The Illusion of Intimacy
I’ve noticed a theme in many of the stories being shared on social media these days. I was deeply touched by The Innovation of Loneliness ; a short video which explores the changes in the formation of our social circles and communities as we become more “connected”. I’ve seen several that challenge and explore how women’s self perception is being impacted by constant comparison with photo shopped “beauty”. Most notably have been the number of stories about disconnecting from technology in an effort to connect more fully with life and those around us.
I’ve been contemplating my own loneliness, particularly since becoming a mom. I’ve wondered if it’s a natural part of staying home with my kids. Am I really cut out for motherhood? Am I just too selfish? I’ve also wondered if the disconnection I’ve felt upon repatriation from China is due mostly to moving back into the same old when I am nowhere near the same old. Perhaps I’ve just entered into a dramatically changed place? My absence and re-entry into the US has after all, coincided with the immense growth in popularity of Facebook, twitter and other social media outlets. Questions give birth to more questions.
I am certain of a few things though. While social media is designed to connect, its natural consequence is further alienation from one another. While keeping up on friends and family through Facebook can be a great way to stay “connected” from a distance; it is not a replacement for relationship. If I haven’t called you, spoken with you, or sent you an email of a more personal nature- I can’t expect you to know or feel tended to on a relational level. It’s just reality. Conversely, when I speak with someone I haven’t heard from in a while and realize they keep up with me through Facebook; and may even have a decent grasp on the recent goings on in my life- it gives me great pause. Suddenly, someone I didn’t consider to be part of my inner circle seems like they should be. After all, they know what I ate for dinner yesterday, the cute thing one of my kids said to me that morning, or my thoughts on the day in general. It feels strange, out of body, and adulterous.
Adulterous may seem like a strange descriptive, but it best describes my sentiment in these moments. It’s as if there is this potential relationship being cheated on. A relationship that could exist, but won’t because I’ve settled for cheap and quick hook ups in the form of Facebook posts, tweets and so on. I’ve settled for surface when I could have commitment. I’ve chosen relationships of convenience and ease that take place on my terms; as opposed to the messy and challenging relationships that happen in real time. I want airbrushed and dressed up in place of real and wrinkled. Intelligence and quick wit win out over thoughtfulness and pause.
Human relationships are messy and flawed. Frustration and challenge entwine with beauty and creativity in the bonds we form when we walk side by side.
There is a dignity within the wrestling of relationship. We are known. We are accepted. We are stretched and grown. We are challenged and encouraged. Our lives are spoken into in meaningful ways, and we are given opportunities to speak into others lives similarly. We are held to a greater responsibility relationally. When someone is sitting across from us in our living room or at a table in a café- we can’t simply unfriend them or block them from our feed.
Is it any coincidence that as we become more “connected” through social media- we actually feel less connected, less accepted, and less cared for? We yearn for beauty, creativity, and understanding but report feeling less and less of these things with each passing day.
Perhaps it’s time to do something different.
Set down the tablet or phone (after reading this of course). Walk away from the screen in front of you and do something scary. Call someone you’ve intended to call for a long time. Make plans to get together with a friend. Invite people into your home for a meal. Throw aside your reservations, fears, insecurities, and excuses; and (to quote an old telephone company jingle)- “reach out and touch someone”.