Whoa, all the hold-ups. So, something happened on the internets recently, more specifically in the social media alternate universe place, that grabbed my attention. It sure got the wheels whirring in my over-analytical, never-quiet brain.
Social media is one of those things that offers so many benefits. But it’s also easy to see the drawbacks. It’s fairly easy to see that our love, and often obsession, with social media comes from a place of needing to be heard, understood, and loved. These are basic human needs. Some of us are just nosy by nature, maybe with voyeuristic tendencies. Some of us love a stage and the admiration of others. Some would prefer to live life vicariously through others. And then there are those of us who just want to escape our own reality for a little while, avoid it, numb it. I have long maintained that the most gracious explanation for our love of social media lies in our desperation for community. And the Bible is pretty clear: community is vitally important. We need each other.
A couple of weeks ago, while in a waiting room, I picked up a copy of People magazine. Screech. Stop the presses. I cannot even recall the last time I “had the time” to do something so frivolous. Let me just revel in that moment for a second. Okay. Here we go. I cannot, thankfully, remember who the actress/celebrity/golden idol/whatever it was that made this statement, but it has given me so much to chew on. Are you ready for this magic? Here it is. She said, “I don’t do social media. I prefer to have real experiences.” Yep, that’s it. Do you want to know what my reaction was to this preciousness?
I know. So much grace, right? But the funny part is, I have not been able to stop recalling and pondering that statement. The thought crept into my mind, “What if she’s onto something?’ Allow me to play the devil’s advocate for one paragraph here:
What are the reasons I like to scroll through my newsfeed? I love seeing the pictures of all your cute kids, of course. But what about having actual interactions with cute kiddos in real life? Of course, that would be way messier. You would have to listen to my toddler have a magnificent, kicking, screaming meltdown, approximately 2.5 seconds after he shouts, ‘Cheese!’ and I snap the perfect Instagram with my smartphone. I love knowing what is going on in the day-to-day lives of my friends, family, and acquaintances. Also known as FOMO. But what if I actually slowed my life down to the point where we caught up with one another over coffee or by chatting on the phone? Truly, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with as many folks as I try to maintain now…but is that a bad thing? We have become so quantity driven. Social media has become such an efficient way of organizing events, groups, and spreading the word about so many great things. But what if I am spending more of my time administrating people and activities online, than I actually do in investing in lives and loving others and listening to the Father? Social media is how I stay informed and up-to-date in current events. But I can read all I want about tragic stories and massive injustices in the world, BUT…what if all I ever do is shed a tear for them and never actually engage the problem in a helpful way? Then I am nothing better than a voyeur of all the sad and broken things.
There is also within the virtual world the trouble with bravery. I love bravery, ya’ll. And I want to say this with as much grace as possible. BUT… it takes FAR more courage to share your story, struggles, and feelings in front of people you actually know, than it does to pour yourself out before strangers that you will never run into in real life. Virtual friends cannot teach us of forgiveness, grace, longevity, and the messiness of maintaining relationships. They may seem “safe” but these relationships are NOT the same as meeting week after week with your accountability group, your mentor for coffee, or your community group. Virtual friends are easy and convenient. And even easier to walk away from when our sinful nature enters the picture.
I think my point is, once again, people are just hard. We all have wounds caused by other human beings. It’s hard to get up, dust yourself off, and get back on a horse after one has thrown you off and caused you pain. (I mean, I assume. Because I don’t actually ride horses. Metaphors though.) Just like there are trolls out there in the virtual world, there are trolls in the real world too. There are wounded people out there wounding.
Last year I wrote about my loneliness and my search for community following one of our many moves, and shared one of my embarrassing stories here. This time, I’ll share another one that was a little less gracious in nature. Shortly before I found my tribe in Austin, I joined one of those online groups of moms in my area on meetup.com or some such site. One of the moms invited everyone in the group over for a playdate at their house. My little guy and I went, and we met two other moms and their kids for the first time. And do you know how that went? The two other moms, friends already, awkwardly greeted me, and then proceeded to continue their conversation. They really didn’t try to include me at all. It was really uncomfortable. I made excuses and swept my kiddo out of there after a little while. Never fear though! Soon after, I met some of the most wonderful friends I could have ever known. I am so very thankful that God prodded me back into the proverbial saddle.
There is a saying that I heard at The Village Church. You may have heard it too. ‘It’s okay, to not be okay. But it’s not okay to stay there.’ Take a good, hard look at what’s holding you up. Invite someone to help you take a look at those things. There are professionals who exist for that purpose. Jesus clearly wants us to be healed, to be freed….and then to go, run, and tell all the other people who aren’t. Don’t waste your life being held captive by fear of the other humans. (Ps. 56:54, Ps. 56:11, Hebrews 13:6, Ps. 118:6)
And as for that unnamed celeb…I would like to shake her hand say ‘thanks.’ I might also give her a long, slow clap to cheer her on. Keep having those real life experiences, girl.
Be brave, friends. The Lord is on our side.