Reflection and Social Media Engagement
Note: Social-In Global Network column being added to the Library…
In these days of intense social media, texting and email, one would expect to feel more connected than ever. And yet what we find is people are feeling distant and alienated, and more alone than ever. I hear it all the time and call these silent screams.
We drive ourselves crazy, give up doing things we’d love to do because we feel we ought to be doing more to connect. Only the harder we try, the more alone we feel. Getting and holding anyone’s attention these days is growing more and more difficult—even when you expend a great deal of effort to give or do something for them and not take from them.
Part of the reason is the vast number of connections possible. In earlier days, we connected by phone—but not too often because long-distance calls were expensive. We connected via snail mail, but only now and then because writing a letter took a lot more effort than whipping off an email and we had to pay for the stamps and actually go mail the letter. We made time to talk to neighbors over the fence, in coffee klatches, at office water-coolers, or over lunches. That was a large part of our daily life social engagement. Most had a core group of friends—a small number of maybe four or fewer—and we kept in touch and shared things on a regular basis. When things went right or wrong, it was with this core group that we shared and celebrated or commiserated.
Today, the core group for many has fallen to online social media engagement. It’s replaced the small gatherings, the lunches, the phone calls, the live and in person socializing. Lunch hours are spent not with friends but checking email, texting, or on social media accounts. If we have something to celebrate or mourn, we don’t visit or call and meet up with friends, we post it to the world on Facebook or another social media outlet.
I’m not saying the changes in the way we interact are good or bad only different. But honesty forces me to add that many are overdosing on sensory input and it is no wonder we see more people feeling lonely and alone. They are. When we cease to forge or nurture friendships, they fade. Relationships are like anything else neglected.
Our social media engagements might be fun. We might enjoy them. We might make wonderful online friends who give us a moment to share something good or bad or just to voice an opinion. But those relationships cannot replace the ones forged in being there through thick and thin and making time in a time-crunched schedule to have or be a friend.
Real people need to personally interact with real people.
I got a note from a woman I’ve known online for years. Recently, a significant event occurred in her life. She has thousands and thousands of online friends, but less than a dozen noted this significant event. It wasn’t a small thing, but what happened is indicative of the nature of online relationships. If more had seen news of the event, had known about it, then more would have wished her well. But they were busy doing their own things and didn’t notice her event in their time-lines, or her event didn’t appear in their time-lines. That’s a frequent occurrence now that happens all the time.
She was genuinely upset by this measly response from her online friends. The absence of notice made her feel insignificant, and that’s always a sad thing. A sleight, real or imagined, creates pain, and the pain is real. That said, she shouldn’t have been hurt and I expect it would mortify her online friends to know she was hurt. The lack of notice wasn’t intentional, it was and is the nature of the beast. No one can foster close relationships with thousands or keep up with what’s going on with thousands. And yet she was hurt and sad. Her feelings were her feelings. Valid.
And therein lies the reason for this post. A warning to us all to strive for balance in our lives. We should participate in our online forums and enjoy our online friends. But we shouldn’t exclude our in-person friends from our lives. Those relationships too are important to us and they too need nurturing.
That was my takeaway from this note. That and to make time to have in-person friends and to be a friend in-person and online. To give friends and people present in our lives our time and attention. To put down the phone, let the text wait, do the email later. When we’re lucky enough to be face-to-face with a friend, we should give them our full attention—and we should have theirs. That’s common courtesy and how friends treat friends.
A few years ago, one of the best friends in my life died. She was a wonderful woman. We had “Lost Days” together. We’d get in the car and just go, and wherever we wound up, we’d find something fun to do there. We laughed a lot. We cried a lot, too. We endured husbands who spent a lot of time away from home, raised kids going through growing pains and challenges all kids go through and all parents worry over. We were close and we shared just about everything. When my dad died, she listened, and we worked through the grief together. When her dad died, I listened, and we worked through the grief together. Good or bad, we were there for each other—day or night, through thick and thin and joy and sorrow.
Bonds like those take time and effort on all parts to create. But they are priceless. I think of her and a hundred memories race through my mind. Maybe you have someone like that in your life. If so, understand the gift of it being what it is. If you don’t have someone in your life like that, I hope you will. I’ll tell you this. She’s been gone for five years now and I would trade all social media engagement for the rest of my life for five more minutes with my friend. Just five minutes. And I’d consider that a great deal for me; a blessing I’d treasure forever.
Reflection on anything sometimes helps us see clearly. Sometimes what we see, we regret. But sometimes we see things we hadn’t seen before, and we come to understand what most matters.
As I told the sad woman, people need to interact with people. We don’t always want to interact, it is often inconvenient to interact, but we need to interact. Online or in person, one person can change the way we feel about people in general and about ourselves. And knowing we’re important to that one other person proves to us we’re more significant than we often realize.
For that reason—to let others know they are significant and to remember that we are, too—we should all engage in reflection and really think about what we devote to and sacrifice to and for social media. The truth is, balance is best because we honestly need both, and it’s highly likely that both need us…
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© 2016, Vicki Hinze. Vicki Hinze is the award-winning bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest releases are: The Marked Star and In Case of Emergency: What You Need to Know When I Can’t Tell You (nonfiction). She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s website: www.vickihinze.com. Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. KNOW IT FIRST! Subscribe to Vicki’s Monthly Newsletter!