Does social media change the way we love each other?
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial,” says Timothy Keller. This is just the short beginning of one of the most powerful quotes I’ve ever read. For a long time, I have been wondering why I have grown tired of social media. I thought maybe I was weird considering the generation I am part of; but the more I have thought about it, the more I realize it was simply a long time coming. For as long as I can remember, I have supplemented human relationships with the relationships I form through social media. This has only lead to superficial relationships in which I replace knowing a person, with loving the person they display on their social media. In turn, I have also forced my own anonymity by building up the technological barrier between myself and people. I believe this a huge problem both socially and spiritually among all ages.
There is a sense of anonymity that comes with social media and technology. Sometimes it’s helpful, as it aids in free speech and the ability to say what you feel on a platform designed specifically for you. However, most of the time it’s a wall to hide behind while we spew every hateful or ignorant word we can think of. Anonymity can give people who would never say the ideas in their minds out loud, the courage and the platform to speak.
Another aspect of anonymity, and probably the one that scares me the most, is that of depersonalization. The definition of depersonalization is, “the action of divesting someone or something of human characteristics or individuality.” Social media is slowly chipping away at our personal relationships with people. I have realized over the last semester that because of how much time I spend on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, I have become less patient and loving toward the people around me. It’s easier for me to think of them as the pictures I see and the words that I read and not take the time to get to know them in person. This thought process isn’t Biblical. The Bible says in Hebrews 10, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” It tells us not to neglect meeting together because that’s how we can encourage one another.
My final point is I want to be known. One of my biggest fears is to go through this life and be unknown, to let my anonymity take over because of social media or my apathy to get out in the world. Having the virtual world right at my fingertips has hindered my ability to truly know those around me and I suspect I’m not the only person who has fallen victim to that. I only hope that through this realization and self-awareness, I can rectify the relationships I have not given enough time or energy to.
The rest of the Timothy Keller quote from the beginning of this article goes like this, “To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” Life is too short to be spent staring at a screen and pretending that we know each other. By separating ourselves from social media, we can learn so much more about each other and ourselves. We can both know and love those around us that we only pretended to know before. Knowing someone becomes less about knowing every single thing that happens in their life and more about the way they get excited when they talk about Christmas. Loving someone becomes less about the uplifting words they post on Facebook and more about the journey you’re on together, good or bad.