One Thousand Friends and the Loneliest I Have Ever Been
Social media has us convinced that more friends, more likes, more followers will make us feel less lonely, yet most of us feel more disconnected than ever in our world. Social media isn’t exactly incorrect. Brain science shows us that with every like or share, we get a hit of happy surge through our brains. This hit of happy confuses our hearts into believing we are loved, appreciated, and we belong. However, the hit of happy is where it ends unless we take the time to invest in a variety of relational circles, which includes our social media connections, and is enriched by many other important connections.
Picture a target with you as the bullseye. The rings moving outward are your relational circles. The first circle around you is your foundation. This circle contains the people in your life that you see often face-to-face and with whom you can be the fullest expression of yourself without fear of rejection. These are also the truth-tellers in your life, the people who will support you in getting back on track when life attempts to derail you. Without these 3-6 people, your life lacks a rich depth of connectedness and belonging.
As you move outward through the ever expanding circles around your bullseye, the level of trust and ability to be fully authentic decreases. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it is a sign of healthy boundaries within your relationships. Two layers out lie the people you spend quite a bit of time with, but don’t always go deep with except maybe for certain areas of your life. For example, your girlfriends from high school that you go out with quarterly, and only connect with through social media in between are second ring people because they know you from a specific season of your life and it is more that season and its experiences that hold you together.
You may have guessed that social media “friendships” belong in the outer rings, and this is where the disconnect comes in for many of us because of how our brains operate. When our brains are receiving those happy hits, our heart really wants to move those people close to us. The problem is you can only get so close through a screen. Ask any couple who have attempted to maintain a long-distant relationship for any amount of time and they will tell you it isn’t as satisfying as being able to have the other person right in front of them. We need the physical closeness of one another to feel connected, valued, and loved. The next time you are feeling lonely, ask yourself where the majority of your relationship time is taking place. If you are spending a higher percentage relating through a screen, it is time to schedule some face-to-face time with someone in those two circles closest to you.