If I had subtitles for my posts, the subtitle for this one would be: “Or why I hate Facebook.” Instead, I’ve put it in the title, too, because I don’t want you to miss it.
I know Facebook and other social media outlets give friends a way to stay in touch and see pictures of each others’ children and keep updated on what’s going on in our busy lives, but it also strikes me that Facebook has created distances between friends, too.
Under the best circumstances, Facebook feels like a junk-food approach to maintaining friendships, when what we really need to strengthen our connections with each other is real time together, talking, hugging, laughing and even crying with each other.
There are things I deal with daily and weekly and monthly that I would never dream of sharing on Facebook, and even if I did, I’m afraid my status update would get lost on my friends’ pages among the pictures of waffles someone had for breakfast or the umpteenth post about how another friend is ready for the weekend to get here.
I have friends who expect me to know everything that’s going on with them because they’re on Facebook, but they’re no more likely than I am to post the raw, hurting areas of their lives for their friends (and advertisers) to see.
This “shallowing” of friendships and its spread away from the virtual world and into the real world struck me particularly this past weekend. My husband and I spent Friday through Sunday at a meeting for his company, talking with dear friends and meeting new acquaintances. But we walked around all weekend – and by we, I mean all 400+ of us – generally not digging deeper than the obligatory, “How are yous?” and the “Oh, I’m doing wells.”
Granted, there wasn’t a ton of time to sit down and really talk with any one person or couple, but I can tell you with certainty that there was real pain hiding behind some of the plastered-on smiles. Occasionally we would talk of an absent friend who was struggling with a personal health issue or that of a loved one. Or learn of a friend outside of the company who has changed jobs again – a fact we might have expected to learn on Facebook.
But at a weekend like this, filled with meetings and dinners and activities, who has time or wants to hear about the loss you feel after your house has burned down? The struggle to care for your terminally ill parent? The drug addiction your child is battling? Your marriage in tatters?
Understandably, we save those conversations for our closest friends, and we need to spend time with those friends to get through the shallow end of friendship to where the deeper truths can come out.
Tending the garden of your friendships
That need for face time (and no, I don’t mean the cool application on your iPad) brings to mind how friendships are like gardens.
Friendships need a bit of tending to flourish and produce beautiful blooms. They need the warmth of attention, and watering encouragement. Sometimes, like the iris bulbs I wrote of last week, they need air and separation to strengthen them. Each friendship needs a slightly different type of fertilizer, different amounts of sun and shade, and produces different blooms and fruit. And each friendship has seasons in which it will bloom and seasons in which it will go dormant. Some blooms will be delicate and understated, and others may come with thorns that you must decide whether to embrace for the reward of the showy blooms they produce.
The tending of friendships is critical to our happiness. Think of what Jesus considered most important while He was here. He didn’t spend time writing books of the Bible. He spent His time cultivating friendships, influencing followers and teaching His disciples, all the time knowing that He would be the one to fulfill His statement:
This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. – John 15:13-15
Following Jesus’ commandment doesn’t mean another “poke” on Facebook. It means taking the time and hard work of learning to love another person.
So to all of you whom I call my friends, acquaintances and random readers, do you have a friendship that could use a bit of tending today? How about calling that person with an invitation to go for a walk together, or to get together for coffee or dinner? Sure, you’ll need to make sacrifices to spend time with that friend, but the results can bring you a more beautiful garden.
I’d love to hear about your friends and the ways you connect with them in the real world.