It was a Sunday afternoon. I was idly perusing Facebook, and something struck me. I hadn’t seen one of my best friends post in a few days. She’s a great Facebooker, sharing inspirational articles, photos of her family, updates on her hobbies and such. And, of course, her page is full of fun times and escapades we’ve enjoyed together. Which is why it was so odd that I hadn’t seen any recent posts from her.
I went to her page. I couldn’t pull it up. In fact, I got a weird error message. For a brief moment, I was struck with a horrible thought: “OMG. Did she unfriend me??” So I texted her. “Dude, where’s your Facebook page?” She responded that she needed to turn it off for a while. She had to step away from the arguments, the name calling, and the ugliness that had become her feed.
I get it, because mine looks very much the same. And I don’t think we’re alone.
So I began thinking: what is the purpose of social media, what’s our purpose in using it, and are we being truly purpose-driven when we’re posting and commenting? Here are some of the top things that came to mind as I pondered this subject …
A great thing about social media is that it allows us to share information quickly. With a lot of people. This is particularly valuable when that information is timely, important and urgent. Think lost child, natural disaster … You get the picture. But it’s also valuable when there’s a great story that informs, inspires and makes you a better person for viewing it.
Let’s turn to the flip side. Information is shared quickly. With a lot of people. There is no fact checking. Critical thought about the message is likely absent. If it supports my beliefs, then I’m sharing it! Do I stop to think about who might be harmed by this? Do I consider that there may be a different point of view, or more updated information that could impact my message? Maybe. Maybe not.
Starting a Dialog
I feel fortunate in that I have many friends on social media who start very thought provoking and respectful dialog about the issues we face today. And we need that dialog. We need to be able to bat around all sides of an issue, think about things in ways we may not have thought before, and learn about issues we may not even know existed. It’s enlightening. It inspires critical thought, and yes, an exchange occurs that, while it may not change your position on an issue, at least you’ve had the opportunity to see it through a different lens.
Yet how many of us have friends who share mean-spirited information, or information that’s clearly presented to make someone else feel stupid or not worthy? And yes, the memes say exactly this. It’s always something along the lines of “you’re an idiot if you believe ….” Guess what? We all believe different things. And that is a beautiful thing if we all respect each other.
Connecting with Each Other
I love being connected on social media to those I don’t get to see every day – or every year for that matter. We keep up with life together. We share in each other’s successes, and support each other through challenges. And while those personal conversations may not happen in the public space of social media, many of them start there and transform into phone calls, text messages, and even plans to travel and visit one another in person.
But are we connecting with each other when we’re pushing our friends off social media? Perhaps the sharing of certain things can pull you closer to some, but maybe you have those friends who avoid posting their opinions in public. It may be someone you love dearly, and you could be pushing them away.
This isn’t meant to be a political rant, but rather a call to think about your purpose on social media. Who do you want to be, how do you want to show up, and how do you want to impact those you’re “friends” with? Would you say the things you post on social media to someone’s face? Who might you be driving away? (And please don’t say: “If they don’t agree with me I don’t want to be friends with them!” We all have plenty of friends who don’t share our beliefs, whether we know it or not.)
Slow down. Be deliberate. Be purpose driven.
I miss my friend on Facebook, and I hope she comes back someday soon.