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.

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