Some of my favorite conversations occur with my hairdresser, who has also become a dear friend to me. When you have as much hair as I do and spend hours sitting in her chair every six weeks, there is a lot of time to talk about a myriad of things and we’ve covered topics from teenage angst to spirituality to politics to pop culture and so much more over the years. No matter what the topic, we always laugh a lot and I leave feeling grateful to have spent quality time with her.
Last week one of our many topics included social media. We talked about pros and cons. We talked about how we enjoy seeing things from friends and family who don’t live near us. We talked about how sometimes we wouldn’t otherwise know about difficulties or tragedies people are experiencing so that we can pray for them. We talked about the happy posts with new babies, new jobs, new relationships or accomplishments of children. Then, in a moment of vulnerability, she made a profound statement that caused me to say immediately, “Oh that is a blog topic for sure.”
What she said, that is so very sad but also true is this. “All of those things are great, but I’m not sure what to think when my Facebook “friends” won’t even speak to me in the grocery store. I mean, don’t like my pictures if you can’t say hi!”
We’ve all had this experience. When we see someone in public that we think we know because we follow each other on social media only to then realize we don’t really know them at all. In fact, we’ve never had an actual conversation with them. In reality, the only things we know are the things they were willing to show us. Their highlight reels.
For all of the good that comes from social media, and I do really love it, I fear that it has created pseudo-relationships that have left many of us longing for real friends and, as a result, we are lonelier than ever before. I fear that because most things put on social media paint us in a perfect light, many of us are losing our willingness to be vulnerable with others and are instead hiding behind the edited “candid” that we post in order to garner “likes” from dozens of people called “friends”. I fear that the time we spend engaging in virtual relationships through our phones and computers is robbing us of genuine conversations with real humans in real time. And I believe the enemy feels like he’s getting the victory every time it happens.
We are created for relationships. Relationships with God and relationships with one another. Relationships take time to grow. Quality time and quantity time. And as wonderful as social media relationships may feel, they will never replace the necessity of real conversation, real vulnerability, and real life exchanges. Social media birthday greetings are wonderful, but they will never compare to hearing happy birthday from your dearest friends and family in person or through a heartfelt card. Social media condolences are kind, but they will never replace the hugs or kind words of people showing up at visitation or the funeral of a loved one. Social media debates will always fall short as compared to real conversations between two levelheaded people who can agree to disagree and still remain friends. Social media compliments are nice, but they’ll never replace hearing a kind word spoken directly to you.
Real relationships don’t happen on accident. They must be intentional. It seems to me that we’re a culture who is becoming lazy about our relationships and as a result, they are shallow. We have dozens of acquaintances, but few real friends. We have hundreds of followers, but only a handful who might speak to us in the grocery store. Pay attention to those people who show up for you in real life. Pay attention to those who clap when you win. Pay attention to those who cry when you lose and pull you up when you can’t do it alone. Don’t neglect real friendships in exchange for time spent in a virtual world, with virtual people and surface level interactions. And do not mistake your commenting on a picture or liking a post for real investment in another person. It just takes more…..and deserves more.
Jesus called twelve disciples and spent a lot of time with them. We know through scripture that Peter, James and John were the closest to him. John was considered his best friend. Jesus had lots of followers, but few real friends. I think that’s important to note.
I realized as I left my hairdresser that day that the reason I enjoy my time in her chair so much (other than the fact that she helps make me feel beautiful) is that rarely do I just sit and chat with anyone for that length of time without distraction. And it’s refreshing. I feel the same way at the conclusion of my weekly Bible study after we’ve laughed, cried and shared together for two hours. Or maybe when I’m able to have dinner with a friend I’ve not seen in months and we catch up on life and completely lose track of time. Or when I’m in the car taking a trip with family or friends I call family and we chat the whole way. Whenever or however you enjoy deepening your relationships, be intentional about it. Enjoy social media, but don’t fail to recognize it for what it is. All of those people are not really your friends. Identify your people, spend time with them, and love them well…..that’s how you make real friends.