On Sunday, September 18, 2011, Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed the congregation at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of that lecture.
I’ve been aware that we’re in a very different era of communication. Of course these things seem to happen gradually, but then all of a sudden you look at it and go, “Oh Wow!” This very profound thing has happened and it seems to have snuck up on us. As you look at the front page of your program (this Miracles Monthly) you’ll see the very familiar icons for Facebook and Twitter. These are the two largest social media connections, web portals, that are out there.
I’d like to give a few statistics here. Facebook, as of July 2011 surpassed 750 million people listed. Facebook is on its way to getting a billion people hooked up with a Facebook page. That’s a huge percentage of the population of the world, not just of the United States. We don’t have 750 million people living in the United States. This is definitely a world wide phenomena. Facebook continues to grow worldwide. In the United States it has leveled off. I think Facebook feels that it has probably saturated the U.S. market now, but worldwide it is still growing. Just think of 750 million people. Facebook will probably reach a billion in the next year or two. Facebook was just launched February 2004. It’s not that old. It’s 7 ½ years old. Think about how fast this thing has been happening. Seven hundred and fifty million people in 7 ½ years.
Twitter, I read today, is up to 200 million people. Twitter started on March 2006. That’s only about 5 ½ years ago. More people are aware of Facebook than Twitter, but certainly a lot of people know Twitter as well. Twitter is what is called a S.M.S. which stands for Short Messaging Service. People send short, little messages, a maximum of 140 characters. Twitter allows you only 140 characters. While 140 characters doesn’t seem like much, you can send a web link within that and Twitter only counts the web link as 19 characters regardless of how long the web link is. Twitter has a way of coding any web link, regardless of the actual length, to 19 characters. So, you can type a sentence and then give a link. You send these short messages out. These short messages get broadcasted to everybody who is “following” you. These short messages are called “Tweets.” People who are following you can take your Tweet and then send it out to their followers. This is called “Retweeting.” Your Tweet can then spread. If you have a Twitter account and you also have a Facebook account, then you can Tweet on Twitter and Twitter automatically posts your Tweets on your Facebook Wall, which is where your Facebook messages are put. All these social medias get connected.
I now Tweet. I want you all to know that. If you are not following me on Twitter, then you are just behind the times! Get on Twitter and start following me because I try to Tweet several times a week. **
So much of this kind of communication seems to go on now. There is so much access to communication. I posted a picture on the Community Miracles Center’s Facebook page last night. It was a picture of the Fellowship picnic some of us went on yesterday to the San Bruno Mountain park. This morning someone I went to High School with saw it and wrote me. He wrote, “Hey Tony. Looking good.” The last time I talked to this guy was decades ago, maybe over 40 years ago. Suddenly, I get a message from him via Facebook.
There is a different kind of communication, a different kind of connection going on. It’s making email seem old fashioned. That’s a thought. Email has suddenly become old fashioned. Who would have thought something would come along and challenge email? That’s amazing. Things are really happening fast.
I hear a lot about Facebook and Twitter and there are pros and cons. A lot of people have a certain amount of fear of these things. Maybe apprehension is a better word. Some people don’t like them. There are people who don’t want anything to do with them. I want to explore that for a minute. Are these social media networks a curse, or are they a blessing? People like to rail against them. Some people talk about how Facebook and Twitter are breeding a generation of very detached people who are only relating in front of a computer screen, and who don’t have any true relationship skills when it comes to real flesh and blood people. Dissenters think that all this computer time isn’t good. People aren’t reading books anymore. People are not interacting with people enough. They just go quickly to their computer every chance they get to look at their Facebook page and to Tweet. Some people hide behind pseudonyms, handles, and false pictures. Do any of us truly know who we we are communicating with?
A big criticism is that these social media web portals are an invasion of our privacy. We don’t realize how many people have access to all this information about us. We think of this information as private, just for our “friends,” but then everybody seems to get into it. Is there really any privacy anymore? These are all very important ideas to think about.
First, I want to talk about privacy. With a lot of people, it’s just a given. We need to have privacy in our lives. It’s important. We don’t want an invasion of privacy. I think about some of the things that A Course In Miracles says, “When you have become willing to hide nothing, you will not only be willing to enter into communion but will also understand peace and joy.” (OrEd.Tx.1.26) What are we trying to be private about? Can we challenge the idea that we need to have private things? Can we ask ourselves, “What is it that I think I have to hide about myself and from whom? Who am I hiding this information from?” People think they are hiding it from the government, from businesses that want to get our private information so that they can send us ads. We think these kinds of things. I ask myself, can we really hide this information? Aren’t they all getting it anyway? I didn’t sign up for all the junk email I get. I’m getting it none-the-less. Institutions find out all my information regardless. They have my bank records, schools records. I don’t know how they do it, but what difference does it make. I might as well just hand it to them. I couldn’t get any more junk mail than I already get.
Junk mail isn’t new to email. We’ve been getting it for decades through the U.S. Postal service right in our mailboxes. No one has ever been able to stop that. Why do we think we can stop junk email?
Again, what am I trying to hide? What do I feel is so dark and negative or embarrassing, about me, that I wouldn’t want to bring it up into the light. Maybe it’s time I brought everything up into the light and offered it all up to be healed. Do I perceive such a hostile world out there, that wants to attack me and get something from me all the time, that I have to hide from it? Isn’t that just reinforcing the idea that there’s a hostile, fearful, dangerous world?
