The other day I was on Facebook and this video popped up on my news feed: What Facebook is Doing to your Brain is kind of Shocking. The gist of the video is how social media is increasing loneliness in our culture because social media gives us a sense that we will never be alone and we as humans are “sacrificing conversation for mere connection” and therefore, we claim to have many friends, although we are actually really lonely. This video caused me to seriously question my purpose for Facebook and what I’m actually using it for.
Last night, one of my friends and I got together to improvise and make some music. I showed him this video because I knew he would appreciate it’s message and that it would resonate with him. It led us to discuss what being lonely means, and what friends mean to us. There were a few profound things I realized through our conversation.
One of the striking lines in that video is “instead of creating friendships, we are obsessed with endless self promotion”. My friend mentioned that that really is what our society is currently about. We are constantly forming, deleting, editing the image we present to the world around us and therefore we are obsessed with how other people view us and see us. How much more wrong could this be? Why is it that our society is obsessed with ourselves and how others view us so much?
No longer are we judged merely by what we actually say in real life, but we are judged by the words we write and things we post online. We are more than just humans in flesh, we are beings in a virtual world expressing ourselves and promoting ourselves so others may like us or think differently about us.
The unfortunate thing is that this self we are promoting can and will be distorted not only by our own editing and deletion but by how the world around us reads it and interprets it. So when will we ever be ourselves if it is constantly being bombarded by two different worlds, a virtual world and an actual world?
Another thing I noticed was how our society deals with loneliness and being alone. My friend mentioned that Jesus had rhythms of solitude and community. He said that it’s ok to be alone, and when we are alone, we should be communing with God. Our society has completely lost this concept because when we are alone, we are on Facebook, or texting, or constantly filling our lives with connections to other people ignoring the fact that we are actually alone.
How often when we’re alone do we actually sit in our loneliness and be? Most of the times I’m alone or feeling alone, I’m on Facebook, having a chat conversation or texting someone asking them how their day was. In that sense, I am never actually alone, because I’m making mere connections with other people to try and hide the loneliness I’m feeling inside.
This really challenged me because although connections with people are good and sometimes healthy, they can also lead us away from being alone. When was being alone a bad thing? What am I doing with my “rhythms of loneliness and community”? For me, I’m filling my loneliness with community that is simply mere connection to satisfy the loneliness I’m actually feeling instead of embracing being alone and taking solitude and refuge in God and his presence in my life. Unfortunately, our lives so often revolve around the connection we have through a phone or social media that we miss the loneliness we feel that could lead us into deeper community with Christ. It really struck me about how reliant we are in the current century on the technology of connection.
I hope to better embrace the times I’m alone and take them on as challenges to call on God in my loneliness, to feel his presence in my life and not instantly reach to my phone to check Facebook, or text someone to hang out. The video mentioned that social media offer us “three gratifying fantasies”: that we will never be alone, that we will always be heard, and that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be. As a Christian, I believe we have hope that we will never be alone and that we will always be heard. Not necessarily by the world around us or people we think should hear us but by the God who created us to be alone with Him. It also reminds me that as Christians, we will never be alone and when we are physically alone we should be called back to Christ and knowing that he is with us no matter what.