Friday, September 06, 2013

What Social Media Has Done To Us

"I was just unfriended by someone close to me."

I read that a lot lately. You might have said it yourself recently.

You might have been upset by someone or something and decided to respond publicly.
The President has fouled up again.
Your boyfriend cheated on you.
They cancelled your favorite show.
You want to wax eloquent about a Bible passage.
You are sick of Candy Crush invites...

And it happens. You might be looking for an old post about a mutual friend. Worse, you get a friend suggestion for someone you know you should already be friends with. The dreaded unfriending.

It shouldn't really matter whether we are unfriended by someone on the internet since we can have ample opportunities to spend actual time with people who we call our friends, have the same conversations about the same subjects and still get along. But for some reason it still stings when we find out someone unfriended us without telling us they were doing it or why they did it. I remember once when it happened to me. It wasn't just one person but several. I guess they didn't like that I posted conservative news. I could go on all day about all the liberal news posted everywhere and how it didn't have this effect on friendships on social media. But this isn't about what is posted but why we friend and unfriend.

I know why we friend: Social media is an ego boost. The more friends we have, the greater our status in popularity. I am now 38 and still want to be popular.

What has social media done to us though? I love Facebook. It keeps me connected at some level to all the people I have ever known in my life. If there is a birth, birthday, move to a different state, sickness, death, new puppy, tasty meals...I can be part of it. I will not delete my Facebook account because I love having access to the lives of so many friends. Facebook is a blessing. But--Facebook is also a curse.

As I spoke to a friend the other day, I had an epiphany and he said I should write this article so you are reading our conversation. Another friend just said he found out he was unfriended and asked why that happens. Here is why it happens: Social media has hurt our interpersonal relationships. I haven't ever read anything about this...though it may be out there; but I believe it is true. Now when we are offended, all we have to do is hit a button and never have to hear it from that person ever again. When we don't like someone's opinion, we no longer have to have a conversation about why we disagree. We just unfriend them and walk away. Our relationships are so very shallow now that we don't have to call someone on the phone, write them a letter or email, or go out for coffee.

I believe we need to fix this. Instead of hitting that unfriend button, we should write a message to them telling them why it hurts our feelings. If it hurts let them know why but have a conversation about it. We shouldn't take everything so personally. We should be willing to remember that they are still the same person we always knew. We should be more willing to reach out with grace and mercy because what we read may not be what the people meant to say or in the tone you read it in. We should be more willing to love someone who is different. We should still be easy to let things go past us without having to respond to everything we don't like. We should get over ourselves a little.

Let me take this to a more personal level--Me.

This is how I want to be seen: I have not always been conservative, but I am now. Some people don't like it and that's fine. They don't have to. But let me be clear...and I mean really clear...this next sentence is the most important thing you will read in this article:

EVERYTHING else about me is the same!

Same likes, dislikes, food, movies, music, etc. I still love the Lord my God with my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I still love my neighbor as myself. I still believe in being a great friend. I still like video games. I believe in helping the less fortunate. I still love a good joke. I still love to watch pro wrestling. I still love to speak with passion about my life. I still love Star Wars. I still love the Chicago Bears and the Boston Red Sox. I still love to read. I am still gentle as I treat people with respect while standing for my principles in truth and love. That said, I may disagree with you and, *GASP!* have my own opinion. It doesn't mean I have changed. It doesn't mean I am mean and angry. It doesn't mean I have to keep quiet. It doesn't mean I can't be passionate and speak with gusto about something I care about. What has changed is I was able to share it on Facebook and you didn't like it so you unfriended me.

That's not friendship. That's cold and if unfriending helps, so be it. But social media has changed the way we relate to people. We need to remember that we're all in need of more grace in our lives and because of that, we need to be more gentle about the way we treat one another. Remember that as you hover your mouse over that unfriend button like you might be doing right now because you don't like this article. ;)