Please forgive the slight duplicitous-ness in this post, but . . . is anyone else a little tired of Facebook, Instagram, or social media in general? I ask this somewhat rhetorically, because surely I can’t be the only one suffering from social media fatigue.
The full weight of my fatigue hit me the other day as I was scrolling mindlessly while the babies napped, and I came across a photo album composed of some 50-odd pictures and a kitschy “Summah is in Session!” title from a girl I barely knew in college. It felt weird to see her pictures, all these snapshots of her life and her children. I’m not sure I would recognize her out in public, and I’m sure she wouldn’t recognize me. It felt unnatural, wrong even, to be given such a window into her life.
It sent me to reminiscing on the days when you had to earn the right to know someone’s life, to see their pictures and hear about their vacations, new jobs, new relationships, frustrations, and heartaches. Those days before we all started plastering our lives online for nearly anyone and everyone to see, the stars of our own version of “People Magazine.” Mind you, I’m preaching to the choir here, as I have also documented plenty of my own life events online.
I thought about the days when I used to gather at a just-married friend’s new home and flip through fresh-off-the-press wedding photos, cup of coffee in hand. Sitting Indian-style on her couch, a peculiar-smelling relic from her husband’s bachelor days, we’d laugh about the funny candid pictures and talk about how delectable the wedding cake was. Or her crazy mother-in-law. Or that unattractive, unaware groomsman who just wouldn’t stop hitting on me because, I suppose, he thought I dug his “Deliverance”-inspired speech and affect. Not a chance.
Ten years later and neck-deep in this busy, sometimes lonely season of motherhood, I find myself craving community more than ever before. My heart feels heavy as I reflect on 10 years of social media use, because it’s painfully clear that while I know a lot of facts about a lot of people, I do not know people very deeply—not in the way I want to know and be known in a friendship. Not in the way I’d like to share my joys and sorrows, sitting Indian-style on a friend’s couch with a cup of coffee in hand (though now the couch’s peculiar smell is no-doubt that of spit-up).
Those friends I used to call every few weeks, to check in and chat for a good hour? Now I see their lives presented neatly and cleanly online, and they see mine . . . and the entropic nature of life takes over, and those phone calls become less and less common.
Isn’t it tragically ironic how “social” media has turned genuine, social behavior into a desert mirage? We are by design social creatures (introverts and extroverts alike!), created by God for community and fellowship with one another. I’ve found that these tools promise such fellowship, yet often come up wanting. Our social media revolution reminds me of the sexual revolution of the 1960s: we’re giving it all away, so free and fun . . . yet we aren’t getting what we actually need, and we’re harming our souls in the process. It’s exhausting and leaves me with an uncomfortable, hollow feeling.
I miss the days of true relationship with others—when communicating meant picking up a phone and planning an outing. Texting serves a wonderful purpose, don’t get me wrong. I’m simply sad to see it replace more intimate forms of communication. You can hide in a text, an e-mail, or a Facebook message. You can edit your photos, your Tweets, your captions. It’s a little harder to edit your voice and your tone, the pain simmering just below the surface of your eyes, that catch in your throat. My mom knows from the moment I say “hey” if I’m doing alright or not. We miss a great deal of context—the good stuff!—when we relate via electronics.
As a side note, perhaps I am burdened by the cause and effect of social media more than others given this season of life: I’m a mom of two precious, rambunctious tots. All my family lives 2,500 miles away. And my husband often works long hours on hard days. Phew. My beloved self-sufficiency has taken a hit (by God’s good design, mind you, but that’s for another post), and I find myself longing for support more than ever before! If you can’t relate, be very thankful :-).
At any rate, whether social media has hurt or helped your relationships, I think we can all benefit from the simple yet profound words of Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Relationships are so important to God—important enough that He sent His son to earth, wrapping His Heavenly form in earthly flesh and giving Him 33 years to walk in the trenches with us . . . that He might carry our burdens and show us how to carry one another’s. Indeed, after telling us to love the Lord with all our souls and minds (the first and greatest commandment), Jesus said, “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:39 NIV, emphasis added).
I don’t know about your news feed, but I’m seeing very little of this lived out online. More often than not, I see a lot of self-aggrandizement, political bickering, and hateful speech regarding the myriad of social and cultural landmines our country currently faces. Often after spending time on Facebook, I take a step back and think, do I feel more connected and secure now? Or do I feel more insecure, more prideful, or more left out? In brutal honesty, I find the latter to be true more often than I’d like!
But just when I’m ready to throw in the towel and walk away from social media altogether, I see pictures pop up from my church: a sea of young, energetic faces, the faces of children who attended our kid’s camp—and my heart could burst from the pure glory of such innocence and beauty. Or I receive a message from a longtime friend, saying thank you for some words of encouragement that were written into her heart and able to lift her spirits for a day. Or I read the words of a friend, speaking kindness into my day and lifting my own heart.
In these moments, it’s clear to me that these technological tools of ours—while often used for self-promoting, unkind purposes—are freely available for use in building one another up, carrying each other’s burdens, and using words to love and encourage one another. If we are willing to set aside our own deep pride and gnawing needs, we can use social media in our quest to live like Christ and bring glory to His name. I confess I haven’t always done this, and sometimes my own insecurity has gotten the better of me—but it is a goal for which I am striving!
So whether we connect online or in person, let us strive to love and support one another, bringing breath and heartbeat to Galatians 6:2. Words have power, and every word has a consequence. May it be said of us that our words bring consequences of the holy kind—refreshment, encouragement, hope, love