There’s a new phenomenon out there and if you haven’t heard of it yet then you’ve probably been living under a rock. They are called “selfies”. Now this new phenomenon, as I said, probably needs no introduction but basically, it consists of taking a picture of yourself with your camera phone and usually involves posting it to some social media outlet like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. I used to think that these “selfies” were simply a manifestation of our extremely ego-centric cultures. However, I think that it comes from something deeper, something just as human a desire as selfishness yet more noble. I believe it comes from the desire to be “seen” and “known”, a kind of need for intimacy and care.
To illustrate, one day, I updated a status on Facebook with something that was important to me when I was having one of those not-so-good days. Upon checking the day after, it had not one “like” or comment, and I was crushed. It had most probably become buried underneath the meaningless fluff appearing on others’ newsfeeds. No one had seen me in my time of vulnerability. I felt utterly alone. Suddenly, my mind jumped to a few friends of mine on social media who are notorious for oversharing and instead of judging them, I now had a new perspective, they just want to know that someone out there cared, that someone could see them.
Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with social media, selfies, and the like in and of themselves but I propose we seek to cultivate intimacy, closeness and vulnerability in relationships. Social media can be a dangerous pseudo-replacement for these meaningful relationships. We’ve become the most connected disconnected society in history. We’re one click or message away from chatting with friends hours away and yet have, I believe, much fewer meaningful friendships than our ancestors. The only antidote to the “selfie sensation” is to intentionally seek to be open and honest with friends, sharing in life’s pains and joys with them in such a way that makes social media an enrichment to existing relationships instead of an artificial sweetener that masks the bitterness of a supposedly “connected” yet isolated life.
So go and genuinely and meaningfully connect with friends over a cup of tea, a delicious meal, or an evening stroll, intentionally avoiding the temporary satisfaction of superficial social media interactions. Find that friend who “overshares”, give them a call or message them directly, and show them that you “see” them. Use social media to enrich and expand pre-existing relationships instead of masking the emptiness inside with the artificial catharsis of an emotional vent.
An old proverb says, “The fool gives full vent to his spirit, but the wise man quietly holds it back.” I would add, “And shares his burden with a trusted friend.” In the social media age, we have relationships that are “a mile wide and an inch deep” but it will take intentional effort and sacrifice to flip that on its head and have relationships that are, with every inch, “miles deep”.