It’s so popular today to bash social media for what seems like all the ills of society, especially for creating distance between people by adding an electronic intermediary where there once may have been personal contact. Of course there is some truth in this, though I’ve always felt that the good or ills of social media (and electronic devices) lies in the beholder. Social media can be an excellent tool when used wisely, if not sparingly.
When my dad died nearly four weeks ago, I spent the week after his death thousands of miles and on ocean away from my family and my childhood home. The distance was, and felt, enormous. From the moment I posted an announcement on Facebook, messages of all kinds, through all sorts of social and electronic media, began pouring in.
A local friend here in Sweden saw the post, messaged me, and had brought a small, caring gift within hours. Hundreds of friends, from people I hadn’t seen in decades, to people who never met my father, to my closest friends from every stage of life, sent notes of condolence including poems, songs, memories, and prayers.
And the surprising thing? It was truly consoling. Hearing from people who cared about me and cared about my father made me feel so much less alone despite the great distance between me and my family. I loved reading memories of my father, and I loved getting messages from people I hadn’t talked to since I was ten. It really did help, every day, to read and reread the messages. It helped me to feel less alone in my loss, and less distant from everyone I loved.
So let’s go on trying to live our lives outside of our devices and our social networks, but let’s also remember that they can indeed be incredibly powerful tools of connection when wielded with warmth and wisdom.
Why “happiness” isn’t a big enough word.
Photo by Parker Byrd.