I lost another friend to cancer yesterday. This makes two in less than a year. Two friends, too young, gone too soon. Two friends beyond reach. Two friends who I hadn’t taken the time to go see, figuring there’s always more time. Two friends whose relationships I’d let slack because of the perceived safety of social media contact.
Social media is a lie.
“But I’ve found old friends!” you say. “I’ve reconnected!”
To that I say, “Yes… and no.”
We watch each other through a screen like we’re watching a television show. Only, unlike your favorite sitcom, you can’t go back and re-experience the episodes with friends over and over again. You can’t binge-watch a chat over coffee that you had 5 years ago. And when a TV show ends, you know that your favorite actors are still out there.
However, when your friend passes away, that’s it. And if you sit behind the comfort of social media and placate your mind thinking it’s “enough”, it’s going to hit you like a sack of bricks when you realize that their timeline has stopped. There will be no more likes, comments or funny memes to share.
Friendships come, and friendships go. People’s lives drift closer and further apart. It’s all part of life. Somehow, social media has convinced us that these natural cycles don’t have to exist. That friendship doesn’t require effort, and that just by logging in, we’re doing our share. That we’re all “closer”… except, we’re not. In fact, I’m starting to realize just how much social media use makes us drift apart rather than bringing us closer together. We bank on those connections thinking they’re real.
And it hit me last night when I informed my daughter, who had once been closely connected to this friend who passed. My daughter did what she always does in times like these… she showed a depth of wisdom so far beyond her years that makes me wonder just how old of a soul she possesses.
My 12-year-old daughter looked me square in the eye, and said – gently, and with love – “Mom, you need to go visit your friends at archery practice. And all your old friends… from music… all of them. You need to make the time. It’s important.”
This is a kid who grew up in the social media generation. She’s been online since before she could read. She relies on Skype to keep in touch with friends who have moved away. But that’s when it dawned on me: she talks to her friends. They get on group chats. They interact. And then she makes time on weekends to have them over, or to go to their houses, whenever she can.
Somehow, my kid who has grown up in the social media generation has managed to handle its use better than I have.
Yesterday, a mutual friend said Dhawn would be downright pissed off if she knew we were sad about her passing. She would be… in fact, she left a final message that, ironically enough, I heard through social media. She said that she wanted those of us who remember her to take our memories of her, along with anything we’d learned from her, and implement it into our own lives.
What I remember of Dhawn is this:
- Always show up, even when you don’t feel like it.
- If you can’t laugh, smile. If you don’t feel like smiling, shrug and give it your best try anyway.
- Be open with your knowledge and be helpful in any way you can.
My daughter is right. Dhawn is right.
It’s time to come out from behind the screen and be present in my own life. To give importance to real connection. To move and breathe in the ebb and flow of life. Because one day, we all wake up and realize that for some connections, it’s too late.
We all need to make the time.