Hypothesis: More people pray when scrolling on Facebook then in church.
Here is a bit of observational comedy I have tried to say from stage, but has fallen flat: "The number of friends you have on Facebook is directly proportional to how long it takes you to go through your newsfeed before you find a dead dog.”
I know it is crass, but I was thinking of it as simple truth-humor. It never takes me more than 40 seconds to achieve the above. When I find a Facebook dog-bituary there are usually two to four heart-stirring pictures, first of the young frisky pup, then the old limping mut with that cataract stare. The comment is heartbreaking. "Oh, how I am going to miss Pooh, my sweetest friend and companion for 13 years." (Pooh was my childhood-to-teenhood beagle, by the way, and I miss him to this day.)
When one sees such a post, one is obliged into action. I mean I was raised right, as they say where I'm from. Which is to say, I come from a family of – albeit whacky – gracious folk. I know what my mother would say, my mother who never knew anything even slightly analogous to Facebook – Mark Zuckerburg was six when she died – but when I see a post of illness or grief, I encounter her specter looking over my shoulder at my screen. She is lighting a Winston and employing her ungracious tone that always demanded graciousness: her thank-you-note voice. She says, "You had better respond to your friend's timeline and offer condolences. It's the right thing to do and you know it. Now quit scrolling and start typing."
I grew up in a 700 member church, which means we would have about 90 people in regular attendance on Sunday morning. The kids in my Sunday school class were also kids I saw at my elementary school. There were around 25 students in my classroom. Outside of social media – in a natural unelectonic life – we probably know about 100 folks. There are maybe 50 to whom you would write condolence notes, 15 or 20 who's funerals you would attend.
Just as humans have had to adjust to the speed and frequency of the technology of communication, I have had to adjust to an ever greater volume of social obligation.
Okay, so, at the top of this, referring to the Facebook feed thing: at my age, what I said about my friends' dogs, I could have just as easily said about my friends' parents, or friends themselves. You know what I mean.
And how do we respond when we read these reports of ill health and grief and on our computers or tablets or phones? What do we say after we have clicked the Heart or Teardrop emoji?
"I am thinking of you and praying."
And that's what we do, don't we?
We think about.
And we continue scrolling.
A native of Covington GA, Andy Offutt Irwin is a nationally renowned storyteller, humorist, singer, songwriter, musician, whistler and human noise maker. Andy’s take on small town life has resulted in 10 albums, 1000s of shows, and many awards, including the 2013 Oracle Circle of Excellence from the National Storytelling Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.