Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Friendless in the 21st century

So I hit the button to deactivate my Facebook, and turned off my Twitter, deleted my Instagram and searched frantically to determine if I had any other lingering open accounts of social media. 

I've decided I don't like a world where the number of friends listed on any of these "social" accounts belies the truth that people are desperately alone in the 21st century. And while I have long believed that social media can be largely helpful, I think far more challenges lie in their wake. The generation of words and not presence has created a discordant anxiety with face to face communication at any level. We hide behind all of these social media masks that make us sound more than we are, stronger than we are, more self assured than we are. And for those who dare be authentic, it is so much easier to be "honest" in our reactions that seek to confront rather than listen. 

A friend of mine attended the Cannabis Cup this past weekend, billed as a two-day marijuana celebration at Auto City Speedway. He/she said some 400 people attended a concert Saturday night by Wyclef Jean, wandered through all sorts of vendors selling drug paraphernalia, and entered a "Medicinal Tent" where they were able to freely experience the "medicinal" effect of pot. High Times Magazine sponsored the event - and I forgot to ask if my friend saw a single doctor.

So my friend tells me they need an id to enter the medicinal tent "where the real action is." Of course, he/she didn't have an id, but their much older friend did. Forget the fact they look nothing alike! The old friend is granted access after the attendant checked the id. The old friend manages to slip the id back to my friend, poignantly reminding me of those days when fake ids granted access to every bar on college campuses. My friend flashes the id to the attendant who looks at it, looks at he/she, looks at id, looks at he/she - squints, then somewhat exasperated, says, "Whatever. Go ahead. Have fun." Entrance to the Medicinal Tent at the High Times Magazine Cannabis Cup is granted. No one even seemed the least bit concerned for the illness my friend was experiencing. In fact, my friend said they didn't see a lot of sick people attending the event. 

WHAT?? This wasn't a modern day Bethesda with a multitude of sick, blind and withered, waiting for the moving of the water? (Scripture - look it up - John 5:2&3!)

It's all in the billing of this stuff, how we market it. The words on every social media program seems to promise all that we longed for in high school - popularity. Just how many friends do we have? Do they like us? Did they accept my friend request? Oh my gosh, what about that feeling when we discover we have "friends" who have "unfriended" us?

It is hard for me not to hear the echoing words of a Flint teacher when I am considering all this. At the time, I was struck by his progressive stance that social media is actually nothing more than the 21st century playground - kids do the same things online as they did when they were outside and beyond the reach and glance of teachers who would correct anti-social behavior. On both playgrounds, there were bullies, false friends, words were said that stuck for a lifetime. Sometimes they get caught. Lots of times they don't. 

Truth be told, we don't really have as many friends as Facebook boasts. In a crisis, very few, if any, of my Twitter followers would be willing to drop everything to help me through the terror. And I have bemoaned the fact that hardly anyone ever likes my photos on Instagram - and I think they are great shots, darn it! 

And there may have been a few sick folks in the Medicinal Tent, but I am thinking the great majority were not. They were in there trying to feel better about life, sliding in under a false identity, but hoping the subterfuge wouldn't be discovered. 

This post represents my first day of not relying on words and truly seeking presence in friendships the old fashioned way. No false identities. No subterfuge.

It also represents not having any friends as defined by the 21st century... 


Anonymous said...

Awesome! BTW, I don't "like" your Instagram photos because I rarely check my Instagram account, and don't really know how to use it! But, I will miss you on Twitter...

Anonymous said...

ok, so I just posted a comment, but not sure it "took"... I am social media illiterate! Anyway, loved your post--Awesome... pinkgreenrabbit