A little over a year ago, I posted a blog titled Social Media Shares. It published with this statement highlighted: Social media should just be fun; it’s for entertainment, and I don’t want to have to work at it. The post included some suggestions for engaging well. One year later, and I still hear many people talk about disengaging from social media because they want to scroll for fun, keep up with the great things in people’s lives, and be encouraged. There is a lot of that, but there is also a lot of anger and accusations. There is misinformation and always an abundance of people who identify it as truth and accuse anyone on the flip side of spreading misinformation. We can cite the websites and people we want to serve as our experts. We can justify ourselves and stand our ground as we claim we don’t want anyone to argue with us, because we’re “just posting for facts” or “just posting my opinion.” Agreement is allowed. Discussion is discouraged because it escalates quickly. Social media has become a cesspool.
Or has it?
A couple situations happened last week that prompted me to declare, “I think it’s a good day to stay off social media.” I didn’t want the negativity. But while healthy boundaries are good, I don’t want to set a pattern of avoidance just because a situation or interaction isn’t easy or comfortable.
Our desire for social media to be fun and light might reflect something deeper in us. When we first engage with people, we skim the surface. We smile and enjoy sharing things we have in common. We learn new things and feel encouraged. It’s part of the process of getting to know people and developing relationships.
As those relationships grow, other people intentionally or unintentionally hurt us. We uncover some differences, significant and minor. We get to know their larger circles of people, and some of them perplex us while others add to our circles as well. We see change in others, and we (hopefully) change as well. Our relationships ebb and flow, but unless we are constantly avoiding deeper connections, we don’t stay in the acquaintance zone. We don’t skim through the meaningful relationships in our lives.
We forget that with social media, because it’s easy to hold people at arm’s length. It’s easy to dismiss them. It’s easy to disengage. I know social media has algorithms and ads, but I think most of us connect because of the people, right? So why are we hesitant to do the hard work it takes to engage? I know some use it primarily as a platform to influence others, but more of us use it to connect. And we influence along the way. And we are influenced by others.
I don’t think social media connections should become our primary way to build relationships and replace face-to-face conversations, but I also don’t think it shouldn’t be brushed aside as an insignificant, just-for-fun information spreader. We’ve now had social media in our lives long enough to not be surprised by the pros and cons. What if, instead of misusing it, we do the difficult work to model encouragement, compassion, empathy, and communication? Will we still be blasted and judged and blocked? Probably. Will we get frustrated? Without a doubt. Should we let it consume no more than a small portion of our time? Not at all.
To what lengths would you go to reach out to a friend who seems to be drowning in life’s circumstances and negativity? What if you could engage in a process that models healthy boundaries and communication even if it seems like it’s just a drop in the bucket and has little refreshing influence? What if you didn’t figure it out and let God help you discern when to speak up and with what words, as well as when to be silent? Because left to ourselves, we’ll either shut down because it feels safer or shout out because we can’t deal with it well on our own.
We need to be better, because people matter. We can have opinions, know truth, and have faith while simultaneously respectfully listening and engaging with others. We don’t need to push our agenda on everyone and push back when someone does the same to us. The connections we make and the people we meet are too important for that.