Your connection with other people will keep you grounded in a hurricane, whole on the chopping block and sane in a crazy world. A hundred years ago our friend options were confined to our family circle or the fifteen square miles around us. Cars and phones expanded our friendly concentric circles and helped us mingle with more.
We’re almost done with our 2nd decade in the 21st century and we can now talk to our mom on the East Coast, get daily Candy Crush invites from our auntie who lives next door, see pictures of best friend’s new baby minutes after they are born (even though we were not invited into the delivery room), and join in a heated political debate that always ends peacefully and with everyone having gained enlightened perspective.
Whatever platform you use (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, Rhombus, Hopsidoodle [I made those last two up, but admit it, you were like, “Oooh, gotta check it out!”]), social media has changed the way we do relationships. Some say, for the better and some say for the worse. I’ve read articles saying both and with solid moderation, you might be the Goldilocks who can say, “Just right.” We might not have any definitive answers just yet, but we can explore the spectrum. Is social media good, bad or somewhere in the middle?
Social media allows you to talk with and get a look into the people’s lives you love but either don’t live near or don’t have a lot of time to give to. Staying connected to all your peeps while trying to take care of your family, working, going to school, etc. can make you feel like Bilbo Baggins, “thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” However, on Facebook, with one swipe of your finger, you can see what has happened during the day of your 10 favorite people, look at pictures they’ve posted and even briefly chat with them, creating a small connection that feels a lot lower stakes than sitting down for a 20 minute phone call or a 2 hour pop over.
On the other hand, the more time you spend in front of a screen, the less time you spend in front of someone else’s face. The time we take carefully crafting our messages does not actually help us become more articulate in real life. The hours spent pouring over people’s pictures and posts can help you understand their persona, but not them as a real person. That only happens when you hear the inflection and cadence of their voice as they stumble over their words; the way they do or don’t make eye contact or wave their arms when they are making a joke. Nothing replaces in-person, human connection. Too much time spent on social media can begin to deaden the social skills that grow and thrive in the awkward and beautiful moments we share face to face.
Tim Elmore, the leading voice on Millennials and Generation Z, has said that the best way to influence people is to speak a timeless message through the context of current culture. We can’t ignore social media even with its inherent flaws. Use it to connect, absolutely! But don’t use your Wall as a wall to hide behind. When you are having a conversation, put the phone down and look people in the eye. True face time, is irreplaceable.