If you Mute a Person’s Online Presence Think About These Things

Alan Jacobs wrote an excellent post on muting, and how we go about it, and why. Jacobs is responding to Noah Millman, who wrote a longer essay in The Week on muting. Millman claims that when we mute someone, we do it for ourselves, and it is not the best way of being a friend, or a citizen.

Jacobs answers:

First, when I have disengaged in this way I have indeed, and absolutely, done it for myself — but I don’t think that’s necessarily a reason not to do it. I find the online direhose of wrath and contempt and misinformation immensely wearying, and indeed depressing, and especially given the damage I have sustained from the unavoidable depredations of the Year of Our Lord 2020, I think there can be good reason for avoiding the depredations that are not necessary.

Second, I think that how you disengage matters. On many occasions I have decided to unfollow or mute or just ignore people I know IRL, and when these were just acquaintances it was a simple thing to do. But on the rare occasions when they were genuine friends it was complicated. In all such cases, I began by telling them that I had problems with their online self-presentation and that I wished they would behave differently. Memory may fail me, but I can’t at the moment remember an occasion when that intervention had any effect whatsoever. So eventually I unfollowed/muted/ignored — and I told them I was doing that, also.

In 2020 I decided to ditch Instagram and drop off Facebook. I quit checking Twitter in 2019. In every case, the decision I made to abandon those environments has proven to be the right one for me. I have more mental focus, I’ve freed up energy to read other sources of information, and I think my mental health is better. Plus, I’ve stayed in touch with friends and family via email, text messages, and phone calls. Such communication is more personalized. Sure, I miss out on bits of information and on occasion some important news. I’m living life as it was a couple of decades ago, B. S. M. (Before Social Media).

There is no obligation to be on social media. Maybe you love it, and you find it adds value to your life. Maybe, like Jacobs and Millman and so many others, maybe there are people in your social media environment that you have reason to mute, ignore, unfollow, or hide. If you do, it is at least worth considering the contours of these arguments, and to factor them in how you take action within these online environments (and offline in your relationships, if you read the rest of Jacobs’ post).

Kyle Smith Slams WW84 for its Shades of Blart

Having forsaken the charred moral landscapes of Nolan/Snyder but unable to match Marvel’s sly self-awareness, WW84 (like Aquaman before it) reverts to the mode of pre-2005 superhero movies built around campy set pieces and moronic plotting. Diana, for instance, comes across the plot’s instigator when she thwarts . . . a jewelry-store robbery in a shopping mall. A mall robbery? What is she doing at this crime scene in the first place? She’s supposed to be a goddess, not Paul Blart in a tiara.

Kyle Smith, “Movie Review: Where’s the Beef, Wonder Woman 1984?

Kyle Smith’s overall assessment of the DC Universe is one I agree with, and, despite his negative review of WW84, I still plan to see it (if I can find an open theater around here). As for the review excerpt I cited above, there is a world of difference between Kevin Smith and Gal Gadot, but Smith’s choice to compare these stars’ signature roles made me laugh, and also raises all kinds of amusing questions about the hero stories we tell, and how we tell them.

I loved Wonder Woman. And I’m bummed to hear the follow up may be a step backward for the franchise. I guess I’ll see what I think.

2020: My Year in Reading

This year, at least I’ve had books. Praise God! Annus horribilis is a Latin phrase that means “horrible year,” and seeing that nine out of ten physicians agree that this year called for more Latin, I thought I’d deploy it here. I don’t know Latin, but sophisticates and intellectuals I like to read have thrown this phrase hither and yon in these last days, so I picked it up, added it to my lexicon and began throwing it around myself. Why? I want to win friends and influence people.

I’ve tracked my books for the past ten years. Whoa! My last decade of reading is here.

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How Many Books Did I Read This Year?

My goal this year was to read 65 books. Turns out I had a little more time, hit the power-up button for reading speed, or grew a little more motivated. I made it to 86*. The first book I finished this year was the splendidly bearded John Michael Talbot’s The Jesus Prayer and the last book I finished was Charles C. W. Cooke’s Conservatarian Manifesto. I’m still reading comics on a regular basis: Detective Comics: BatmanGuardians of the GalaxyMiles Morales: Spider-ManX-Men, and Wolverine.

Here is the link to the full list of books I read this year, again, just in case you missed it.

I watched a lot of movies this year, too. Full length features, a lot of older films, documentaries, action, drama, and science fiction. When the global pandemic shut down professional sports, I cancelled our streaming television service, Sling. We signed on with Disney+ and bundled Hulu+ and ESPN+, and opened an account with Kanopy (free with my Baylor ID, since this service is available through the university’s library system). We have had Amazon Prime Video for several years. I had plenty of viewing options. The Disney+ subscription introduced my kids to Home Alone, and I was glad to see Star Wars be all it could be in The Mandalorian. The finale to season two was everything a fan could ask for, despite the villains being paper tigers.

