Friday, November 4, 2011

Bathroom Stalls vs. Facebook Walls...

     Today's post is more of an obituary to a great American art form (OK, maybe it's not so great.). In the past 5 years give or take a year or two, we've have seen the once fiery obsession of our country with bathroom stall graffiti, extinguished and now facing imminent extinction. For decades now a patron using a public restroom would be privy to a cultural cross section of artistic, political and affectionate expression, strewn in a ball point, pin knife chiseled, smeared pencil tapestry across the walls of the stall. Much like the Egyptians and their hieroglyphs, much knowledge could be gleaned about the culture of the 20th century American by their primitive, yet passionate artwork created on latex paint coated, tablets of stainless steel across this great land.

      I have often been intrigued by the depth of relational commentary that is displayed when, while a gentleman is evacuating his bowels, scrawls a great display of his public affection for "his girl". Perhaps this is what the great Willie Nelson was referring to when he penned the classic "You Were Always on My Mind"?

     Although, often childish, corny, and explicit, the anonymity of the bathroom stall brought out a certain form a genuine authenticity in people, their expressions while amateurish were truly passionate, and from the overflow of their heart, the pen did write. Needless to say the phenomenon of bathroom stall ping-pong, openly racial slurs, and directions to follow for a "good time" have become a thing of the past, at least in this particular form. I believe we have the invention of social media coupled with the uprising of smartphones in America to thank, or blame for this.

     I've read many an article arguing the "phoniness" of people on social media sites, such as FaceBook, Twitter etc. explaining that, for the most part people use these sites and services for their own narcissistic needs, and to put out a persona for the world to see that is vastly different than the real person who sits behind the keyboard. Anyone who has spent enough time around teenagers and people in general know that there are many holes in this theory. For some reason, when many (not all) folks sit down at the keyboard to share their status, upload photos from their latest escapade, or link to their favorite music or amusing news story, they often assume that the bathroom stall anonymity is still there, and they express themselves. Their TRUE selves. Quite possibly because they're posting from their smartphone while in a bathroom stall. Things they would never laugh about, say, express or do around a pastor or youth pastor are on full display, for the world to see.

     Facebook is a great tool for us to use in ministry, it's also a window into the lives of our students. Take a look, but with caution, and don't be afraid to have those tough conversations with students, you may end up on someone's blocked list but in the end they'll respect you for keeping them accountable.