How is Social Media Changing Relationships?

50 Shades RidgeOur relationships are so important.  Social media can help. We completely embrace it, as a church.   I love the many forms of social media, and the advantages of technology.

Do you text, message, Facebook or Instagram your spouse, kids, family or friends with an encouraging word: I love you, you’re special or a great picture?    We can do so much to share our lives and minister to other people through technology and social media.  It’s incredible.

But that being said, if we do too much of it, and are consumed with it, it can actually hurt our relationships, and rob us from that which God values most.  We may love it, but we have to manage it.

I want us to look at intimacy in relationships.  I hope you will hear everything through the lens of the words of Jesus in John chapter 13: 34-35. 

Jesus said 34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  35 By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

What I love about this is not just what Jesus said, but also what He didn’t say:

  •  He didn’t say “They will know you are My disciples if you have perfect theology.”  Good theology is important, but He didn’t say that.
  • He didn’t say, “They will know you are My disciples, if you have a fish stiicker on the back of your car.”

They will know you are my followers by your love.  How did Jesus love? What is love? Is love given only from a computer screen, tablet or mobile device?

In light of what Jesus said.    How is Social Media changing relationships?  We know that it’s helping in a lot of different ways but are there any drawbacks?

  1. The term “friend” is changing.

For example, a “friend” used to mean somebody that you did life with.  We were together, doing life.  Now a friend can be somebody that you’ve never met in person, only someone that clicked a button on their computer!

For example, the average American Facebook user has 328 Facebook friends, but the average American says they only have two “close” friends, which is down from six, two decades ago.  Today twenty-five percent of Americans say they have zero close friends.  So, the tension is real.  You may have 328 Facebook friends, but you also say you do not have any “real” and close friends.  And so, we could argue, all day long, we’ve got lots of online interactivity, and yet, we may have very limited personal intimacy.  The term “friend” is changing.

  1. We’re becoming obsessed with immediate affirmation.

In other words, if I’m feeling a little bit lonely, and I want a little affirmation, I can –take a selfie.  I could immediately upload this to Instagram or Facebook and if I came back a few minutes later, I would have some likes.  I may even have a comment: “Oh, you look so good.” “ I like that shirt!  Where’d you get that?”   I could get some immediate feedback.

And what’s happening is, we’re becoming addicted to this immediate feedback.  In fact, scientists will tell you that it releases a chemical in our brain called “dopamine,” and we are becoming so addicted to that thought– What did they say?  Did they like it?  Who liked it?  How many people liked it?  Why didn’t she like it?  She never likes my pictures!  I’m not going to like hers anymore!  And we are addicted to this immediate feedback!

And what this is doing is, it is meeting a short-term need, but we are deferring a longer-term and deeper need.  Sociologists now have phrased what they call “deferred loneliness.”  We feel lonely, so we post something; we say something.  We get immediate feedback, and it meets a short-term need, but we are deferring a longing for intimacy into the future, and the loneliness we feel we are deferring to another time.

We are living for likes, and we’re longing for love.  We’re hooked on this instant gratification, and it’s changing the way we do relationships.

  1. We believe we can do friendship on our own terms.

If a friend texts me, I have the choice to read his text, respond to it, not respond to it, get to it later.  I am in control of what I do or not do, how I respond to his text.  If this same friend posts a picture on Instagram, I have the power to determine, is it like-worthy or not?  Is it worth a double tap of my fingers, or do I scroll right on by another stupid picture that I’m so sick of him posting all day long?

In fact, if someone posts another picture about the Longhorns, I may just unfollow them! Why?  Because I’m in total, complete control of this friendship.  I manage it from a distance.  I will show you what part of me I want you to see.  I will tell you what I want to tell you, and if I don’t want to respond, I’m not going to respond.  And if you post too many pictures of your product, or too many duck-faced selfies, I will unfollow you, because I am in control of this friendship.  Suddenly we wake up, and the terms of friendship have started to change.

Here’s what’s often said about using Social Media:     “The more I use social media, the more I crave personal interaction.”

And other’s say, “I feel more connected than ever before, and yet, I feel more alone.”   Do you find this to be true?

Others say, “All I know to do is go click, click, scroll, scroll, click, click, click, click, click, scroll, scroll, scroll, and I’m wanting something more, but I don’t have the discipline to stop this, to engage in what I know I really want, and I don’t know how to get from here to there.”

How do we get from impersonal social media to real social interaction?

The author of Hebrews said, “24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”  Wouldn’t it be amazing to get together with other followers of Jesus and say, “How can we be so aggressive in the way we show love’ that people say ‘They must be a Christian!  Have you seen the way they love one another?’”  The writer goes on to say : “And let us not neglect our [commenting on one another’s posts …”  Oh, wait, wait, wait, I’m sorry.  I totally messed that up.  He said, “25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another.”

Some of us need to rediscover the power of practicing presence, of being together with other people.    In the next post, we’ll look at the Power of Presence.


About dkoop

Lead Pastor of Upwards Church: Leander & Jarrell, TX
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