Online Interactions and The People They Represent

we log on, we log off. one is just as necessary as the other.

Lately, I've seen quite a few posts and videos on the issues social media imposes on our lives--threatening our sense of community and belonging and sometimes leading us into a hole of comparisons, loneliness, even depression. One such video (done really well, I might add), is this one >> on the Innovation of Loneliness. It's 4 minutes and worth every second.

I always pay attention, because it's something I'm passionate about. I value the role of technology in making people seem closer--information and life updates from around the world with no time delay. But I also wonder at how this appearance can be tricking people into thinking it's genuine connection, when it's not.

So, I've said it before, unplugging is one solution. Taking fasts from the internet and social media over Sabbath, or the occasional week or full weekend shutting down to refocus on life. That in-and-out motion of our breath that technology tries to impose on.

But unplugging isn't so much a solution, as it is a necessary flow in the cycle. We log on, we log off. One is just as necessary as the other.

The real solution to the loneliness hole social media has innovated is found in each other--in community. Reaching out in real life to hear our friend's voice, to gift them with handwritten words, to sit across from each other on the sofa or share a coffee together at a local shop as we experience life. As we articulate in words those feelings that a computer can't portray; those struggles and joys that an emoticon could never do justice.

The living so deep that there's only one person it can give glory to: God, the Giver of Life.

Because technology tries to steal the glory--or the devil through technology does. He turns technology into an idol, giving Mark Zukerberg or Steve Jobs the praise for where we are today and how quickly we can spread ideas and information.

But the truth always wins. The glorious victory always comes in Jesus.

It happens when we look each other in the eye.
When we smile and laugh or empathize and cry... together.
When we scribble out a handwritten note.
When we get involved in church or in our community,
Helping each other in the flesh.
When we Skype with a family member we miss,
Call a friend who needs a word of encouragement.
When we meet in our homes and share a meal,
Or share a conversation where body language proves the intent
And expressions portray approval more than an "LOL" ever could.

each online interaction represents a person

Sometimes, technology will be involved. But it will never be the community, it will instead be a tool to use in building community.

A Facebook message thread can be used to keep three high school friends in touch more than 10 years later--but it can't fly you 900 miles to be together again.
A text message can initiate or confirm an invitation for coffee--but it can't provide the coffee or the conversation.
A Tweet can encourage in someone's doubt, or offer a comic relief in a stressful day--but it can't be there to make sure the other person will get through.

So let us not forget what, or rather who, is behind it. Let us not come to think that Twitter or Facebook or the iPhone is our friend. May we always remember each of those interactions represents a person. A flesh and blood, fading away, here today, gone tomorrow, but we hope to see in Heaven person.

A person that needs a friend--a conversation--a hug--an invitation--a word of encouragement--a listening ear--the gift of friendship and salvation and belonging--more than he needs a "like" on his status update and more than she needs a "cute" in reply to her photo.

What will you do to be that for someone today?