Sunday, July 13, 2014

True Relationship Building in the Age of Social Media

Yesterday I saw a friend that I hadn't seen in seven years. I know it was seven years because her seven year old son was 6 weeks old the last time I saw them. She was the friend who asked me if I would stay longer than 3 years in Peru and I responded that I wouldn't unless God gave me a specific ministry that was close to my heart. Somehow that did happen and here I am seven years later.

My friend and I haven't seen each other but do know a bunch about each other's lives. We read each other's newsletters, we check out each other's photos and status on facebook. I know that her son came home from school smelling like sheep and she knows what dessert I made for the cafe last week. Social media allows us to stay connected!

But here's a crazy question: are we really connected? Do I know if she feels fulfilled in her life with her family as a missionary? Does she know what my vision for the future is? Do we just know stuff about each other without knowing each other? Regardless of how much we try or don't try, social media creates a certain picture of us. But it's not all of us... Human relationships are sloppy messy stuff. When you talk to a person face to face you see their facial expressions, hear their emotions and the inner workings often missed on the internet.

I remember my first internet friend was a guy from Brazil whom I met through a Christian chat room. We had fun emailing and chatting but when he told me he wanted to marry me I was pretty shocked. I remember telling him: "We only know half of each other." There are crucial missing elements in internet-only socializing that it makes it like only knowing half of a person. Social media is great for staying connected to some details in people's lives but it should never ever replace face to face personal contact. That's how true relationships are built allowing you to truly know a person and not just know _about_ them.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Degrees of Separation

I'm back in the states for the summer!! It's so wonderful to be in the green green state of Pennsylvania once more. Penn's woods are greener than any of the ichu (inca straw) covered mountains ever get during the rainy season in Cusco. But Cusco's blue skies have PA's beat in their cerulean majesty.

The last time I was back was during Hurricane Sandy in November of 2012 and that was only for a week. So, it's felt like quite a long time since I've tread the land of my upbringing. It's funny how the longer you are away, the smaller your world seems to shrink in that place. I was looking at my address book - probably a very antiquated object in a digital world - and observing how much smaller my contact list was. It gave me a pang of sadness until God reminded me that it was only natural. Once you go away for a while the ring of people you know shrinks starting with acquaintances that you have through work or general life activities. They are the first to go as you let go of those specific activities. We naturally are making new friends and losing some relationships in the flow of life but when you are far away those new relationships are not made. You rely on the relationship base you had from a long time ago and you notice some things.

You notice that certain relationships just naturally disappear but
notice how strong some relationships can be regardless of separation of time and location. You notice the friends that you haven't talked to in a year whom you just easily pick up with again. You notice who the people are that really care about you, appreciate you and want to be your friend. And you thank God because those people are a gift that He's placed in your life.

But relationships take work and an investment of time and interaction. So, here I am back in the states, reconnecting and continuing to build on the foundations of relationships that have stood the test of time. I am thankful for friends who still love and appreciate me despite the distance and time apart. Will I make new friends? Perhaps, but I do know that times like these - home leaves/furloughs are good for strengthening the ties that have kept me coming back to this country. Those relationships are the ones that make it feel like you are coming home.