Real Connections in the Digital Age
by Leslie Jordan
Every morning, I have my social media routine. Instagram first – it’s my favorite. I open Twitter, check my email and finally Facebook where I mindlessly scroll and swipe, pausing on the stories that I’m most interested in seeing. Sound familiar?
Throughout my day, I would unconsciously open my browser on my phone, type in “f” and hit enter. My phone knows that “f” in the search bar means Facebook. I’ve trained it that well. Then, a month ago I quit Facebook.
To be honest, I was struggling to see the purpose of my scrolling. I would find myself just wasting time and getting lost in the deep abyss of updates, religious rants and cat videos. I would log off and fail to recall seeing anything of value. Yes, it was nice to be “connected.” But the more often I said it, the less I believed it was actually true.
The average American spends 40 minutes a day on Facebook.(1) And among adult users on the social media site, the average number of friends is 338.(2) So if we do the math, we spend roughly 7 seconds per friend (assuming we haven’t blocked half of them because of their political views, baby pictures, or Farmville invitations!)
I suppose this is why I quit. I didn’t need one more excuse to perpetuate false connections with friends. Being a traveling musician, I am learning to value the time spent face-to-face with people. I long for deeper relationships, broader conversations; to know and to be known. It is becoming more and more difficult to cultivate offline relationships in our online world.
Henri Nouwen says this, “What we see, and like to see, is cure and change. But what we do not see and do not want to see is care: the participation in the pain, the solidarity in suffering, the sharing in the experience of brokenness.”(3)
Care takes time. True connection takes time and presence – much longer than the 7 seconds we allot while we are online. Brené Brown defines connection “as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”(4)
In our ever-present need for social connection, the temptation is to believe that it happens online. That by sharing our opinions, favorite selfies and blogs, we are seen, heard and valued. But we were designed for more.
We were designed for an exchange. Jesus’ ministry was not only focused on the masses, but also spent intentionally with his 12 best friends. The night before he was betrayed and murdered, he gave them the greatest charge. “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:34-35) Jesus revealed that connection was an exchange. A receiving of love and a giving of love. Connection is not something we observe, but rather something in which we participate.
Love is cultivated over time. Quitting Facebook didn’t free up a ton of time and I don’t believe it is the solution to our problem with connection. But it is one less distraction I fight against each day. My hope is to be more present in each moment. To love more fully. To care more deeply. To take serious the charge of Jesus, to love the way He has loved me.
Leslie Jordan is one-half of worship duo All Sons & Daughters and a worship leader at Journey Church in Franklin, Tenn. All Sons & Daughters recently wrapped up a tour with Crowder and is currently headlining a tour through the spring in support of their self-titled sophomore studio album with special guests Sandra McCracken and Jamie Grace. Visit www.allsonsanddaughters.com for more info.
(1) Mark Zuckerberg, Q2 earnings call. Reported by nbcnews.com,
(2) Pew Research Center, 6 New Facts about Facebook. Aaron Smith. 2/3/14
(3) Henri JM Nouwen, Out of Solitude
(4) Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection.