My blog post on September 3 was about the realities of loneliness in today’s world. A key reason for loneliness is our ever-so-digitalized world. We now equate our popularity and importance with the number of followers we have, rather than on fostering real, authentic, face-to-face friendships. Advancing technology has its pros and cons. Loneliness is one of its cons.
I’ve recently realized one of the pros of advancing technology.
Social media has given me a wake-up call to how it can be used to foster better connections with people. Not once, not twice, but a few times in the past few months, in similar ways. I’ve realized how getting accustomed to people’s behavior patterns online can help you figure out if everything is going well with them.
As I post varying messages on Instagram and Facebook and engage with people online, I also notice the people who post on their pages, the frequency with which they do so, and their content.
There are also people who tend to comment more frequently on your posts. Some will view your stories. Some won’t. Some post daily, some a few times a week. Social media is interesting, as everyone has their online behavior patterns.
What is the advantage of this? What do we learn by viewing other people’s posts and reading their messages and stories online? What does this online engagement do for us? The advantages are multifold and are different for each of us.
Some people want to genuinely learn more, be inspired, and grow personally from the content of the posts they read. Some want to buy or sell products or services, or grow their personal brands. Some want to be on top of current news, and some are online so they can snoop on what others are doing, period. No intention to learn anything. Just to find out what others are up to.
However, there is another big reason why we are all online. At least, I got that wake-up call this past spring and early summer.
On Instagram and Facebook, I noticed the online patterns had changed for four friends. Two I had never met face to face. We had become cyberspace friends who liked each other’s posts, commented on our posts, and once in a while sent each other private messages.
I had stopped seeing posts by those two women. Weeks passed, and I wondered what was going on. I sent a few private messages. One responded on the same day, but I received no answer from the other for several days. I grew increasingly worried. Finally, this friend responded.
They both told me they had been going through tough times recently. One was bittersweet—she was pregnant but had had a difficult time early in the pregnancy. The other was having a relapse of her depression and had decided to take time off from posting on social media. I encouraged them and made sure I reminded the lady going through depression to seek professional help medically and/or with a mental health provider.
They both had posted and promoted wholesome healthy living with exercise, healthy eating, inner peace, etc., on their social media pages. I was sad to hear about what they had been going through.
The third woman, a friend I had met, hadn’t commented on any of my posts or posted anything on her page for several months. I had not reached out to her, as I kept putting it off, but I then bumped into her a few weeks ago with her college-age child. Her voice was a lot softer than before, and she’d lost some weight. She told me she’d been diagnosed with invasive cancer about six months ago. I was devastated!
I questioned myself. Why hadn’t I reached out when I’d been thinking of it and had noticed a change in her online behavior?
The fourth case is still unraveling. I have stopped seeing any posts in the last several weeks from a woman I’d met on social media and also face to face. I had reached out in every possible way, and also contacted people who know her to reach out to her, but no response. However, I was finally reassured she’s doing OK, from some feedback from a mutual friend.
So there you go. That has been my personal wake-up call to a benefit of social media connections—noticing when the patterns of people close to you, or who you’ve developed a relationship with, change online, and you try your best to reach out to them to be that positive influence they may desperately need.
I’m not a snooper. I do not concern myself with people’s private or personal affairs, but I am tuned in and sensitive to people I develop relationships with. I know this of myself in day-to-day real-life friendships and relationships, but I’ve now discovered this is also true of cyberspace connections.
So I hope this post will be a wake-up call to you also. Please reach out to friends or cyberspace friends whose online behavior changes.
You may just be that person they need to hear from. You may be that person who will remind them that there are people who still care for them, who will give them hope, encourage them, and inspire them to never give up.
May we be permanently happy by tuning in to our cyberspace and non-cyberspace friends and being that shoulder they can lean on when they desperately need it.