“Authentic connection is described as the core of psychological wellbeing and is the essential quality of growth-fostering and healing relationships. In moments of deep connection in relationship, we break out of isolation and contraction into a more whole and spacious state of mind and heart.” – Janet L. Surry
‘The Church of Facebook’ by Jesse Rice is one of the favorites on my bookshelf. At it’s early stages, facebook was an amazing platform to connect with lost acquaintances, and made email lists a thing of the past. You could simply create a page and everyone who liked it was informed as to the latest update all at once. Today, facebook has become a global platform for connectivity and has faced many growing pains during its maturation.
I have personally enjoyed using facebook as a tool to keep in contact with friends and family in my home state of California, along with all the relationships I made while I was in South Korea. But something changed in the year 2012; facebook had gone public, and it all went downhill from there. We are bombarded with ads, we have to pay money to increase our post visibility, and the online culture has become far more cutthroat than we would be in the real world. With recent concerns over data being used by advertisers for marketing (among other things), facebook is well on its way to becoming the hub of global connectivity, wether we ‘like’ it or not.
Recently I was fed up with the social media platform. I had been a member of facebook since 2009 and before that I was on MySpace. A few trendy friends of mine were telling me how great Instagram was and how I should try it out. So I did. I deactivated my facebook account and created an Instagram profile. I only lasted nine hours on the service. I hated it for several reasons. The format, the lack of friends I knew because they did not have an account, and many more. I simply longed for the original facebook to just come back. But one major thing I discovered was that I had severed myself from the Jaycees by my deactivation. My local chapter runs everything on facebook, and the state Jaycees do as well. I had basically gone dark and the only communications I would get would be through email a few times a month. I actually had people call me to make sure I was ok.
Our 2019 State President, Shanna Heard, made it very clear that she wanted the state to be in connection with every chapter. She understood that human connection is essential not just to team building, but to relationships. However, an internet connection has been proven to be insufficient in comparison to a phone call or a sit down over a cup of coffee. By surrendering our lives to social media, we have given the keys of human relationships over to facebook.
I grant you, many good things can come from this social media platform, but an equal amount of bad is found in it as well. If we want to grow our chapters and retain new members, it can’t be in the form of an emoji, it must be in real world relationship building (in person). We rely far too heavily on social media to maintain our friendships when the most authentic, longest lasting ones, are formed in the community of life experience and struggles…together.
It reminds me of a Saturday Night Live skit of a game show called “What’s That Name?” featuring Bill Hader. He shows the contestants pictures of movie stars and music artists and the contestants get the answers correct without modicum of effort. However, as the game continues, the host introduces people from their own lives that they pay little attention to, because we tend not to care if we have little profit from that relationship (secular humanistic concept). The host introduces a maid from her office building and says to the contestant, “She has cleaned your cubicle for the last ten years, what’s her name?” And the contestant has no idea.
Something has happened to us in our service clubs, our schools, our workplace, even in our places of worship. We have traded real human connection for a fabrication that dispenses the very emotional symptoms we try to correct in our lives by joining social media in the first place. How do we correct this? We go back to a faith based style of community.
“If something is important you make the time.”
People are important, all people. As Jaycees we place priority on human connection. But we often get too caught up in our programs, events, trainings, and everything else under the sun to actually say to ourselves, “I’ve not seen that person for a few meetings, I should give them a call to see what’s going on.” It takes effort to invest in people. Sometimes we don’t follow up because we possibly might not like that person and they don’t fit the mold of the culture that we want to create. When that happens, we have to take a hard look at our chapters and ask ourselves, “Are we a reflection of the Jaycee Creed?”
We are the hyperconnected and we are redefining community. The challenge that we face is what we sacrifice in the name of growth and progress. It is my prayer that of the sacrifices we make do not include the sacrifice of authentic community.
John Paul Tomko, Chaplain
Recommended reading: The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community by Jesse Rice. Click Here to order your copy.