Have you ever thought about what those words mean? Recently, I’ve been thinking about how we’ve constructed a whole vocabulary pertaining to our virtual lives, but just a few short years ago, those words had a different meaning devoid of any social media connotation. Let’s take a walk down pre-social media memory lane for a second.
Like: to take pleasure in; to regard with favor; to have a kindly or friendly feeling for.
Share: to use, to participate in, enjoy, receive, etc. jointly.
Story: a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader.
Follow: a person who follows another in regard to his or her ideas or beliefs; disciple or adherent.
Friend: a person attached to another by feelings or affection or personal regard.
When I compared those traditional definitions to our social media definitions, what I realized is that we’ve created a shallow vocabulary that reflects the superficial nature of our social media lives. I know, a little harsh, but hear me out.
To regard something with favor or to have a kindly or friendly feeling for someone requires taking the time to experience the person or object in order, not mindlessly scrolling and clicking “a thumbs up” or heart button.
To participate in or to enjoy jointly denotes some kind of intentional activity with an identified other, not clicking a button, unaware of who will actually take the time to view the content just “shared.”
Intentionally and thoughtfully constructing a narrative to elicit responses from readers or listeners is vastly different than a compilation of visual images, posted not so much with the viewer in mind, but with the intention of making the one posting the images look interesting and favorable.
Following another in regard to his or her ideas or beliefs is a far stretch from deciding to follow another because their feed is aesthetically pleasing or simply because you know who they are.
To be a friend requires spending time with the other in person so that feelings, affection and personal regard can arise and attachment can occur. It is not the false belief that you know a person simply because you have viewed all of the details of their online content.
It’s shallow. You and I both know it.
It’s shallow because the way we use those words is just barely skimming the surface of the depth of the people and the world around us. The original meaning of those words are meant to be used when you actually know someone—their personality, character, hopes, dreams, strengths, weaknesses, failures, annoying quirks, childhood memories, and everything in between. The social media world, no matter how much it advances and how much it exposes you to the never-ending news of the world, can never offer you the kind of depth and transparency that your heart desires. That type of knowledge takes time and effort, and face-to-face contact. Because that’s just how the human heart works, friends. It always has and it always will.
Now, I’m not going on a social media crusade. All I’m asking is that you take it for what it is: a virtual community that pales in comparison to the real world. As always, I’ll leave you with some practical tips.
1. Call it out for being shallow: Social media is shallow. It’s a surface level life. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it, just make sure it’s not your be all, end all.
2. Be an “in person” person: Invest in real life relationships. When you’re with people, put your phone away. Nothing in the virtual world will ever be as interesting and life-giving as the real-life people right in front of you.
3. Fast or limit your social media use: If you’re deep in the social media addiction, fast from it. The Lord tells us in Scripture that if something causes us to sin, we need to get rid of it. If social media is causing you to sin (e.g. self-absorption, pride), then take a break from it. If you’re addiction isn’t that bad or you don’t have a problem with it at all, I still encourage you to limit your time. For example, I have an app on my computer that shuts off social media sites after ten minutes.
Finally, I do recognize that most of you high schoolers are products of the social media era. It’s what you’ve known as normal. But that doesn’t mean you have to concede to a shallow, surface level existence that threatens to rob you of authentic joy and lasting happiness. Have the courage as a Revolutionary for Love to reclaim and live out the true meaning of these sacred, life-giving words: Likes—Shares—Stories—Followers—Friends. And do it not only for your own sake, but for all those who desperately need to know they are accepted, loved, and valued; not in a virtual world, but in reality.