Today you get the gift of hearing from one of my dear friends, Lily. She’s one of those real-deal, sagest of sage people who truly embodies the gift of being present with people; she stood beside me on my wedding day, and now that we both live in San Francisco, I beg her to hang out with me whenever it’s humanly possible. To get to know Lily even more, you can follow her on on Tumbler here.
This is a generation of proof. I find myself enmeshed in crowds of people compelled to prove that they are in community and that their community is solid. Social media has played a huge role in “showing off” our communities and showcasing whom we have in our lives. What’s more is that we are proving to ourselves that we have legitimate friends around us. We use it as a constant reminder that we’re not alone. When there’s a commercial break – as if anyone watches live television anymore – we check who’s posted what. When I am sitting at a stoplight I’m looking to see what happened in the last 47 seconds from the previous stoplight.
I live in San Francisco; there are a lot of stoplights.
I have been involved with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for a while now, but I was not an early adopter. I had a MySpace and it took a bit to understand why it was so viral. I’ve been working with teenagers for the last 10 years and they are the ones that I’ve learned from about how to get the most out of these relational avenues. The teenagers don’t believe in talking on the phone. It’s merely a machine to check all of these other ways of communicating and supposedly connecting. It’s helpful, interesting and can be meaningful, and a false sense of community. I’m likely preaching to the choir here, and would like to share a few of my own experiences around Social Media and real life relationships.
When Twitter became the next big thing a few years ago I couldn’t understand what could possibly be interesting in 140 characters. I would think about what I would write that’s so short and how anyone on earth could possibly find it interesting. It didn’t make sense to me that I – or most of humanity – could come up with anything that is interesting in 140 characters. I resisted, I made my case and then I caved. My friend Mark, who was traveling across the globe at the time, was on Twitter and I found that this would be a great way to keep up with his story as he was changing planes and experiencing the wonders of the world.
Facebook was a platform that I joined after finishing college in Hawaii at a time when a lot of friends were moving away. This became a great way to keep up with people and a great way to connect with old friends and family from around the country. The ability to see each other’s photos has been my favorite feature. It’s amazing to see what everyone is doing all over the earth. Then one day, a few years ago I began to realize that the people that are my inner circle were never the people that I would connect with on the Internet. We would “like” each other’s photos here and there, but things that needed to be communicated were never shared online. I am friends with all of my best friends online, but it’s never been a platform for what I would call real connection. I have countless stories of real, personal connections with these friends that are the gifts in life that are priceless.
I have shoeboxes and gift bags FULL of letters from friends from the last 13 years of living in Hawaii and California. Today a friend asked if I hoarded anything. Living in a studio apartment in San Francisco doesn’t afford me the luxury of hoarding anything, but if I were to say one thing it would be letters from friends. I have very rarely ever thrown a letter away. Obsessive, you say? Yes. What I know for sure about community is that I am surrounded by proof in letters from dear friends. These are the friends that are on my Favorites list in my iPhone. These are the friends that I call and write, not Facebook and Tweet.
In the last four and a half years of life my community, along with Christ, has been the sure foundation, that has carried me through the darkest of times. Two best friends have died and this grief has shaped me into a completely different person. These friends, these favorites, these letter writers have been an ever present reminder of care and affection. They have sat with me in silence, cried with me, cooked for me, taken me to the airport and picked me up when I couldn’t see straight to get myself there. An endless amount of prayers have gone up to heaven and a ministry of presence has defined what community means to me. I have been a mess and my community has graciously and numerously said, “Come as you are. We love you. Just be.” I don’t have to prove that I am good enough or that I am worth being around. The cream of the crop came to play when life dealt me a hand that was impossible to bear on my own.
It’s true, I have a lot of friends on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but none of that shakes a stick at the people that show up. The texts, calls and flights out to spend time with me are the shaping details of relationship. There will never be a replacement for real life relationships, as hard as we try online, nothing compares to a human living and breathing with me. Life is terrible at times, and so are friends, but every person is worthy of love and belonging and the people that stick through the worst times in life, those are the people that I want around for ALL of life.
I mean, come on! Clap, clap, clap! Thank you, Lily, for sharing your heart and your words of wisdom surrounding community. Otherwise, if you’re just checking out this site for the first time, cheer Cara on in her writing by following be, mama. be on Facebook, or by receiving e-mail updates directly.0