A Course In Miracles has two early Workbook lessons that are relevant to this discussion. “I am not alone in experiencing the effects of my seeing.” (OrEd.WkBk.18) “I am not alone in experiencing the effects of my thoughts.” (OrEd.WkBk.19) Our thoughts are not private. We have no private thoughts. Minds are one. It’s all one mind. All our thoughts are spreading in and through the one mind. It’s an illusion that certain thoughts are separate and private. They are all out there for everyone. I’m not saying we should all go out in the world and reveal everything about us after we walk out of here today. Now that is an interesting thought. Isn’t it? (laughter) I’m not saying we should do that, but what I am saying is maybe we could challenge the idea when it comes up that we need to protect our privacy. Think about it. What are we protecting, from whom, and why? Why do we want to do this?
A Course In Miracles tells us, “… it is only the hidden that can terrify, not for what it is, but for its hiddenness.” (OrEd.Tx.14.16) Things that we hide are actually scary. They are not scary in and of themselves, but because we make them scary by hiding them. We’re telling ourselves, “This is a dangerous thing.” I don’t want people to know this. This is dangerous!” That’s just reinforcing the belief in danger.
Here’s another quotation which is talking about the two steps that the A Course In Miracles healing process will take: “A. The recognition that darkness cannot hide. This step usually entails fear. B. The recognition that there is nothing you want to hide, even if you could. This step brings escape from fear.” (OrEd.Tx.1.23.24) What is it that we want to hide? The Course is challenging us. There is nothing that we should want to hide. This is regardless of the fact that we can’t hide it anyway. If we were to truly embrace these ideas we would be released from fear.
I am continually trying to challenge myself not to hide anything. I don’t know how much I need to say at any given time. There is certainly a difference between broadcasting everything from the podium and talking to a friend one to one. Those are different situations. There is a different appropriateness about those different situations, but I do want to challenge my belief that I have to protect myself by protecting information about an illusory life, and things I did in an illusory past. Do I need to reinforce the idea that this is a dangerous world? Do I really want to do that, and if so, how much?
A second thing I have been thinking about with Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, (which is another big social networking site) and how some people react against them is that the people I hear reacting against them are over 40. I don’t hear the 20 and 30 year olds reacting against these social network sites. The 20 and the 30 year olds have accepted them. They have some sort of intuitive sense that this is just the way it is now, and it is intuitively right for most of them. Why does it seem so wrong to some people who are older? Then, I remember when I was young. I remember my parents. Many things my younger generation was involved with seemed very wrong to them. Rock and Roll music was very wrong to my parents and their contemporaries. (laughter) Why didn’t we like regular, real music – real music where you could understand the lyrics? They would tell me about Andy Williams, Perry Como, (laughter) Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin – real music. My parents didn’t like the music I listened to.
This is exactly what is going on now. The older generation doesn’t like these things that the younger generation is into. These things seem subversive to the older generation in some way. There is a distrust, a fear. I remember when I was younger I told myself I was never going to be the way my parents generation was about new things. I wasn’t going to get into that “old” psychological space where I’m just afraid of everything new. I think this is another challenge that we need to make for ourselves. Facebook and Twitter are not going away. They’re not. Facebook is going to reach a billion people. It’s not going away. Do we need to keep reacting against it and think that it is a fearful thing? Let’s take a tip from the 20 and 30 year olds. They are in touch with an intuitive nature too. They haven’t internalized all of this fear that many older people have. Large social network sites seem intuitively right to them. Maybe we could embrace some of this fearlessness ourselves and make it intuitively right for us.
There obviously are some things to be cautious about when interacting with social media. If you are a representative in the United States Congress you probably shouldn’t be Tweeting nude pictures of your genitals to other people (laughter) because it’s going to come back to bite you in the butt – the opposite side of those genitals. You might just lose your career. I feel bad for Anthony Weiner. He may have been the first Representative hounded out of office for not doing anything illegal. It’s not illegal to send someone a private picture that might be considered lewd by some. It was inappropriate. It was inappropriate for a Congress person.
I do believe that we need to have an open mind. What’s going on is communication. What’s going on is connection. People are connecting with other people. People are connecting with people all over the globe. People are finding shared interests. People are creating their own form of entertainment. The YouTube phenomena is amazing. I came from a generation who basically sat and absorbed entertainment that a corporation thought was appropriate. I sat for countless hours in front of network T.V. when I was a child. I absorbed Leave It To Beaver and The Donna Reed Show. “Oh this is what life is supposed to be like.” Younger people now get on YouTube and create there own entertainment. Now television has to compete with our computers all the time. Not as many people go to their television set every night anymore. Many people go to their computers and start interacting with others. Is this really a bad thing? I don’t think it is.
Let’s think about the old Twelve Step slogan that we are as sick as our secrets. How many secrets do we want to have? If we do have a lot of secrets it is just an indication of how sick we are.
I think we are as old as we let our fears dominate our thought systems. Younger people don’t live in as much fear as a lot of older people do and younger people are – younger mentally. What I realize now is that my parents generation had a lot of life fears. They had lots of ideas that the world was dangerous. To them the world was dangerous. They had lived through the Depression and World War II. Their worlds had been more fearful. I didn’t feel that as a young person. That was not my reality. There is a tendency when we get older and have much more life experience – we got “hurt” and we made “beliefs” – and think we have to protect and defend ourselves. However, I think that as we accept those fearful ideas of defense we get older, and older, and older. Possibly, we get old in direct relation to the amount of fearful beliefs we accept about the world and ourselves.
Social media is not going away and I do not want to marginalize myself in the population thinking it’s somehow inappropriate for me. I’ve got my Facebook page. The Community Miracle Center has got a Facebook page. I’m putting pictures up of all our activities. I Tweet. The Community Miracles Center Tweets. Look us up on Twitter and Facebook. I challenge you all to let go of the idea that we need to be fearful of these things and instead open ourselves up to them. Let us not marginalize ourselves from the greater world.
That’s my talk for today. ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the September 2011 (Vol. 25 No. 7) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.