Stone brings the wonderousness of reuniting families who have been long separated or estranged with the tragedy of a exec who Facebooked his way to being fired after he criticized a co-worker.

Quaker plain speech, as translated into our 21st century world, offers itself as a strong way to move between all social networking groups.  Characterized as simple and democratic speech, plain speech doesn’t depend on who you are talking to, but offer something to everyone who hears it.  The simplicity of the message can bring unity between people and remind us that something that is said online should match with what is said in public.  Aren’t they one and the same in today’s interconnected world?

Of course, privacy settings, visibility status, multiple/fake accounts, and development of niche social networking sites can continue our sectionalized online life where speech can remain segregated between groups.  However, interconnections can now be built between disparate areas of online speech via RSS, cross-posting, and other push-technologies (a la “your Twitter is in my Facebook” one-post-to-many-sources solutions) where there were previously fixed separations.  Web 2.0 technologies giveth and they can taketh-away,

Now, more than ever, “let your yea be yea and your nay be nay” (Matthew 5:37) brings bearing to an ever-connecting world.  Quaker plain speech, simple and caring, can bring light where conflict arises, take away the power of “truthiness,” and help build a stronger connection between the inner and outer self.

Headphoneless: connecting to community

As part of a conference on Convergent Friends I went to a few weekends ago, I realized that one of my urban tools, headphones, were getting in the way of my connection to my community.

One of my previous posts mentioned my love, fascination, and complex relationship I have with my noise-canceling headphones.  I fell in love with them and their blessed ability to remove noise, creating a better BART ride, lower the volume on my iPod, and promote a calmer traveling experience.  What I didn’t count on was my disconnection from the world.

Public transit’s great, but I do miss the solitude of the car–listening to the radio or my own mix was a great way to pass the time and educate myself when I was growing up traveling those long Maine-distances between towns on the country roads.  Nowadays, I plug in, walk out my door and have a 30-minute walk/transit to work and do the same thing with headphones and iPod.  But what’s missing?  Why do I continue to isolate myself from others, the same as in a car, while being in community with my fellow travelers?

This idea came to me when we discussed the concept of “Quaker plain”–how early Quakers, in their quest to be closer to God avoided distractions in the physical world.  Clothing became functional, avoiding frills (even shirt collars and belts were forgone for collarless shirts and suspenders), speech became more direct, and other moves toward a simple life so as to give more attention to God.  I realized that my headphones were not creating silence, but creating a distraction from the world, an ability to trade a personal, inward growth and satisfaction over the challenges and beauty the world offers.

One idea that developed from that discussion was having an Internet Sabbath, a day free of digital connection.  I could hear groans in the room.  These days, this is pretty challenging for many young Friends.  But this, in truth, is another distraction.  Yes, a useful tool, but not a necessary one–like a collar.  I’m noticing, however, that there is something developing among young Friends called “New Plain” which this might fit into.