I’ve been struggling lately with a lot of things, but specifically this morning it’s social media that’s bugging me. You see, I have a lot of friends who share stuff all over their pages. It’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but there’s something about it that just annoys me. So I spent some time this morning thinking about why, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

When I “friend” someone, I want to grow closer to that person. I want to know them and I am inviting them to know me. When that person never posts their own words, but simply copies and pastes stuff from other people, I don’t really get to know them. Oh, sure, I get a feel for their politics and their religion and their sense of humor, but I don’t really get to know the person. In fact, I would argue that knowing their political views might actually block my ability to get to know them.

[For the record, my political view is pretty simple: I am a cynic. I have a basic assumption that almost everyone who runs for office is probably a liar, cheat, and lacks any moral fiber. Arguing that someone is a better candidate because he or she hasn’t done XYZ terrible thing like the other candidate will never convince me, because the other person has just as many sins in their history. All of us do. However, I still see voting as being important and so I weigh the pros and cons as best I can for each candidate, and I try to pay especially close attention to local elections, because my vote weighs more and will affect me more personally. End of political section.]

I’ve seen Facebook friends share posts that say something to the effect of “if you don’t agree, feel free to unfriend me” followed by a rant that sounds nothing like the in-person friend I cherish. I’ve read statements that sound so contrary to the person in real life that I wonder sometimes if they’ve read the whole thing all the way through. I know these are words they would never have written themselves. I find myself thinking this morning that it may be something that gets done because we’re afraid. Because here’s the thing: I share stuff too. Usually it’s because the writer has put things into words that speak so well into what I was already thinking that I can’t fathom saying it better. Sometimes it’s just my way of saying “Yes! Totally agree!” But now we’ve gotten to the point where social media has precious few real words from real people. And it makes me sad.

We’re scared to put our real self out there. After all, if I share something written by another person and you disagree with it, I can tell myself it wasn’t MY words or MYSELF that you disagreed with. It was that other person who wrote the thing. It’s safer to let others jump into the arena and do the talking for us. It’s why so many of us don’t bother to post comments on posts. Believe me, I have tried a few times when I had strong opinions only to get burned badly by total strangers.

I wonder sometimes if that’s why we don’t get a lot of comments on our church-related posts. We’ve been flooding the internet with videos during this time, trying to stay connected to our congregation. Sadly, we don’t get much real-time feedback on them. Maybe an “amen” will get posted, or sometimes a video will be shared (I get the irony of that in this post, believe me), and when we talk to folks on the phone they tell us how much they appreciate them. But rarely is there much engagement and that’s sometimes difficult.

I want more real conversations on Facebook. Real words from real people. My news feed tends to go like this: article, meme, rant (shared, not written), advertisement, repeat. Sometimes a recipe thrown in (love those!) or a fun picture or post sharing news. But these days there are a lot fewer events. Weddings have been postponed. Vacations too. No one is throwing parties or anything. Aside from a pregnancy announcement, I find myself craving more posts from friends who share what’s happening with their kids or working from home setup or how hard it is to find toilet paper. That’s the real stuff.

I think it’s also why I’ve come to appreciate hashtags in certain situations, because it gives the connection we crave to larger movements without having to share posts that have already been shared a thousand times. I’ve been noticing my friends who have been running their 2.23 miles with #irunwithmaud. I’m not a runner and I might have missed this trend and even the story if it weren’t for my friends. I’m thankful for their ways of getting involved in justice in their ordinary lives, using it as a way to teach their children. They’ve also taught me. I may get scared to put my real thoughts out there, but I have no idea what it’s like (because of my immense privilege) to be scared to be out in public at all.

So I know this was rambling, but this is me, being myself. My thoughts tend to be this kind of jumbled up mess, and I hope you made sense of it if you made it this far. I’m going to share this on Facebook and then try to post some real thoughts and comments today. I hope you will, too!