The obsession of our culture over Social Media (see #2 here) is rooted in a good and natural human desire: Communion. We want to connect with other humans. We want to relate. We want to love. We are designed, as humans, to do just that.
“The desire for connectedness and the instinct for communication that are so obvious in contemporary culture are best understood as modern manifestations of the basic and enduring propensity of humans to reach beyond themselves and to seek communion with others. In reality, when we open ourselves to others, we are fulfilling our deepest need and becoming more fully human. Loving is, in fact, what we are designed for by our Creator. Naturally, I am not talking about fleeting, shallow relationships, I am talking about the real love that is at the very heart of Jesus’ moral teaching: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” and “You must love your neighbour as yourself” (cf. Mk 12:30-31). In this light, reflecting on the significance of the new technologies, it is important to focus not just on their undoubted capacity to foster contact between people, but on the quality of the content that is put into circulation using these means.” - Pope Benedict XVI (New technologies, new relationships.)
In our attempt to fulfill this deep human desire to connect, we must be careful not to accept counterfeits in place of the real thing. The online world gives us more opportunity for this than ever. Counterfeit personas. Counterfeit friends. Counterfeit love.
And it’s easy to fall into this trap because, especially online, counterfeit friends look a lot like real ones. We can be too quick to judge relationships based on the visible metrics, rather than the quality of the content. We focus more on how often we email people and less on the content quality of the email itself. We focus more on whether or not we’ve added somebody as a “friend” and less on how friendly we actually are.
We mistake contact for connection. Association for friendship. And mutual utility for genuine, unconditional love.
Let’s not be obsessed with social media, but with using it to genuinely love. Let’s help lead the culture out of the shallows and into the deep.