Sure, I’ve done part my part in the world wide web of social media! I have liked and now LOVED my share of photos and left plenty of well-meaning comments, thrown around an array of emojis and shared my fill of inspirational quotes. I have been connected, to say the least. But, sadly, I haven’t experienced much life hanging out with my girlfriends this year; and it’s left me feeling a little lonely and frustrated. I noticed that I have backed off from Facebook a bit, along with the other social media sites as well.
In a world overloaded with tweets, texts, and selfies we keep our heads down, eyes glued to our phones, afraid if we don’t, we’ll miss out; when all the while (ironically) we’re missing out on the very world around us. I mean, people don’t actually go out to dinner and just have a good one on one conversation anymore, do they? My husband and I used to laugh, as I am sure you did, that when we were able to get out to dinner by ourselves, we spent the night talking about our children. Now, we both will pick up our phones and talk about what’s on social media.
Whether we like to admit it or not, social media, overall has taken a toll on our relationships—particularly our friendships. That’s not to say that social media is pure evil, it’s just that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and the like have forever reshaped the way we relate to one another. Gradually, it seems social media has altered the parameters of friendship, and frankly, it’s sad. In looking back over the past year, 8 years that I have been on Facebook, I’ve discovered six areas where social media is wreaking havoc on our friendships.
It Creates a False Sense of Intimacy
Social media makes us feel like we know people better than we really do. True, we are caught up in their lives, well, the portion they want you to see. So, let’s
get one thing straight: Liking someone’s photos on Instagram does not make a friendship genuine relationships take time and communication—preferably face-to-face.
It’s only in our mess, in our brokenness, when we can become fully known. The friends who know us best are those who have seen us at our worst — and loved us any way.
While social media may help us keep up with friends—especially those who live far away it can’t replace personal communication and shared experience. You can only intimately get to know someone through spending time with them in person, not solely online.
It Fosters Illusions of Community
Social media misleads us to believe that we have a large, built-in support system. But that support system is merely a number, not real life. While the importance of “community” is preached in churches across the nation, most of the time, we feel like we’ve aced this tenant of our faith simply because we’re constantly building a tribe of followers online.
However, on our darkest days, we quickly realize the core of our true community lies in a very few faithful friends who know us best. The only real way to foster community is to live life with people over time.
It Keeps Us From Being Fully Known
Social media puts up virtual walls. Most of the time, we don’t air our dirty laundry online for fear of what others might think. We only Instagram our best moments and tweet about the most extraordinary few minutes of our day. Even Snapchat has created the filters to “hide” our true selves and create us to be funny when we are not, which don’t get me wrong, I love the humor in some!
We’ve all gotten really good at “spinning” the stories of our lives so that they look seemingly perfect. Yet, it’s only in our mess, in our brokenness, when we can become fully known. The friends who know us best are those who have seen us at our worst—and loved us any way. Those types of friendships are only crafted through the nitty gritty life moments that we’d all be too embarrassed to divulge on Facebook.
It Turns Us Inward
Social media keeps us living in a vacuum. The Internet is such a solitary place. We’re all there, gathered around the proverbial water cooler, but it’s mostly surface talk (and the occasional bit of juicy gossip).
We’ve become so obsessed with making sure the story we’re telling on social media looks exciting and beautiful and meaningful that we’ve failed to pay adequate attention to the stories other people are telling. It’s easy for us to be me-focused when social media forces us to play the part. How can we ever be a good friend when we have no room for another person in our carefully crafted lives?
We need to stop trying to impress our friends and start paying attention to the stories our friends are telling so we can become the kind of friend they need.
It Sets Unrealistic Expectations
There’s no need to call your best friend when you get engaged or find out you’re pregnant. After all, she’ll just find out on Facebook. But that just seems to take all of the personal beauty out of it, doesn’t it? Everything is public, and therefore, we have nothing to talk about when we do get together with friends. We’ve already “seen” it all, and you’re clearly out of the loop if you haven’t.
It Makes Us Good at Storytelling, But Not So Good at Storyliving
Social media memorializes our moments while life passes us by.
No matter how many photos we capture or clever tweets we publish, nothing can take the place of physical experience.
The best applied filter can’t replace the feeling you get when you actually sink your toes into the sand or stand in awe of a setting sun.
No video clip can adequately convey your favorite song performed by your favorite band in a live setting.
No amount of likes can substitute for the feel of a newborn’s silky skin or the perfect fit of a strong hand in your own.
Sometimes, words and pictures just aren’t enough. Life is meant to be lived and savored. And social media keeps us from doing just that. We miss the expression on our friend’s face—the very thing they’re not telling us—because we’re so busy tinkering with our phones. We miss the magic of ordinary moments—best experienced with others.
So in a communication-weary world, what’s the answer to reclaiming authentic friendship? I certainly don’t have all the answers, but maybe the best thing you can do for your friends is turn off your phone when you’re with them, choosing instead to give them your full attention.
And the next time you reach a big milestone Before hitting “publish” on Facebook, choose instead to call your best friend. Tell her how the big moment made you feel. Give her the gift of sharing your joy and your tears. Invite her into your story. Deliberately save some moments. Don’t publicly share every facet of your life.
Instead, let’s vow to keep some things just between friends.
I am the WORST person on this subject. I am INWARD and don’t talk on the phone any more. I get jealous seeing people on the phone in the car laughing. I WISH I could be more social, without SOCIAL media! I do tend to hide. I am working on it!
I would LOVE your thoughts on this!