Social media is one of those modern scary ‘evils’ that has so many articles written about it, I’m not going to bore you with another one. I’m going to try and entertain you instead.
Sadly, because I write on a blog, I ought to use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest (although that’s not a social media platform) in order to ‘promote’ my blog – to get it seen. I suppose a better way to frame that would be to market it.
That begs the question why would I want to market my blog in the first place? I’ll write a post about that another day, for now I’m trying to stick to a point about being on social media.
The problem is I’m like all those people in the stats they mention that feel a bit worse after using social media. I don’t feel that way all the time, but every now and then I’ll see something that will upset me, make me feel angry, inadequate or jealous and I’ll step away feeling worse than when I arrived.
Last October I bought a gigantic MotoG4 smart phone. I wasn’t thrilled with the size tbh and after the first week I think I had ‘phone forearm’. I’m not sure if that’s a thing, like ‘tennis elbow’ but for what ever reason my arm was achy and stiff, I think the phone is just too wide for my wee delicate little hands. To the credit of one of my friends, she encouraged me by saying that this was one of the requirements of my job, that I would need to become fighting-forearm-fit so to speak.
I picked this particular phone because it has a great camera and I wanted to be able to easily take and upload pics for the blog. It wasn’t long before I installed the apps I use to share the blog to so that I could respond to notifications while I’m out and about. (I have to be honest though and say that it’s struggling with storage space now, it’s time to get a micro SD card).
If you have a smart phone with all those social media apps installed, chances are when you switch it on in the morning there’s a little row of notifications across the top of the phone begging for your attention. If you feed them, they come back hungrier for more, until you get sucked into a bottomless pit of tapping, typing, tweeting and twiddling until it’s two in the morning.
I recently heard a woman on the radio saying she sleeps with her phone under her pillow and regularly checks it at night. Thankfully I haven’t reached that stage and that’s one of the perks of having kids – I appreciate my sleep when I get it – there’s no way I’m going to find other reasons to interrupt it.
I love the positive interaction and seeing photos of my friends and family in places far away. I enjoy watching those inspiring and funny videos and engaging in threads of witty or thought provoking debate.
But the internet can be a lonely and sad place.
How many of us have been disgusted that of all the 336 million people who use Twitter, not a single one responded to our latest tweet? I mean how could they not with that level of wit and hilarity we poured into those 280 characters with carefully selected hashtags?
And why is it that out of the 2.2 BILLION people on Facebook (I just googled that number and my jaw really DID drop), why did only three of them like the cute photo of my latest dinner?
I have been a solo parent since last Thursday as Athol is away for work for ten days and it has been very apparent to me how lonely life at home without another adult can be. As he is in Seattle and eight hours behind us, there’s a brief window of time in the day when we can communicate.
Because he’s not here I have hours in the evening when we’d normally be interacting where I can now blog or engage with social media, but the internet provides a pale shadow of solace for the lack of direct human contact.
The day before yesterday I spotted a photo on Instagram of my sister and nephews, taken by another of my sisters, and although she looked fabulous and they were having a lovely time, I felt sad straight away that I wasn’t there sharing an ice cream with them. I imagined that the world around me was having parties and family fun days out and all I had resolved to do was weed the garden and feed and clothe the kids.
Missing your family if they live far away is normal but how you react when you feel sad about it can change your whole day. So I picked up the phone and called my sister. We chatted for maybe half an hour and at the end we both agreed that we both always feel a lot better after speaking to one another.
One of the non negotiables for me yesterday morning was going to church. No amount of persuading would have made me think it would be a good idea to not go. This is my Father’s house, I am surrounded by my family in Christ and we encourage, challenge, teach and build one another up. Our minds are renewed and our hearts are enlivened.
I know it’s possible to feel lonely in a crowd but if there are individuals in that crowd who allow you to be vulnerable and are willing to step out of their comfort zone and demonstrate care for you, and you in turn are willing to do the same, then you feel loved and connected. In this way our church community so wonderfully demonstrates Jesus’s words when he said: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”. John 13:34-35
That’s the key, I think, it’s not waiting for someone to reach out to you, but to take that step forward and reach out to others, especially when you don’t feel like it. It will probably cost you something but then the reward is great. I’m slowly learning (because I’m a slow learner) that going out of my way to do something for somebody else brings me unexpected joy.
We are made to be in relationship with one another, to engage in fellowship and community. These things are good and make us feel happy. But these need to be genuine, real, tangible and actionable relationships. A few lines on Twitter or a thumbs-up on Facebook is not indicative of a true relationship as it requires little effort and no cost to ourselves.
Today, being a bank holiday, I’m going to take the kids on a picnic. Now I know this is hardly a selfless act, there’s plenty of other noble activities I’m sure we could list and I’m sure I’ll be presented with opportunities as we embark on our day out and interact with others.
However, if I take any photos and share them on Instagram, please know that what you see captures only a brief moment in the day. I’ll not take any pictures of me dragging the kids away from the TV because getting outside is good for them, nor of my teen in tears who is uber-stressed about her upcoming exams, nor the piles of post picnic packing washing-up that’s been ignored.
I know that capturing that one perfect photo will not be what is going to make me happy today. I’m sure you gathered what will though.