More thoughts on community

I joined Facebook last week. I have all the standard conspiracy theory/technophobe reservations with social networking that people often spout. I have no time for my real, flesh-and-blood friends. I don’t want to be “friends” with people I’m not friends with. I don’t care to hear every single change to someone’s daily routine as it happens. At the same time, I was starting to miss out on a lot of significant events because of my resistance. The climax was almost missing the launch party for a dear friend’s book publishing debut because of an email mix-up. If I’d been on Facebook, she could have just added me to the invite she sent to every one of her normal, socially networked friends. Instead, one of my most significant relationships almost took a hit because of my disdain for “shallowness”.

On the other end of the spectrum is a family member who should be one of the closest people to me, but who is in actuality a stranger in some pictures and a vaguely familiar voice on the phone. Our relationship consists mostly of forwarded emails in my inbox. So when I received a call from him on a non-holiday to tell me that his father had died, I was speechless. This man who passed away was the only person from that side of the family I recall being warm with me as a child, and in some ways he represented my only connection to that part of my world (which is a shame, I admit). And now he’s gone. I feel a strange mix of regret, sadness, and emptiness where I think loss should be.

There are a lot of people in the world whom I love. I don’t think I’m an “I love you whore” Ted Mosby style, but I don’t struggle to recognize or communicate my care for another person.  Most of my issues with expressing love to others are the result of relationships gone wrong in which such expressions were misinterpreted, used against me, or trivialized. I’ve learned that other people are rarely as intense as I am in relationship and that I need to measure out expressions of care based on the other’s ability to receive. I think I went so far to the other extreme that I fragmented my capacity for naturalness in relationship.

In the midst of my issues, I look around and see amazing people surrounding me and investing in my life. I talk with those in my church community and find warmth and care and sincerity. Even on Facebook people are reaching out for connection and friendship. Maybe they have felt the same rejection or dysfunction that I have, and so this shallow medium is a safe place to put out feelers for relationship without risking the vulnerability of doing so in the flesh. And maybe there is a way to use this evil for good, seeking out the voices and faces behind the images I find there.

And maybe this is a reminder to invest in those people who have chosen to be kind and loving to me. To be careful never to take them for granted. Maybe the idea of community, especially in the context of the Church, is centered on the idea that every person who touches the space/time reality of my life is valuable and significant and worthy of love. I fear Facebook will drain me of time and capacity for love; maybe it can serve as a catalyst for relationship in the flesh. God saw the value in loving us in the flesh; He gave us Jesus. Jesus saw that this was good…and gave us each other.

1 Comment

  1. November 1, 2011 at 7:50 am

    I can relate to your dilemma w/ FB. For what it’s worth, the pope thinks it’s a good way to spread the gospel….;) I hope it’s a good experience for you and not a draining one.

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