OK. I will admit it to you but NO ONE ELSE. One of the worst feelings is having a beautiful, smiling woman approach me- with all the excitement of a teenage girl who just found out that she won tickets to a Brittney Spears (wait…is that telling my age??)….ok…well…Beyoncé concert- only to be met with my half-hearted hello and cheesy smile because I don’t recognize her. She then continues that she loved my last post on Facebook about forgiveness (and she shared with a few of her friends who needed to read it), and then it clicks: she is my Facebook friend. I don’t really know her, and it’s partly ok if I don’t because we’re just Facebook friends, but I feel bad because of her expectation that I would know who she was. It occurs to me that her excitement wasn’t because I was so “special”; it was pure happiness from being able to finally put a real face with a name and connect in a way that we are designed to connect- face to face and heart to heart.
I am not a social media basher. In fact, I totally believe that it has done more good than bad. Let me be even more specific- social media is just a tool, and if people use it in the right way, it’s absolutely phenomenal, BUT it also has its limitations. Social media has disillusioned us into thinking that we “know” each other. We figure that if we’ve seen (and “liked”) enough posts and pictures and followed enough “stories” and tuned in to several “live” posts and been tagged in the latest, greatest photos, business opportunities and events and we have gotten an inbox (or two) requesting a hug, sending a heart or asking to help make someone’s nephew’s music video go viral- that we “know” the person. When in actuality how well can we say we know them? Do we know the story that is behind their smile or their pain? Do we know their passion, their personality or their pet peeves? Are we connected beyond having 32 friends in common, following the same people on Instagram, liking the same snack or watching the same TV show every Thursday night at 8? Are those things even important to know about a person you may never meet or accidentally bump into in the deli section of the corner grocery store?
Well, before you answer that question, listen to this: if you want to measure your happiness, study your relationships. I know. It sounds like a far stretch, but it’s true. Psychologist Arthur Aron found something remarkable through his study: “The single biggest predictor of human happiness is the quality of [a person’s] relationships.” People with stronger social relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of survival compared to those with weaker relationships! SAY WHAT!!!??? Yes! Research shows that healthy relationships lead to a longer, more satisfying life. So it is worth it to pick up the phone, schedule a coffee date and really get to get to know the girl who sits in the cubicle across from yours and seems pretty cool. It is time well invested when you attend a networking function of a Facebook friend of a friend who you’ve noticed rallies behind a cause that is dear to your heart as well. It won’t be out of the normal to ask someone how they’re doing and really listen- just listen– to try to get to know them better.
Am I suggesting that you scroll through every last one of your friends on social media and invite them out to brunch to share your innermost secrets and hear all about their long-awaited dreams and latest romance? No, but what I am saying is that if having satisfying relationships can lead to a longer, more gratifying life and, according to some research, physical and emotional strength then I suggest that you be more intentional about building the right relationships with the right people in the right way. The payoffs will surely be worth it!