Sometimes we often presume we understand and know the lives of those around us. And I don’t just mean those who are in close proximity to us or those whom we are in relationship with. It is after all 2014 and we all to some degree seem to live our lives through the lens of the internet and social media. So when we log on to facebook, twitter or some other form of social media and we see the things that our “friends” or our “followers” have to say or what they are up to we often times assume things about who they are, what they do, and even how they are as people.
Take me for example, I am a missionary and run a nonprofit organization. I use social media often and find it to be a tremendous tool both for sharing Truths from God’s Word, the Bible, as well as what the Lord is doing in me personally and through our ministry. Does this mean that people know me and have an understanding of who I am? Well, maybe in part as I do try to be direct and honest about what I share and who I am. But even so, I do not think that really gives people a true and deep understanding of who I am as man…as a person. And while there are also others who really share things about themselves and their views on social media, I don’t think it is possible for me to truly know them solely through such a medium. But yet, more and more, we seem to be trying to convince ourselves that we can. We are acting as all there is to a person, who they are, what they do, or even how they use social media is what defines them.
Unfortunately I have felt this far too often. Throughout the lifespan of my social media life I have been misinterpreted, judged, misunderstood, criticized as a person, and have even been “unfriended” by some people. I am sure that there have been times that I have also been guilty of formulating too much of an opinion about somebody because what they say or portrayed through social media. Perhaps if you’re honest with yourself, maybe you’d also draw such conclusions about yourself as well. So I am feeling compelled to challenge myself and anyone else who will allow themselves to be challenged by these words as well to reconsider how social media forms and shapes the opinions of people that we grow to have. I am not suggesting that this reconsideration be some sort of militant protest or call to shut down or give up your use of social media. Although for some, that might be the exact place they arrive at after such reconsideration. What I am suggesting is to reconsider just how much we are allowing social media to be our barometers for the opinions we make of people.
Take the time to try and get to know those you can outside of the world created by website and program developers. Co have a coffee or meal together and have a real and actual conversation. If you can’t meet and talk with people in person because of distance or some other reason, and yet still find yourself making assessments or coming to conclusions about people’s person based on what you read or see on social media, at the least ask them to clarify first. Ask them what they mean by a statement they posted. Ask them why they are involved in the things or causes they are involved in. Let us ask more and assume less.
Social media is a beautiful thing, a great tool, and an amazing privilege that we have in our era when it is used in a healthy way. But it can also be something that robs us from true relationship, gives us false perceptions of who people are or why they do what they do, and can turn us into robotically judgmental people that push others away that we may not even truly know. Let us ponder and reconsider these things together. Then may we be honest enough with ourselves to make any changes or apologies that we might need to make.