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When Friendship Becomes Voyeurism: How Social Media Can Wreck Us

Going through old pictures often makes me sad. Routinely, I look at faces that once knew my deepest secrets, and now seem like distant acquaintances. Of those I previously considered my closest friends, I interact regularly with only two or three. Occasionally, I've experimented with the "unfollow" button on Facebook to determine how well I am actually connecting with those I claim to love. During these times, I was more likely to initiate contact but still struggled to maintain connection. The major developments I missed in the process suggest my overall ability to maintain friendship is poor.

Moving to another continent (with spotty internet) probably didn't help, but the distance was there long before we left Western New York. As suggested by my "unfollow" experiment, much of the problem stems from social media, which allows us to know what's going on in others' lives without doing any of the work of real relationship. It's like receiving all your birthday presents, unwrapped, the day before your birthday. Is there any room to wonder what's inside?

Today, there are many people I've met only once who know as much (or more) about what is going on in my life as the friends who stood beside me on my wedding day. We have innumerable options for connecting (Google chat, Facebook messenger, WhatsApp), yet are worse than ever at maintaining contact. As many conversations as I have found abruptly ended by failure to respond, I have similarly ended. The sickness of relationships is due in part to our unhealthy preference for exciting tidbits rather than the consistent reality of life of others' lives. In the same way, I first heard about the Boston Marathon attack, Ferguson, and the Orlando massacre on my Facebook feed. Who needs the News? We have peoples' reaction to the News, which is far more entertaining.

Additionally, we have fallen victim to the "hooray for our side" lie, which says if people love us they will like and support everything we do. Few things are further from the truth. The people who really love me have stepped in to challenge me when my attitudes, actions, and decisions are not in line with the truth of God's word. Most of us could not name a single person who could lovingly disagree with our life choices without sparking defensiveness. Basically, most of us do not have a single true friend. We have an enormous fan club, from which we regularly eliminate those who don't adequately stroke our egos.

What does this mean for us, a generation who grew up knowing people through a computer screen? What does this mean for us, Christians who claim to be living in community but don't know a single burden weighing on our brother or sister? What does this mean for us, fallen and broken people who need real relationship beyond a superficial knowledge of daily happenings?

Social media is only a tool. It can be used for good or evil, and is often used for both. We can commit to pressing in to those we claim to hold dear. We can respond (privately) to public sentiments, with care and concern. We can pray. We must pray. We can wield all influence, including our social media presence, for good. We can, and in fact, we must. Real relationships hang in the balance.

Comments

  1. Well said I have always struggled with connecting with others and since the invention of social media it has only become harder for me to connect. This is my prayer for myself and others with the same affliction. I pray that the Lord will guide us in our thoughts and actions and take control to allow us to connect with those around us that are in need of personal connection as well as holy inspiration. Thanks for the message

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    Replies
    1. This is a great prayer! Thank you. Praying for you today as well.

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