Lonely Hearts & the Unsocial Media

A Spark in the Dark

Recently, while driving a friend home from the airport, we discussed how difficult it can be to build any type of relationship. I hate to say “at our age” but if I did, I would just mean that post-college it is rare to be in such a similar melting pot of community again. In reality it can be like a spark in the dark if you will. If you put yourself “out there” what does it even look like because everyone is so different and wants such different things. Sometimes as an adult, you can connect with one friend, and they might be geographically or emotionally gone in a week or so. What’s left then but who is directly with you and how do you engage? And what about when those people are not interested in shallow friendship, let alone deep relationship?

 

 

“Socially” Acceptable

Like anyone who was in youth group as a pre-teen or teen in the 90s, you are probably thinking of DC Talk right now. It’s okay, it’s alright if you are. Also, last year, when I was in grad school I wrote my thesis proposal on the effect of social media on community in the art classroom, but more personally studied the effects on community in general. While this intended study was specific to teenagers, it opened my eyes to adults as well. The thing I kept finding was that while mediums like Facebook and Twitter help to keep you informed of tidbits of what is going on “out there” it keeps you hidden from what is right in front of you. How often have you been at a dinner table of friends who have their phones out? I would answer that it is too often for my taste. If you are new to a place or hoping to build relationships, it can actually be as unsocial as you can get.

So, maybe we are actually hindering our ability to go deeper in relationships by engaging social media often? It is, in all honesty, merely a dim highlight of other’s lives. I know for me, if you are looking to my Facebook and Twitter to note whether I’d be a good friend or not, you are missing out on basically everything I actually have to offer in friendship. If you were to assume that I am constantly making witty remarks, and always jet-setting*, you would be surprised to know that I actually sit at a cubicle sending others on the mission field, and I am generally quietly pondering things with an occasional side-splitter or deep revelation. While I have a lot to offer in friendship and future relationship, I am not sure many people are really getting that side of me right now. There’s a depth with others that I’ve personally prayed for that is still to come. While that is obviously due to more reasons than just social media, I do think it plays a role for each of us.

Please also picture this for a moment: Facebook friend who lives 800 miles away. You knew this person in high school, who now has 3.5 kids, a dog, broken water heater in their rented home, and brand new truck. They knock on your door, sit down at the table without invitation, and show you all of the pictures from their child’s birth, honeymoon in Vegas, kids on the trampoline, and summer at grandma’s.

Yea, I wouldn’t like this in real life either, but I’ve probably seen their photo album and life updates over the last ten years.

*Slight exaggerations may apply. 😉

 

 

100 Lonely Hearts

While attending a college group a couple years ago almost 100 women sat in the room. A speaker stood at the front and said we could ask her anything we wanted about life, marriage, God, etc. To my surprise, almost every question the women in the group asked were about loneliness. These were 18-20 year old women who were in college! It is so easy to hide ourselves isn’t it? When we fear that we don’t have enough to offer or that it won’t be received, we end up suffering alone. Meanwhile, 100s of others are silently suffering their loneliness alone. The irony could stand up and punch you in the face.

I don’t know what you think, but to me this is a travesty of great proportions! Especially considering that I believe we all at some point want the following two things (perhaps to varying degrees) relationally:

  1. We all want to be known authentically.
  2. We all want to know someone deeply.

We all, at some point, want to have the chance to accept others and be accepted. Is it that we are scared to step into the waters? Is it fear that keeps us lonely? We can’t be friends with everyone, but we have so much more love to give and receive than what we now know. Honestly, are we getting to those places? Why or why not?

 

 

100% Me, Myself, &… Why?

I’ve talked of being authentic on my blog before, and I wonder how we are all doing with this authenticity thing? If you aren’t being exactly you then you will feel lonely with even 1000 true friends. And probably exhausted because that’s a lot of people, and friendships are actually hard when they are no longer surface level. I spoke recently with a friend about how frustrated I was, that I didn’t understand why it can be so difficult to find people who will fight for friendship and relationship when I am being 100% me. There’s nothing wrong with me, and I actually really love who God has made me to be. So, seriously, where are people who will love me when I am being 100% myself? Where are these friends?

Yes, people like me at my 100%, a lot actually. They laugh at my quirky hand gestures and at my well-timed jokes and want to have lunches, but where is the depth? We all want it but are afraid to pursue it, but why and what does that pursuit look like? Honestly, where are the people who will even dig into who I (and you) am to even know me as a person on that level? It’s not without trying. It’s not without deep conversations and meaningful approaches. It’s not just you and me. What are the crutches that hinder community?

When we are being 100% authentic, it isn’t that we are showing off or revealing all of our baggage to test whether someone accepts us. Anything negative you are working through takes depth and trust to share so protect who you share that stuff with. Being authentic is about owning who you are. It is celebrating the gifts God’s given you and sharing them in an overflow of you.

 

Accepting Authentic Acceptance

Do we sometimes sit lonely because we’re afraid to accept acceptance? Does fear of rejection win when we don’t embrace fully the love offered now?

Okay, that sounds like an ad for an anti-depressant, but honestly. If we stopped watching friends through the medium of social media for awhile and sat down to more coffees with the intent of truly knowing each other, how would that change your relationships? Right, I wouldn’t have hundreds of “friends”, but that’s a fact that’s true now. If I only posted what I actually did during the day each day no one would “follow” me because our lives (all of our lives) are a majority of day-to-day things with small sparks of intrigue. That is what social media is for, after all. Social media isn’t bad or wrong, it is just misused. The issue comes when we trick ourselves into thinking it is everyone’s reality and decide not to go any deeper.

