About two weeks ago, Tim Kreider penned a column for Medium entitled, “It’s Time To Admit that the Internet Is Bad For Us.” I read it and nodded along, vigorously.

A quarter-century in, [the Internet] does seem to have revolutionized consciousness, in much the same way as did nickel slots or crack. Studies have empirically confirmed what’s anecdotally self-evident: The internet affects the same parts of the brain as alcoholism or gambling.

Even though the internet offers the promise of limitless choices and infinite agency, anyone who’s lost hours refreshing their social-media feeds over and over, like a captive animal retracing the same neurotic path in its cage, knows it can be just as tiny and entrapping as three networks. And anyone who’s ever gone cold turkey from their laptop or smartphone for even a weekend knows the alarmingly antsy feeling you get when you’re first away from it, helplessly out of contact. It’s increasingly common knowledge that the purveyors of this technology don’t let their own kids near the stuff.

In a number of the interviews for Seculosity, I sounded that same alarm. After years of negotiating the digital cacophony, I no longer had the wherewithal to defend the Internet. It felt like denial to pretend it was enhancing the world, or my own life, in any non-Spotify-related ways, Mockingbird notwithstanding. I had begun, in my heart of hearts, to look upon smart technology as an actual curse. I even prognosticated in Q&As that we would one day look back on social media the way we currently look back on cigarette smoking.

I don’t regret saying those things. Up until about ten days ago, finding the bright side of online life was like searching for sunshine in a volcano blast. Yet it’s an awkward position for someone who oversees an online ministry, as the cognitive dissonance can only mount for so long. How to proceed?

The law at work

Well, you know what happened. Here we are. The Internet, and social media in particular, appears to be holding the world together. Yesterday I watched one of my kids do an online show-and-tell with his first grade class. My third grader’s teacher is reading to her students on YouTube each night. I hear from the elderly and infirm in our church community with words of sincerest thanksgiving for online worship services and devotionals. I watch my favorite musicians host concerts on Instagram. I witness the Colorado Symphony Orchestra perform in unison–somehow–via Zoom.

And yes, the memes! All those glorious, glorious memes.

Thank God for the Internet, I murmur, with a tear in the eye.

The bad things haven’t evaporated–Twitter is still Twitter–but something about this crisis appears to be bringing out our ‘better (virtual) angels,’ a phrase I was convinced was a contradiction in terms. I’m shocked, relieved, and excited, maybe even a little optimistic. Which is a strange and possibly callous thing to say in the midst of a global pandemic, but I feel compelled to say it. Call it a Genesis 50:20 moment if you will.

Last year we highlighted an interview with Leslie Jamison in which she quoted the comedian Kyle Kinane, “that a miracle is just the world letting you know it can still surprise you.” Well, consider me surprised, flabbergasted, humbled, grateful.

It’s so nice to be proven wrong about something as large and sweeping as the Internet. It makes a person wonder about what else he’s wrong about, what other curses carry blessings in their wings, and what further miracles might issue from this debacle. Because they undoubtedly will.

There’s another quote from Jamison I’ve found sustaining during this strange time, from a conversation she had in 2018 with the writer Jamie Quatro. Jamison was speaking about the tricky task of writing about faith in relation to recovery, but I think her definition holds up well:

Faith also came to believe in doing things I could not understand, in trusting that authenticity wasn’t always about feeling something and then acting on that feeling; that it could involve acting toward feeling a different way—trusting that there might be something on the other side of intention that felt less willed, more sublime. So much of that trust-fall shows up in other parts of life, of course: Showing up for another day of marriage. Showing up for another day of writing. Showing up for another day of parenting. Feeling frustrated, cloistered, doubtful, but believing in the other side of all those feelings. Believing in another horizon, beyond what you can see.

Palm Sunday, after all, is just around the corner. And even if we can’t ‘show up’ for it in person this year, that donkey will parade, its rider undeterred.

As for the week that follows, with the Internet at our disposal, who knows: it may be the most surprising one yet.