With the pervasiveness of social media we have opportunity like never before to know and be known. With a click of a mouse we can let 1,457 of our closest friends
• know on Facebook what we had for dinner
• post a photo of the culinary wonder on Instagram,
• tweet all the delicious ingredients in 140 characters.
And we can do it 365/24/7. Surely that would make us feel like part of something greater.
And yet we know social media is a fickle lover. It can connect us to others who celebrate our accomplishments and cheer us on our journey. That’s awesome! But it can also deflate us. If you are part of the trending group, woo-hoo! But if you aren’t, then you are a technological wallflower. Not so awesome. How many of us ride an emotional rollercoaster whose loops and twists are directly correlated to the number of retweets and comments we generate?
When someone else’s post goes viral and our platform grows ever so slowly, we feel small and insignificant. Is that bad? No, it’s human: we all want to be known, to belong and to matter. The problem isn’t that we long those things. The problem is we forget we already them.
To Be Known
The reality is the ones who know us best are usually the ones we can’t craft a virtual profile for: family, friends, and co-workers. We may not like it, but those relationships are mirrors for us in a way that social media can never be. And even if the mirror has distortions from hurts and misunderstanding in those relationships, we can find deep comfort in remembering we are fully known by God Himself.
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up. You understand my thought from afar. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.” – Psalm 139:1-3
So, even if someone doesn’t “get” my blog post or doesn’t favorite some brilliant tweet, it’s okay! The God of the universe gets me and knows me. The people who matter most love the real me.
We all belong to different groups: a book club, professional affiliations, the Ladies Lunch Club at the office, etc. We have different levels of “belonging” based on our engagement and history with the group. All of these feed into our sense of self-worth and identity. But ultimately, for believers, we belong to the most eternal group of all: the family of God. An imperfect family made up of imperfect people. In other words: normal. We wound each other, we let each other down, we have disagreements. I understand the realities of that. Yet, those shortcomings do not negate the truth that we all belong to God and to each other for now and for always.
“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” – Romans 12:5.
One of my favorite books is “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. Aibileen, an African-American maid in 1950s Mississippi, is charged with the care of Mae Mobley, a pudgy plain-face toddler whose mother can’t be bothered to parent her. Aibileen always tells Mae Mobley “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.” This resonates because it touches us at the core: we all want to matter regardless of our own plain-faced pudginess.
We matter to God: He knows the hairs on our head, the days ordained for us from before our birth, the words on our tongue before we speak them. And not only do we matter to Him personally, but He gives our lives purpose and meaning as ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 2:5), as instruments of His love in the world (Galatians 5:14). He even infuses our vocation and daily life with significance. (Colossians 3:22-25).
I don’t diminish our efforts to be successful on social media and to build platforms that have influence. Clearly, I am posting in this venue and actively engaged in this arena. I wholeheartedly embrace these tools in daily life. I offer these reflections as a filter to remind us that the totality of our existence isn’t dependent on our site stats.
Long before Mark Zuckerberg was tinkering with electronic communication in his Harvard dorm room, God was connecting us in His eternal, spiritual network.