You and your family went to Maine on vacation. If I “like” your seaside posts on Facebook, does that mean we connected about it? If I double-tap the Instagram pic you took at a concert and leave a comment, is that a proxy for you sharing your experience with me over coffee?
Lately, I’ve seen a few people I was excited to catch up with. When I began to share things I’d been up to, they interrupted with, “I’m totally up to date on you— I saw it all on Instagram!” The statement, innocent enough, felt like a shut down, as if to say: I’m good, I know everything there is to know, no need to tell me anything!
I left those interactions feeling a little weird, and a lot confused. My feed negated the need for a real conversation. My social media was impairing my social life. If were so connected these days, how do I feel more disconnected than ever?
Everyone knows that a social media feed is largely comprised of your “good” moments— edited at best, and highly falsified at worst. I try to be as authentic as I can be online, and don’t set out to pretend to be someone I’m not. But it’s definitely not the whole picture: I’m not quick to post when I feel ugly/tired/depressed… and that’s a significant chunk of my life!
The connections I have with my close friends aren’t just about clinking glasses, strutting on red carpets, or marveling at beach sunsets with feet outstretched. We connect about fears and setbacks, we need pep talks and counsel, and we endure tragedies… together. And in those moments, “likes” and comments are wholly inappropriate and feel hollow. Those moments require full attention, eye contact, hugs and undistracted listening.
I don’t want my social media life to be a surrogate for real-life connections with people.
These days we all have an audience, and a platform to broadcast our thoughts, opinions, recommendations, rants, and views. We can connect with like-minded people all over the world, and overall I think that’s a great thing— it can be a lifeline for people who feel isolated, or just a way for families to feel closer when they live far away from one another.
But think of those connections like dietary supplements: They’re great to add to the mix, but shouldn’t replace your desire to seek out whole connections, face to face, heart to heart.
When things like this happen— when I am feeling low on real-life connections, I remember one of my favorite quotes from Eckhart Tolle: “What you think the world is withholding from you, you are withholding from the world.”
I’m going to make it my mission to see more of my friends offline and ask more of them how they’re really doing. Even if I think I already know from countless Instagram and Facebook posts, the answer might surprise me, and the gesture might be just the thing that sparks that connection… for both of us.
Do you feel like social media connects you to friends and family? Or does it make you feel more distant? Do you feel that social media connects you, or disconnects you? Let me know where you stand in the comments.