Social Media created a connection
A few years ago, if you had asked me if my social media makes me feel connected, I would have said yes. Every day my social media feed was loaded with pictures of graduations, first days of school, home renovations and vacations. Marriages were going strong, as demonstrated by those anniversary declarations of love. You know which posts I mean, right? Every Spring the flood of World’s Best Mom and Dad posts had me clicking “like”.
I felt connected to my friends and could even speak with some authority about them. “No, Tim didn’t end up at UCONN. He chose Middlebury instead. Great scholarship too. It’s it wonderful?” (of course when was the last time we saw Tim or his parents? Ummm… it’s been a minute.)
Mission accomplished! Social Media’s original goal of connection was achieved.
And then I received a private message from a friend living overseas that woke me up.
On Social Media things aren’t always what they seem
My friend was writing to ask for advice on a really sensitive topic. I must admit that I was surprised by the ask and said as much to them. “Everything looked like it was going well,” I wrote. “Your pictures and posts are all so happy.” Their response hit me in the gut. They were not happy. The struggle, as they say, was real. So I listened, carefully advised and promised to keep in touch. We did, and as the situation they were in evolved and resolved, their life changed forever.
Have you been in a similar situation? Did it take you down a notch? Was it a reminder that the friendship was different now that it was largely conducted via social media?
Of course, I have always known that people curate their lives on social media. We put out what we want the world to see. This is not news. None of us write posts like, “Today was awful. I ate something that didn’t agree with me, my boss was in a mood and we are tight on money. Hope you all had a great day!” We want the world to see our best. I get that, but it’s the conditioning brought on social media that struck me when my friend messaged.
Social Media conditioned me to assume my friends were okay
While my intellectual side knows social media posts are curated, my conditioned responses ignored the need to check in with people outside of those likes and general comments. You know, actually be their friend, in real life. I took the pictures and captions as fact, checked off the mental box that said “pay attention to your friend’s needs” and kept on scrolling. Only when the cat ran off, a beloved family member passed away or a home was hit by a natural disaster, did I send a personal message. Why? Because we are conditioned to take a full stop and recognize those moments. Social media protocol dictates it.
Yet, social media can blind us to reality.
Can you imagine if Jesus ministered that way?
Imagine Jesus hanging out on social media. Can you picture him waiting for people to send up the signal that they need love, compassion, and assistance? Something tells me his ministry wouldn’t have had much impact. Mine didn’t either.
How can we walk in love if we never actually walk?
What the experience with my friend overseas taught me is to actually get out there and engage.
Invite people over for a meal.
Grab a coffee and actively listen.
Provide a safe space where there is no pressure to make everything seem perfect.
And remember, you are exactly what your friend needs right now.
I’m looking forward to learning about how you take a step forward in this walk we are on together.
Social Media certainly has a place in society. But let us not lose sight of the realness of people and the need for real connection both near and far.
How do you use social media to connect with people?