I feel like a lot of times when I get on here to talk about things, there's a lot of frustration that comes out -- mostly about how I'm feeling as a result of something that has happened to upset me. A lot of that comes from social networking anxiety. How silly is that? But let's face it, it's a HUGE part of our lives now and a part of our generation that even the most adamant and staunchly anti-technology people cannot ignore for much longer. How many of us got the word about Osama Bin Laden via Facebook? Twitter? I only knew to turn on the television for an unscheduled announcement from the President thanks to Twitter. Otherwise, I would've probably continued to watch old episodes of My So-Called Life on Netflix all night and not heard about anything until the next morning.
Most of us have a love/hate relationship with social networking. It's made everyone an expert, everyone a critic, everyone a pundit, everyone knows everything and has the right to share opinions at the click of a mouse or the touch of a screen. Of course this has pros and cons. The good is shared immediately, but so is the obnoxious. Luckily there are electronic limits and boundaries we have the opportunitiy to use to keep our circles as small as possible, but sometimes we limit ourselves so much that we miss too much. So we open it back up...get pissed...close it up...you get the idea.
But the other day I had an epiphany...
What if we used even the negative to find a positive? What if, instead of blocking someone for constantly venting about his or her frustrating life....we sent them a note or a tweet telling them we were thinking about them or asking them out for a cup of coffee? What if, instead of calling someone a hypocrite for posting about scripture one moment and then cursing out someone the next....we saw a possible struggle within them and stopped and prayed for them?
Twitter and Facebook and other social networking sites (God, are there others? It's hard to keep up with those two!) have made it so easy to write off a person as being "too outspoken," or "always negative," or "self-righteous and pious."
I think we've forgotten that a person is not defined by 140 characters or a status update or a YouTube link. Yes, it's something that person is thinking and feeling at that very moment...but have we really been fooled into thinking that the incredibly complex human beings we were created to be are so easily defined and pigeon-holed?
This morning I was talking to a friend that I've never met in person, and all of this kind of came to mind. There is a small group of "online pen pals" that I have thanks to the early days of blogging back in 2005 or so. A small few of us have kept in touch via email and yes, even Facebook and Twitter and such. Then there are some new people I've met thanks to other online groups (running buddies and classical music lovers on Twitter, family-oriented people with similarly dorky loves [coughFIREFLYcough] through a photography group on Flickr, etc.) that I truly enjoy communicating with.
The world getting smaller due to technology is a myth. The world is just as big...the types of people are just as spread across the vast spectrum of personalities, likes, dislikes...and we have SO many opportunities! We can connect with someone instantly over a love of an opera....the quest to run a 5k/marathon/relay for a cause we both passionately believe in....a prayer request for someone who is, when it comes right down to it, a stranger.
I will focus on the good things...and I make a resolution (I can make a mid-year resolution, right?) to try to read between the lines and not make so many snap judgments. A person is a person, not a tweet...not a status update. And while there are many who use social media just to be trolls...I have a feeling that most of us could take a moment and see that there's a human being with feelings and problems and stressors and emotions behind that avatar of theirs.
I challenge you to do the same. Before you get pissed off at a tweet or a status update...stop yourself and try to look deeper. Send a note to someone who has been posting negative or forlorn things lately. Tell them you're thinking about them. Ask them if there is anything they would like you to pray about with them/for them.
I think we may see a difference in our own output when we care more about others'. Wanna try it with me?