We have plenty of Facebook friends, Twitter and Instagram followers but we are becoming too isolated and we are the loneliest that we have ever been. When I discuss this topic with others, we all agree that the social media aspect of our lives must be balanced and yet many find themselves glued to social media, rarely venturing out to interact with others. Confined at home, they seek to fill a genuine void by hopping onto social media, which should probably be referred to as “un-social” media, where they will view the illusion of the perfect life being lived out by others. This perception of life going on without us, only makes us feel more and more lonely.
Let’s look at the cause of loneliness. We each desire a certain amount of connection to other people. Loneliness is the chasm that separates us from the connection that we desire. We can be lonely because we leave work alone and go to an empty home but we can also be lonely even while another person is in the same room with us. We can feel deeply lonely in a room full of people at a social gathering. In each of these examples, it is the lack of meaningful human engagement that causes the loneliness. Looking for meaningful human connection on social media is like trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip. It’s just not there and this can leave us feeling empty. It’s the disconnection that causes us to feel lonely. Also, loneliness is not the same as solitude. We all need solitude on a regular basis to think, pray and create.
Social media is here to stay. We now live in an electronic society driven by initialisms, the meme, gif and short video clips. Many believe that giving or getting likes and comments, somehow demonstrates that we have friends. These are not necessarily friendships. It is fun being active on social media but it is impossible to build true relationships there. There’s the rub – as humans we need relationships but on social media we can keep people at a safe distance, never really letting them into our lives. We have conditioned ourselves to only allow others to see us through the filter of the social media facade, never letting them get close enough to know our whole story.
Social media is fantastic for staying in touch with family and friends that don’t live near us. I really enjoy social media and I’m definitely not advocating that we stop using it, but it does not replace spending time with other people. Genuine friendships will be born out of this time investment. Since we might be a little rusty, let’s discuss what a friend looks like.
>Someone that invests in your life and you invest in theirs?
>Someone that we spend time with in person, on the phone or even writing.
>Someone that can be trusted with our hearts and feelings and secrets.
>Someone that lets you see their flaws and you let them see yours.
>Someone that checks up on us. You are not out of sight – out of mind.
>Someone who knows us well enough to pick up on our moods.
>Someone who follows up with us to show that they care about us and our problems.
>Someone who is strong when we are weak and vice-versa.
>Someone who pursues the friendship just as much as we pursue the friendship, although it may be in different ways and at different times.
>Someone who stands up for you and their friendship with you even when it’s difficult or inconvenient.
>Someone who lift us up and encourage us.
>Someone who tells us the hard truth but we still know that they love us.
>Someone who has our back and never gossips about us or listens to gossip about us.
>Someone who doesn’t try to manipulate us or manipulate others about us.
>Someone who rejoices with us.
>Someone who shares the load of our burdens.
Not every friendship will have all of these characteristics but a genuine friendship will have several. These true and trustworthy relationships are rare and special, especially in this current fast paced and artificial society. Sometimes we need to learn how to be this kind of friend. When you find this friendship, cherish it and friend well with them.
One caution. If you choose to make changes and put social media in its place in your life, don’t judge others who choose to continue using it for all or most of their interactions. Each of us are in a different place. They may have reasons that you don’t understand. Try reaching out to them but don’t criticize them for relying social media.
Have I given you some thoughts to consider? If you have noticed that social media is leaving you feeling empty, push yourself a little and get out to make connections with others. I hope that you’ll find a treasure called true friendship.