A few weeks ago, I saw some old friends. I hadn’t seen them in a few years, and as we were catching up, I mentioned a recent change my son had gone through. “Oh yeah,” one of them said, “I saw that…” No congratulations were offered, no questions asked. My news was old news.
For some reason, instead of feeling more connected to my friend, I felt a sense of betrayal. That’s a dramatic description, but I felt like my friend had been a voyeur into my life instead of an active participant. It was an interesting sensation, and something I’ve never felt around this particular friend. So, I sat with the feeling and tried to get to the bottom of it.
Ultimately, I have no one but myself to blame. My friend did nothing wrong. I maintain a good level of privacy, and I also post on social media enough for anyone seeing it to basically know what’s going on in my life. I filter the audience, but I also post pictures of my children occasionally. So why was I surprised by my friend’s answer? I put my life out there for anyone on my friends list to see. Often, when I see a friend’s update, I don’t click like or respond to their posts. I don’t reach out as much as I could. I’ve been guilty of saying “oh yeah, I saw that…”
It got me thinking. I wonder what would happen if I reached out in real life to the exciting announcements, life events, and unexpected illness or loss? Why do I have the expectation that someone would think I was creepy for doing so? I think part of it is because on a social media platform we’re all voyeurs to an extent. But – we were, most likely, friends in “real life” at one point. And liked one another enough to connect online, so why are we hesitant to reach out beyond the platform?
People often say they like to use Facebook to keep up with their friends. But in my experience lately, I’m able to stay updated, but the true connection I felt when seeing a friend in person is difficult to maintain through social media. When I see a friend’s life event online, I often feel like I’ve been informed more than I’ve been a part of the moment with them. Call me old fashioned, but it just seems like through our global connections, we’re missing a human connection.
Contemplating all of this, I’ve come to understand myself more. I realize that I can focus on being more of an active participant in my own life. It’s something I’ve been struggling with, so I think this is a deeper part of it. Part of this new effort includes doing my best to be present when given the opportunity to see a friend in real life. To understand that social media isn’t a substitute for community. And to know that my friend who always made me laugh, secretly roots for me, and always had my back probably still does, in whatever medium.