I remember how I felt when Facebook started sucking time out of my day. I thought: “This will be like everything else, a fad. I’ll burn some hours early-on, grow bored, and seldom use it later”. Wrong.
Social media like this, a significant advance from our old Fido Net message boards of the 1980’s, was not “just another game”. For me, it became an ever-present window to reunions – with old classmates, new friends, and my adult children.
And before they figured out what they would be revealing, my kids accepted my friend requests! Now, that’s not to say they made an inadvertent blunder. I’d like to believe they connected with me because they WANTED to include me in their life. But such connection is a two-edged sword.
Don’t get me wrong, I want this connection. I want to know what’s happening in their lives and I want them to know about me. But I probably wasn’t fully prepared for the impact of relinquishing “ignorance is bliss” from my life. I can’t help but feel, they may feel the same way about stuff I post.
I think social media has opened my eyes to the “layers” of human communications. Some statements are meant to defend a position, or take a side. Some are an advertisement for emotions. And some, seemingly few, are really aimed at achieving understanding.
Of course, a transmitter is useless without a tuned receiver. Listening is even more crucial in the connected world, but one must be able to discern the nature of the transmission as well as the content.
For instance, my adult daughter posted a piece on depression that really shook me. About half way through reading it, I was ready to jump in the car and rush to save her from suicide. Thankfully, her post resolved in a deeply reflective peace that let me know “she’s got this”.
But it underscores the weight we bear when we choose to remain connected. And that’s a good thing. Those who can’t handle such intimacy, run from it. Those who love, stay.
Perhaps that’s an over-simplification. Some stay to help, some stay to influence, some stay to persuade, some stay to chastise or degrade. Some leave because it hurts, some leave because they don’t care, some leave because they feel helpless, or even guilty.
It’s an interesting dynamic to observe.
There’s an old premise that says “everything we do or say is an attempt to gain love”. But as a former salesman, I know that “preventing a loss” is also a strong motivator.
On the “gaining love” side of things are posts like my daughters where she exposes her struggle and pain. Does she want advice? – probably not – particularly anything expressed in condescension “Oh, you shouldn’t feel that way” or “Here’s what you need to do…”
Perhaps all she really wanted was a hearing ear and a reply that tells her she’s loved and respected and admired. After all, isn’t that what WE ALL want?
This connection thing is heavy, but it’s worth it to me. I wonder what kind of deeper relationship I might have developed with my Father had he lived long enough to experience a social media connection with me. I think I would have treasured that because I know he loved me. And unlike mom, who can’t stand computers, Dad would have enjoyed playing with a new gadget! I think I’ll connect with my 90-year old mother on the one social medium she knows – the phone. I won’t share her grand children’s struggles because I don’t want her to worry, but I might ask her for some prayers for “the highest good to manifest in their lives”. She’s real good at that media too.