If you haven’t read my post from yesterday, the rest of this won’t make sense, so please do that first. (Do that by clicking on the red words.)
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
The post yesterday really seemed to resonate with many people. Sometimes I worry that I am just making noise here, so I’m happy if the post made you think or encouraged you in some way. Because I have had some further conversations on this topic, I wanted to clarify a few points:
Facebook friends can still be “real” friends. In reminding us that it is important for our mental health to have face to face friendships in which we share at a more intimate level than would be appropriate or practical online, I wasn’t suggesting that only those “inner circle” friendships are of value. We all have friends at a variety of levels of intimacy. In an ever widening circle, we have our friends who are like family, our friends with whom we share most intimately, those friends with whom we labor side by side at work or in volunteer roles, those friends who we only know through our kids, those friends we only see at church, those friends we knew well as children but only see infrequently now, and those friends with whom we only share a passing acquaintance.
One of the wonderful things about Facebook and other forms of social media is that we now have a forum to stay current with friends with whom we may not otherwise stay in touch. I am FB friends with a number of high school and college friends and, while they may not be the ones I would call in a crisis, I take great joy in seeing the photos of their kids, hearing about their current interests and having the privilege to pray for their family when an aging parent is ill. I also have FB friends who I know from the schools my kids attended, the church we used to go to or the activities in which my kids were involved. Although I may not have ever formed an inner circle friendship with some of them, I love seeing what is happening with their families, where their child decided to go to college or what they think about the construction on Stringfellow Road, the best book they have read lately or even the Redskins unlikely win over the Cowboys! 🙂 I remember a funny FB conversation last year with a number of those types of friends….I don’t even remember what it was about….but when several of us ended up at Back to School night at the high school that evening, we giggled every time we ran into each other in the halls. Not life changing, but a sense of community all the same. (Actually, to be honest, I think it had to do with hair again…)
These friendships are a part of my community and a part of the tapestry of our family’s life. While they may not visit me in the hospital if I’m sick, I suspect a number of them said a prayer for our family when I shared that my father-in-law passed away last December or when I posted on my blog during my husband’s recent surgery. When I run into FB friends out in the “real” world, that connection is reinforced when we can offer congratulations for the latest news or inquire about the health of an ailing family member. Bottom line, these friendships have great value, as long as they aren’t the only type of friendships we have.
Comparison and competition are the enemy, not other people. As we talked about yesterday, the problem with social media is ever believing that what we see online tells the whole story. As a generation, we are still trying to figure out how to navigate this online world and sometimes it is confusing. In a world full of bad news, I love that Facebook often is filled with good news. I like to see what people find interesting and news worthy. But just like many of you, if I’m not taking good care, I fall prey to the temptation to make someone else’s good news or pretty picture a reason for me to feel bad about myself.
Here’s an example: “The pictures from the Halloween costume party looked so fun….what a great costume. I have never been invited to a Halloween costume party. I wonder why we never get invited to Halloween parties. I wonder why people don’t like us. It’s probably because I talk too much. Why do I always do that? I suck.”
Are the photos the problem or is our tendency to make it all about ourselves the problem? Why should someone else’s happiness take anything away from me? Is there a limited amount of joy in the world, so that more for her means less for me? I saw this video today from my favorite Glennon Melton. If you don’t know Glennon, you should immediately go like Momastery on Facebook. I think she perfectly describes the ways we allow envy and comparison steal our joy. I won’t even try to add to what she says, watch this:
I am making this up as I go along. Here is the absolute main point I was trying to make yesterday: if I ever come across on this blog, on Facebook or anywhere else as if I think I am an expert on the secrets of the universe, you have my permission to quit listening. I write about the things that I am learning and the things that confuse me. I write about what I notice. I write about what resonates as true with me and I write about what seems hard. I write about that which gives me strength, meaning and purpose and I wonder out loud if it is true for anyone else. I write about my experiences as a parent and a wife and a friend and hope that something I’ve learned along the way might help someone else. I write about my faith in God out of a deep sense of gratitude and because I find my best self in Him. Today, my family and I are mostly happy and mostly healthy. Tomorrow might bring something different, so I’ll celebrate today. It is an absolute honor and privilege and surprise and joy that anyone ever reads a thing I write. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Truly.
Would love to hear your thoughts!