It is that time of year… end of school activities, award ceremonies, banquets, proms, promotions, graduations, college acceptances……and much of it gets chronicled on social media. I actually like it—I love seeing the flurry of festivities my friends and their families are involved in—from those nearby to those who live far away. And with all these pictures and posts come the inevitable “brag book” comments. Last week I saw a plaque in a gift store that said, “I hope your life is really as awesome as you portray it on Facebook.” While I laughed out loud, it caused me to pause a bit and reflect on the way we live, communicate, connect, and share. The reality is this—No, my life is not always awesome, or perfect, or organized or sweet. And neither is yours.
First-- we all know that social media has changed the way that our world communicates. The younger generation has gotten away from FB and is focusing on Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram. We post little snapshots and cute captions that try to capture a moment or an experience. Our lives and communication and connection are mere sound bites. Facebook and Instagram have become breeding grounds for major announcements: pregnancies (and all those 3d ultrasound pictures), engagements, weddings, college acceptances, new jobs, divorces, anniversaries, illnesses. While all this keeps us informed and “connected”, it also causes isolation, jealousy, comparison, and unreal expectations of others and ourselves.
I have always viewed FB as a way to share things that are pretty important to me—I am not one to post “Am at Starbucks today and here is a picture of my latte”. But if something is important, or if someone in my family has a special event, or if I want to share something I believe strongly in or am passionate about—it will probably end up on a FB status or in on my blog. But social media is not a substitute for real, live, honest, raw, and beautiful relationships. It is not the place to air our dirty laundry or reveal the skeletons in our closet—(though unfortunately it is to some). So, yes, sometimes our lives just look a little more “awesome” on FB.
Real connections and authentic relationships come from spending time with people. They come from shared experiences. They come from celebrating our successes and our joys together as well as trudging through the trials of life together. Real connection comes when we admit our failures and open up to those we trust. It comes when we find the few people we can be completely ourselves with and know that we are loved no matter what kind of mistakes we make. Authenticity comes when we stop trying to look like everyone else, compete with everyone else, and compare ourselves with everyone else. If our connections all come from social media, there is no way we are going to have any kind of real and true relationships. There is no way we can put the time into 858 or 1200 or 4000 “friends” to make a relationship flourish. We can “like” an image, or comment on a status, but true intimacy comes with walking alongside the people we make a priority in our lives.
I may post things that are celebrations or milestones or important life passages, but I am still an ordinary woman who lives a real, ordinary life. I struggle with the same things most of us do—parenting, making time for family and friends, finances, juggling schedules, fitting in what is important, finding purpose. I can’t get caught up in the lies of social media and I encourage you not to as well. I have seen people “fast” or “take a break” from social media for time periods. Believe it or not, I actually know a number of people who aren’t on any kind of social media. Don’t let it take over your life. Don’t let it cloud your beliefs or values or confidence. Don’t let it lure you into the “comparison trap”.
If you want real connection, call a friend. Ask good questions. Care. Make eye contact. Give a hug. Pat a hand. Hold a friend’s baby. Plan a dinner date. Go for a hike with someone you haven’t seen in awhile. Arrange a mini reunion with people from the “old days”. Share a struggle. Open up about a pain. Ask a friend for advice. Reveal your hurts. Celebrate your joys. Do this in person with those you love. Face to face.
Then go ahead and post those pictures.