Exploring the Joys and Pitfalls of Online Connection: Chris Stedman - Jen Hatmaker

Exploring the Joys and Pitfalls of Online Connection: Chris Stedman

Episode 05

Break out a pen and notebook, because today on For the Love, we’re going back to school with writer and professor Chris Stedman, our next guest in the For the Love of Reconnecting series. A former chaplain at Harvard and founding director of the Yale Humanist Community, Chris just wrote a fascinating book called IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives. He’s a millennial who grew up fluent in the digital world but didn’t have a smartphone that tethered him to the internet until after his formative years, when a post he wrote went viral and steered him toward building a platform online. The internet of today is definitely not the one Chris grew up with—it’s no longer something we log in and out of. Chris and Jen talk about the beauty of finding and building community online and expanding our circles of belonging, but also why it’s so important to disconnect from tech every once in a while, because we discover things about ourselves in the silence of retreat that we may not see otherwise. And while sometimes the internet can seem like a place teeming with chaos, Chris reminds us that we have the power to choose how *we* engage with technology, that we control our devices—not the other way around.

Episode Transcript

Hey, everybody. Jen Hatmaker here. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast

We’re in a series right now called For the Love of Reconnecting, if you’ve been around for a few weeks, which just felt like the right way to start 2021. Coming out of 2020, literally, physically disconnected, socially, culturally disconnected from our own bodies, spiritually. There just didn’t seem to be any end of the disconnection we’ve been experiencing collectively. And so we thought, what would it look like to have a series where we really discuss reconnection across all the spectrums?

Today we’re going to talk about the internet. Pretty big idea there, the internet. And so I think for most of us, the internet can be one of two places, and both actually. At its best, it’s a place of retreat. It’s about community. It’s about belonging. I mean, that is largely how I experience the internet. This community, the podcast community, just a beautiful space to gather where we can learn from one another and be exposed to new ideas and experiences and perspectives. That to me is the internet at its best.

And of course there’s another side too, the dark side where hate and division live in the comment section, where misinformation is spread, where empathy is just vacant and outrageous constantly on full blast. I think holding both of those internet worlds in two hands is a lot. It’s a lot to try and reconcile because this is all new. I mean the internet is relatively new. We don’t have precedents here on how to use it in healthy ways. We don’t have a lot of information yet on how it is affecting us, how it’s affecting our kids, what it means for our relationships. And so it is just a lot to consider, a lot to really think through best practices to be able to use the internet as a beautiful place of reconnection.

Thankfully, we have an incredibly smart and thoughtful guide to lead us through some of those questions today. I think you are really going to enjoy getting to know him. I feel more hopeful after talking with him like, “Oh, I see a path. He lit a lantern, and I see a path.”

So today I have on the show, Chris Stedman. He is a Minneapolis based writer and speaker and community organizer. He’s the founding director of the Humanist Center of Minnesota. And then also served as the founding director of the Yale Humanist Community, and then the chaplain at the Harvard University. He’s going to discuss what all that means. By the way, if those words are like, Oh, I wonder what that means exactly? He’s going to tell us. And then today he’s adjunct professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Augsburg University. He is a teacher. We talk about that too.

He has written a really fascinating book that we’re going to talk about today. I want you to pick it up and read it cover to cover. It’s called IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives. Here we are. Doesn’t that sound important? Doesn’t that sound like kind of where we are living right now?

Chris has an incredible guide for us here. He is kind. He is warm. He is generous. He is smart. He very gently leads us through how we got to where we are in our digital lives and some of the dials that we can turn to find deep, authentic connections with people both online and off.

I loved this conversation. I’m pleased to share it with you. So with no further ado, enjoy this discussion with the brilliant and kind Chris Stedman.



Books & Resources Mentioned in This Episode



IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives by Chris Stedman



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