Mar 1, 2021
I must confess to an interior eye roll when I first picked up the slim, colorful volume emblazoned with the title “#Rules for Engagement;” the grammatical stickler inside of me shuddered at the use of a hashtag in a book's title, and I intuited – correctly – that it was but the first of many creative uses of underscores and various punctuation marks outside their intended purpose. It wasn't a deal breaker, but I confess to finding it a major distraction.
And yet, a closer look at the brief text – a handful of pages per chapter, it really is a slim little volume – reveals a depth at odds with the quirky colloquialisms and visual noise.
The first several chapters invite the reader to work toward establishing a sort of individual social media baseline, done by an exhaustive self-examination of motives and a repeated return to individual accounts to scroll and examine past behaviors on the platforms. Honestly, this was painful to contemplate; the nature of social media is utter transience – why oh why would I want to look back at something I'd tweeted months ago, much less years? All tweets disappear into the ether, don't they?
And therein lies the rub. Because in inviting her readers to perform an intentional examination of their Instagram consciences, Garrido sets the stage for an uncomfortable confrontation between the unconscious, dopamine-driven self who tweets and reposts with reckless abandon, and the rational, thoughtful Christ-follower whose real life interactions bear almost no resemblance to what happens online.
The discomfort I felt in envisioning examining some of my own past online behavior seems to me a bellwether of sorts, not only for the individual but for the larger culture. What does it mean if most people act differently, sometimes radically so, online than they do in the real world? (I don't imagine I'm alone here.) What does it portend for our interactions offline, and for our own souls?