Sunday, August 6, 2017

Substituting Social Media for Real Life...

I've been praying that God makes a way for me to move back home. Home is where your heart is, they say, and my heart is back home. Not to sound pathetic, but just to explain the "why" of it...
I moved to Nashville in 1997. I lived there 17 years, and in that time I only developed real, deep friendships with two or three folks. That is NO reflection on Nashville; it's a reflection on the truth of relocating in your thirties. About 35 years ago I read a book called "The Friendless American Male' and the author laid out the premise that men do not develop deep friendships after college. Why? Because we enter the business world, we compete with every other man in our sphere. Compete for a spouse, a job, a raise, a house. When we get those things, we encircle them and mark our turf. We don't let our guard down enough to build the friendships we had as children, or in young adulthood. In Nashville I only had two groups of guys I saw on a consistent basis, my hockey teammates and the Tuesday Morning Bible study guys at DW's house.
Hockey on Sunday evenings for about three hours, (including going to eat afterward) and an hour on Tuesdays with the DW gang. I developed what I would consider strong friendships with a few guys in each setting. A couple of teammates and a couple of guys from the Tuesday group became real friends. Outside of that, there was one couple who really became friends, that I talked with regularly and could open up to. I'm not saying no one else was friendly or cared. I'm talking about the people you could talk with until late into the night if you just needed to pour out your heart.
It's just not likely to happen after a certain point in life. You need a history with someone to be able to open up to them, and when you meet folks in your 30's and 40's and later...there is no history, and everyone is too busy to develop one.
I love the job I do. I love living in Lynchburg. The views are spectacular, and being the hunter / fisherman I am, I'm in an almost perfect place. But the sad truth is that other than the cursory interactions with my co-workers and business units at work, my entire human interaction occurs here on social media or with my daughter. I wasn't going to write this or admit to it, but I'm wondering how many others find themselves being dragged further and further into this same pit..."The only human interaction I have is on social media."
Sadly...this thing is insidious in that you eventually become so used to it that you prefer the controlled isolation. I find myself NOT wanting anyone to talk to me anymore. I look forward to fishing the James...alone. I come home from work and am thrilled when I don't have to go to a side job so I can just sit at home and not interact with anyone but my daughter.
When I was home last week, I felt alive again. I was surrounded by folks I have a long, deep history with, and who, I have no doubt, care. Not that others don't, but it's different somehow. I wanted to be around them. I didn't feel intruded upon, or uneasy. I wanted to be in a crowd of familiar faces.
The last four nights I have had strange dreams involving my home in Tennessee and other places I've lived. In each dream, I thought I was home and then I walked into a room or the back yard and found someone else living there and I felt like a trespasser. It wasn't hard to figure out what these things meant. I think this is what I feel inside.
The only people I talk to are the people here on Facebook, or those back home when I call them or visit. I'm okay with that...I'm an introspective guy who values "down time." But we aren't meant to be isolated for long periods. Otherwise prisons wouldn't use it as punishment. I've fallen victim to the notion that this interaction here is somehow a decent replacement for meaningful, deep, honest, HUMAN interaction in the real world. It's not. It's not even close.
I have given up on the possibility that a friendship like I seek is possible here where I now live. Not because people aren't friendly, but because we're all adults, with adult responsibilities and lives and families and demands. And we have no real history together. I don't know your mom and dad and you don't know mine and we didn't play little league together and fish in the summer sun and grow up slowly in a different America than exists now. I have no doubt that my co workers care, as I do for them. But our commonality ends within about 10 minutes of conversation...and then what?
Last week I called my friend Kevin while I was home. We didn't get the chance to meet face to face, but I had gone by the nursing home to see his mom and I wanted to make sure I said hello to him, and he knew I had stopped. We talked for an hour. We laughed. We remembered. We picked up right where we were about 25 years ago when I still lived there and we saw each other regularly.
The 20 years since I've been gone haven't been the kindest. I lost a marriage, half my fatherhood, a home, a career, and the middle part of my life. I have been stuck in the spin cycle and I am tattered inside. I want to go back to the last - the only- place where, no matter what was happening, I wasn't alone.
I am seriously considering shutting down my Facebook page. I go back and forth because there are so many people on this site that I have come to care for. But they aren't HERE. So many of them I haven't even met. On the one hand, it's a miraculous result of the age we live in. On the other hand it's a sad, almost pathetic statement on where my life is. Even more sadly, I think my life is a microcosm of what is becoming the reality more and more of us live each day. I think if I went home for good, I would probably never get on social media again. I would have the thing I am trying to use it as a substitute for and I would no longer need it.
Social media is not friendship. It's not interaction. it's not flesh and blood. It's scary how cleverly this thing conceals itself and before you know it...you're spending more time arguing with people you'll never meet, than you do loving people you really know.

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