Jeff: “We’re praying for you!”
Four words, posted to a Facebook “wall” with the greatest of intentions. A simple, direct communication from me to a cousin in the wake of a family emergency. But I suddenly wondered: How much comfort and support do four words posted to a Facebook wall actually convey?
While nowhere near epiphanic in scope or scale, that thought led me down a rabbit hole I hadn’t considered: Has social media disconnected society — in a particularly bad way?!
A cousin had just suffered a severe stroke, and all I muster in support is four words on a wall!
A few days ago I reconnected with a friend from my Army days I hadn’t spoken to in two decades. It’d been so long that I almost didn’t accept his friend request because I couldn’t place the face. We chatted online for more than two hours, attempting to bridge 20+ years of career and family one truncated sentence at a time. It was good to catch up.
But was it, really?
How much do we really know about each other? How much of the “now” us did we convey, all the while talking (well, typing) to someone as if through a time machine? Much as I try, when I think of my pal Odie as a 40-year-old father of three, all I see is an 18-year-old kid with a goofy grin.
I’ll admit that my mood while writing this post is somewhat skewed by the fact that my cousin lying partially paralyzed this morning is only two years older than me. The words “there but for the grace of God…” weigh heavily on my mind.
But the clarity that comes with concern (and selfish fear) is no less clear.
Or is it?
Ironically, my pal Odie never would have linked up with me 20 years ago. In my 20s, I was the original invisible man. I didn’t own a phone. If you didn’t catch me at work, chances are you wouldn’t catch me. If I was off the clock, I was off the grid.
And my cousin? Two years ago, word of his stroke might eventually filter through the hotline to my parents, who would eventually call to let me know. And, once knowing, my wife would send flowers if appropriate. And, while we would certainly pray for my cousin in the hospital and his sister, I can’t imagine tracking her down to say so.
Reading my cousin’s Facebook wall this morning, I see dozens and dozens of notes of support and concern. Some offer prayers. Others offer all kinds of help. It’s a blessing to see that my cousins have so many loving and supportive friends there for them, both personally and virtually.
Social media doesn’t isolate; it connects — and reconnects. Through Facebook and Twitter, I am more involved in the lives of friends and distant cousins and their families than ever before. Instead of the every-third-year family get-together, we exchange email, we chat, we DM. And even when we’re not directly conversing, we’re sharing the details of our lives via tweets, status updates, notes, what-have-you.
I know what you’re thinking… all of this from four words on a wall?