Among my favorite films this year: The Sandlot, Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back, Kansas City Confidential, Alien, Predator, Crazy Rich Asians, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, Ford vs. Ferrari, Loving Vincent, Boxing Gym, Waco: Rules of Engagement, and Rashomon. The worst movies I watched were Alita: Battle Angel, Turbo Kid, and Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.

What Were My Favorite Books This Year?

I read Gregory White Smith and Steven Naifeh’s Van Gogh: The Life. Why? I was inspired to do so by my art teacher, Chad Hines. A few Van Gogh prints now hang on my office wall.

I read several excellent works of nonfiction: S. C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon, Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk, Thomas Sowell’s The Quest for Cosmic Justice, and Shelby Steele’s Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country. I really enjoyed Alan Jacob’s Breaking Bread With the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind and was compelled by the argument presented by Ross Douthat in his The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success.

My poet of choice was Seamus Heaney.

The best book on the Christian life I read was Sarah Ruden’s translation of Augustine’s Confessions. I read Karl Barth’s Dogmatics I.1. I liked the much celebrated Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer, though it is not without its problems. Richard Lovelace’s Dynamics of Spiritual Life is brilliant, and while it does slow down in sections, and it is certainly not for every person, it contains numerous insights for anyone interested in spiritual theology, discipleship, church renewal and revival, and spiritual formation. The best Christian leadership book I read, hands down, was Tod Bolsinger’s Tempered Resilience.

I read several novels. Among my favorites: Alex Landragin’s Crossings, Jose Saramago’s Blindness (a perfect read in a plague year), Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter (slow beginning, but incredible depth, particularly its development of religious themes), and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. I am also very glad I read Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

The best book I read this year was Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. I did not want it to end. I’ll recommend it to everyone until my death, and likely revisit it in a few years, Lord willing. A close second: Stephen Harrigan’s Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas. Let the words ring out: “God bless you, Texas! And keep you brave and strong, That you may grow in power and worth, Thro’out the ages long.”

Did You Hate Anything?

I didn’t care much for Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence or Sharon Olds’ Arias or Richard Blanco’s How to Love a Country. I didn’t like Steve Wilkens’ What’s So Funny About God? A Theological Look at Humor or Walter Brueggemann’s Materiality as Resistance or James K. A. Smith’s On the Road with Saint Augustine. George Will’s Conservative Sensibility was not that interesting (Will’s argument against theism was a yawner). Despite hearing people rave about Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit for years I found it blah. Bret Easton Ellis’ Glamorama was stupid, but maybe that was the point. James Fowler’s Stages of Faith, which I had been told many good things about, didn’t live up to the hype.

What Are You Reading Right Now?

Donald Worster’s A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir is my only active read, but I’ll soon pick up C. J. Sansom’s Tombland and Jerry Seinfeld’s Is This Anything?

What Did I Learn from My Experience Reading This Year?

My tastes are changing. I’m reading more history and more fiction, more poetry, and I’m particularly drawn to the novel. I like reading American history, and political philosophy. I have several nonfiction books lined up on my shelves, and I plan to spend some time this next year with the classics, like Homer, Horace, and Seneca.

What are you reading, and what should I add to my list?


* An earlier version of this post recorded I had read 85 books this year. But I had forgotten to note the completion of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden on my list! That’s a tremendous oversight, because I absolutely loved that book. Why? Because of what Steinbeck brings forth for discussion concerning human nature.

What is ASMR?

According to Cal Newport:

Around 2010, a curious new term arose in obscure but energetic internet chatrooms: autonomous sensory meridian response. ASMR, as it was soon abbreviated, described a peculiar form of paresthesia experienced as a tingling that starts in the scalp and then moves down the back. It’s often triggered by specific sounds, like soft whispering or a paintbrush scraping canvas. Not surprisingly, those sensitive to ASMR sometimes found Bob Ross reruns to be a reliable source of the effect.

Examples include Charles Dickens’ writing room (above), Newt Scamander’s study (Harry Potter universe), and this strange collection of sights and sounds:

This Old “Sunday’s Coming” is Still Contemporvant

I know this video has been around about a decade. But I’m bookmarking this to keep it in mind for my classes. Liturgy shapes us, even when we don’t call it liturgy, and we replicate what we see and experience. When it comes to “modern” worship, television has dominated our imagination, and has for the past four or five decades.

Digital media and the internet now shape how we think about leadership, community, modes of communication, etc. which will have implications for how we communicate about God, how we shape the worship gathering, and more. What does that mean for the future of Christian worship?

Caption This

Bible nerds might say Psalm 119:105.

Matthew 6:19-24?

Stories, proverbs, aphorisms, histories, epistles, myths, fables, tales, narratives, cultural assumptions, sayings are not only conveyed by the written word. The spoken word and visual media, photographs, electronic media, memes, other conveyances of the digital age, etc. all shape our vision, defining what we see.

What do you think of this image?

What does it capture?

What does it miss?

I think of Christian spiritual formation and the discipline of study and of the reading of Scripture, though I think the gaze shouldn’t be downward, but outward. Notice that the light is directed first toward the reader and taken in before it is directed outward, and that there is no light at all until the book is opened.

Other thoughts?