Guest post by Mary Wilson Peed, Unkommon Media and William Huebner, Oakland Church of God, Distant, PA.
Mary: When my generation was in middle school, we passed notes that had little boxes on the bottom, one for “no” and one for “yes.” The question was written, “Do you like me?” and then the recipient would check the appropriate box. Once the box was checked, there was very little if any follow through. You simply “liked” the person.
William: When my generation was in middle school we only had three viable options to ask girls out on a date (I use the term date loosely because your mom taking you to the movies doesn’t really constitute as a date). Option one was to gather up all the courage you had and confront the girl and just tell her how you felt, which was a big risk, especially if it was in the hallway of school and you were dropped like a bad habit. Your other options were to write a note (on a sheet of paper), and hand it to her or drop it off at her locker. If you were really desperate you could ask “that” friend to do it for you (you all know exactly what friend I’m talking about). Oh can’t you remember the good old days.
With the entrance of cell phones and the Internet, the general use of integrity and courage seem to have exited. I remember vividly the first time I asked a girl out on a date through “instant” messaging (which is a euphemism, considering the dial-up connection). Lets just say it did not end well for me … ever, no matter how many times I tried. Then it dawned on me that these girls, more than anything, longed for a man with confidence and at least enough courage to say something to their face.
Fast forward a few years to social media — people literally can’t get enough. This incredibly easy way to stay connected, multiply not only your status, but also how many “friends” you have. Thinking back to the days of MySpace makes me laugh, my fighting hard to be in the top-ten friend list of everyone I knew, and looking forward to college so that I could join Facebook. Now, social media sites are legion.
With all things good, Satan has the ability to twist things for evil. For example, our desire to be in community with others was designed and created by God, but the willingness to trade our soul, simply to fit in, is a real tragedy. In a similar manner, I fear that the promise of the connection through social media is actually the opposite of the reality of social media, as people of this nation are experiencing an overwhelming amount of loneliness. The sad truth is, if you use social media to share your heart with everyone, and do not share times of intimacy with those closest to you; you end up with thousands of acquaintances and no real friends. I miss college, and my college friends so much because of the late night hangouts and serious conversations. Social media pretends to keep us extremely connected, but at the end of the day, isolates and robs of real intimacy with others. Social media gives a way to “connect” without truly connecting, offers no accountability, and numbs us to the guilt we might feel from not being a real friend to those we love.
With every passing day, I realize how precious and important a good, solid, trustworthy, intimate, loving friend is. As humans we walk through so many storms, trials, and temptations in life. We were not designed to go it alone. Not in a divine sense, and especially not in a human sense, our condition mirroring Jesus’s humanity and divinity. We need brothers and sisters to surround us on a daily basis (a cord of three strands is not easily broken, Ecclesiastes). We need a Paul (A mentor to guide our path), a Timothy (a son or daughter in the faith), a Barnabas (a good friend that loves and believes in us), a Samuel (someone to see the potential in us that we cannot), a Jonathan (a good friend that builds us up spiritually), a Nathan (someone willing to be honesty, even when it is hard to hear). These are not relationships that can be formed or maintained through social media. This isn’t a call to walk away from, or to fast social media, though I don’t doubt that may be needed in some instances. This is a call to get real and be open with others. Indeed this is a call to begin to live like these Biblical examples to those around you and watch your life transform from being lonely, to vibrant and full of fellowship and love.
Editor’s note: Mary is one of a handful of writers who contribute to the YLO and MVL Resource Books each quarter. We’re grateful to Mary (and her son William) for their work, but more so for their insight and their heart for youth leaders.