Dictionary.com defines social as:
seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendly; sociable; gregarious.
Many of us continue to use social media as anything but a gathering place to seek out or enjoy the companionship of others. More often, we enter into this virtual – if sometimes virtually anonymous – landscape with the explicit goal of rigorously challenging those with whom we politically or culturally disagree.
It is the 21st century’s equivalent of the ancient public square – but one where, at times, we seem ready to embrace (for our adversaries at least) the undertakings yet found at Deera Square.
Yet, I refuse, still, to discount or downplay the positive community side of social media. And yes, there remains a positive side not grounded in fantasy or ignorance or mindless memes.
One thing that I have been frequently exposed to over the past number of years is personal loss and pain expressed over social media, particularly Facebook.
What especially cuts me to the quick is the horrific pain expressed over the loss of a child – sometimes explicitly divulged only upon a difficult anniversary. Many of my Facebook friends, during any given year, will, for example, permit a small glimpse into their world of grief and hurt and anger. It is a world that I cannot fully imagine, yet it is one in which my own primal fears, worries, and pain as a parent easily surface when I read about theirs.
But that is a good thing (okay, stick with me here).
It is good because it connects the two of us on a level way beyond the virtual. It is a simple human reality and necessity.
And it is good because it is a needed reminder of our own vulnerability, of our finite existence, and of our shared humanity.
It is much too glib to say that it also reminds us of our temporal blessings – because there really is no underlying truth as to why we haven’t yet been touched by such losses. Still, we can’t help but be reminded of those things in our lives that remain, for the moment at least, good and beautiful and lovely.
It is a basic human connection with others, and it arises whether the other is down the street or thousands of miles away; whether we have shared a meal together, or whether we will never physically meet.
It is a connection that can be compassionate, and charitable, and all together human.
And it is one which exists even as we feel compelled to express our (sometimes extreme) political differences.
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