Thanks to technology and social media, we are now more connected than ever before.
Yet we are more isolated and alone than ever before.
Today, the average person has 300+ facebook “friends” yet the average American reports having only 2 close friends. 25% of Americans report having no close friends (Dave Sumrall, The Struggle is Real: Relationships).
Social media has made it easy for us to feel connected to others without actually requiring us to be in relationship.
Our personal social networks are slowly being replaced with a virtual one. When we feel lonely, instead of calling a friend or inviting someone over, we jump on social media and browse (Sumrall).
It gives us the feeling of community without real intimacy.
If we’re not careful, our appetite for what’s efficient and immediate will leave us unplugged from those around us.
Technology is changing your relationships
Here are two ways technology and social media are threatening your ability to relate to others.
Technology provides me the opportunity to stay selfish. There’s a reason they call it a “selfie”. I-phone, anyone? Suddenly life revolves around my posts, my feelings, my interests, my preferences, my experiences. Technology makes it easy for life to become all about me, affecting the way I view others and relationships.
Instead of my relationships revolving around serving others, they begin to revolve around me. Suddenly, relationships become all about how they can serve my interests. I start seeing others and friendships as a means to an end – how others can help me, make me successful, make me feel appreciated, etc.
Technology provides me the opportunity to stay shallow. Engaging with my screen requires less effort. It’s easier. It’s safer. It requires less of me.
I can hide behind a screen without ever having to risk being known or rejected. I can filter my life as I see fit. I no longer have to be honest or vulnerable. I no longer need to be present or even available to those around me. If I don’t feel like it, I don’t have to talk to another soul. I can choose to withdraw or avoid getting personal when things get rough. It’s much safer to operate in my own virtual world than it is to resolve conflict or keep a friendship.
Technology gives us the feeling of connection without the risk. But in the end, we risk the relationship all together.
Risk is necessary for relationship
Real relationships take work. They’re messy. Intimacy requires me to be present, to roll up my sleeves and get dirty. Rubbing shoulders with others unveils my sin and challenges my self-centeredness.
If I want intimacy, connection, and close friendships, I have to be willing to take the risk. I can choose to trade my fears and shame for the possibility of love and acceptance. Only when I open up and engage with others can I ever experience deep and meaningful friendships.
If I am content to keeping my friendships shallow, then I too will stay shallow. Because character development can only happen in the context of community.
We need each other in order to grow.
God put you in your family for a reason. He knows that we grow and mature best in relationships. Parents, siblings, spouses, children and friendships all provide the training ground necessary for personal and relational growth.
If we immediately bail or withdraw every time relationships get tough, we will will rob ourselves of the life lessons needed for maturity.
Unselfishness is the mark of maturity (Sumrall). Ironically, personal relationships are the refining tool God uses to produce unselfishness within us.
Outside of relationship, you will never learn what it means to be patient, to forgive, to persevere, to resolve conflict, to serve or love unconditionally. You change by staying in the trenches, allowing hardships and conflict to grow you into maturity.
“Only in relationships can we learn what it means to be patient, to forgive, to persevere, to resolve conflict, to serve or love unconditionally. We need others to help us grow into maturity.”
Some of the closest, most personal relationships I have today were the result of persevering through rough patches. Ironically the friendships I kept shallow and conflict-free are now practically non-existent. But the relationships where I chose to remain in conflict and work it out are the ones that have now flourished and deepened all the more.
We reap great benefits when we engage in authentic, personal relationships. We experience mutual encouragement, comfort, tenderness, compassion, and love when we allow God to develop our character and root out our selfishness in the context of community (Philippians 2:1-4).
How to reconnect in your relationships
You are hard-wired for deep and meaningful relationships. So don’t allow technology or social media to keep you shallow or selfish.
Remove your filter. Be honest. Risk being known. Face your fears. Engage in conflict instead of withdrawing from relationship. Allow your experience with others to grow you to maturity.
Be willing to engage on a deeper level with those around you. Try the following steps to reconnect with others:
1. Be intentional.
Reach out! Grease those rusty social joints of yours and get to know someone. Go out for coffee. Invite a couple over for dinner.
I did this recently. I kept hearing about a woman who was currently doing everything I longed to do someday. Instead of lamenting over the fact that I didn’t know her, I decided to be intentional. I asked a total stranger out for coffee. Big deal for my introverted self!
We completely hit it off over coffee! At one point, I’m pretty sure I just bluntly asked, “Can we be friends?” 🙂 And our friendship has been flourishing ever since! My life is now more abundant all because I was willing to take the risk and ask someone to be my friend.
2. Choose wisely.
Bad company corrupts good character. So choose your friends wisely. You will become who you hang around (Prov 13:20). Choose to invest in relationships with others that are mutual and with whom you can share a similar purpose and mindset. Surround yourself with mature people who have the kind of character you also want to develop.
3. Be present.
Be physically present with others. When someone is talking, pay attention. Be all there. Eye contact helps. Be available in body, mind, and spirit without distraction. When your internet goes down, that person will still be there.
4. Be engaged.
Be interested in the lives of others. Care about what they are going through. Don’t just talk about yourself. Ask questions. “With humility, do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4).
5. Be Love.
We need each other. Relationships help us mature and grow. See your relationships as opportunities to imitate Jesus and be the embodiment of His love. Give grace. Forgive. Be patient. Persevere through conflict. Show them love by serving them. Be Jesus to those around you so that they will have a more clear picture and understanding of who God is.