Putting yourself out there relationally is scary. But I would encourage not to fully adapt yourself or adjust who you are to suit others. There are people who will (and already do) love you as you are and will love you into the best version of exactly who God has made you to be.

 

Does anyone want to take a stab at some of the questions I posed here? Let’s get a conversation started!

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9 thoughts on “Lonely Hearts & the Unsocial Media

  1. Mac says:

    All I know is the eight months I spent in China were incredibly lonely, despite the fact that I literally had dozens of Chinese kids just about my age knocking on my door to get to know me. But I ignored almost all of them, because it seemed like it would probably take too much effort to work through the language barrier.

    Instead most of my free time was spent on Facebook, looking at photos from recent parties, and longing to be back home where life seemed better than ever. I eventually left China, and returned home to find, to my surprise, that life there hadn’t changed. At all. And I was left wondering why I had been so eager to return to a place I was so desperate to leave eight months before.

    I let the Internet trick me. I bought into the surface sales pitch that everyone was having the time of their lives based on status updates and photo comments. I forgot that I was only looking at 1% of the total picture. I literally forgot I was the one on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in the Far East. It seemed like everyone else was having an adventure. But they weren’t. At all. Most of them were living pretty uneventful lives.

    Then I was really bummed…because I’d chosen to leave a real adventure (which was difficult and challenging) before I was able to reap any of the rewards of living that adventure. I’d left something fantastically great for something ridiculously mediocre. And I couldn’t go back.

    Years later, I find myself denying friend requests, and actually removing “friends” from my account. I look at my news feed and realize I don’t really know a lot of these people, and some of the names I don’t even recognize. The way it’s going, soon everyone in the world will be “friends” with everyone else on some website. What’s the point in that? It’s not real. Not even close.

    There are some serious benefits to the connectivity to one another via the Internet. I’m just not sure community is one of them. Maybe, information exchange is a better way to describe what’s happening. But information exchange isn’t community. It’s nothing of the sort. Community requires commitment, sacrifice and hardship, (but the rewards are incredible) while Internet connectivity requires none of those things. None.

    • Toni Lyn says:

      Mac, this is really good insight. Thanks for sharing this story! I experienced something similarly when I moved to Savannah for grad school. It was scary to be in a new city with strangers that I convinced myself I didn’t want to meet or get to know. So, I also spent a lot of time throwing myself a pity party of grand proportions. Eventually I ousted myself from my house and decided to just go do new things with new people. It was a lot of stuff I wouldn’t normally enjoy, and three months in when someone finally casually invited me to a game night I almost sobbed at them about how I’d been hoping for such a night as this. But I regained my composure for the most part and merely shouted an emphatic “YES! I would LOVE to!” Honestly, by just going out and riding my bike places, getting to know people, alone at first, I built some crazy and beautiful stories and friendships.

      How did your story from China shape your next adventures or day-to-day?

  2. Victoria says:

    Love it! Someone recently told me that I need to stop trying to pick my friends and let God pick them (similar to searching for a husband). That means we need to be who we are and do what we are called to do while fully trusting in the fact that God will bring people in the right time. And that means fully investing in every moment. That means putting away your phone and fully investing when you have the chance to be real and authentic. I would also definitely say that fear has a lot to do with it. But the funny thing is we get sooo lonely that we want authentic relationships and then so fearful that we shy away from them. I would just say get over yourself and do it or be lonely the rest of your life!

    • Toni Lyn says:

      Victoria, I definitely agree with you about fear playing a huge part in not putting yourself “out there”. Because honestly, who knows what is out there anyway! But in reality, I keep finding that when you are vulnerable it is amazing what can come of it. A friend once told me with all sincerity, “Do you know what vulnerability brings? So much more love!” And it’s hard to put yourself out in the open with open arms because it brings hurt as well. But God has a story to tell and He wants to tell it beautifully and fill it with wonder and joy! Which is awesome! I’m glad God crossed our paths together friend. Thanks so much for sharing!

      When do you think you find yourself on social media most?

  3. sara choe says:

    Reblogged this on little loudmouth and commented:
    Connectivity vs. Community.

  4. Chelsea Beth says:

    I completely agree with this. I’ve been thinking about community a lot lately since I’ll be moving just over an hour away for college. So many of the “friendships” I thought I had in my community have fallen a part since graduation, and I’m realizing it’s because they weren’t build on anything more than surface conversations and the occasional coffee.
    I haven’t found a community like the one we had in Ireland since that trip and that’s the kind of community I want to live in again. I’m desperately hoping and praying that God brings people into my life the next few months as I move to a completely new place. I agree when you say we have to put ourselves out there and not let the fear of rejection stop us. It’ll be uncomfortable at times, but that’s what it takes to make that first step towards a solid friendship.

    (Miss you and love you dearly)

    • Toni Lyn says:

      Chelsea, this is encouraging to me on so many levels! The amazing thing about college is that it is a place, especially Freshman year, where almost everyone is wanting to know each other. I kept my dorm room door open except when I slept or wasn’t there and invited people over. You meet people at events and classes and walking to the same places. I actually still have close friends whom I met the first week of school at a luau! As for deep community there, you have to choose it. I know Ireland was knock-your-socks-off amazing, it was for all of us. The truth is though, that is possible anywhere, we can really be that intentional. God is going to blow your mind in college, you are going to L-O-V-E it! Other tips for going away to college: only and always attend events when there is either free food or a free t-shirt. Except for sketchy ones, don’t be sketchy. Love you and thanks so much for reading and sharing!

      How will you maintain connections with true friends and family from home while being present in your new adventures in college?

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