Social media unites and isolates

By Melissa Luby

I recently attempted to take a hiatus from Facebook. After about three days, and much sneaking of peeks, I decided that Facebook can be a valuable tool for college students. Yes, it does definitely serve as a distraction during homework and classes, but it also connects students in unique and useful ways.

Consider, for example, the Facebook page for the ONU marching band. Members share prayer requests, marching band memes, and most importantly, reminders and schedule changes. Other groups exist for swapping textbooks and connecting with your class. Then, there are the groups such as “Overheard at Olivet” and “Olivet Nazarene Secret Admirers,” which exist purely for recreational purposes.

Around Christmas, however, a new Olivet entity surfaced on Facebook: the Original Outcast. When I first heard about the Outcast, I was genuinely spooked. My mom had always taught me never to add someone as a friend on Facebook who I didn’t know in “real life.” So the thought of an anonymous person trying to add people as friends just seemed a little sketchy. How do we know he actually goes to Olivet? Or that he’s even our age? Or what he’s doing with the information he gets from our profiles?

But when I actually looked at his profile, what I saw was not threatening, but saddening: The Outcast, it appears, is a lonely boy looking for friends. His messages to his “friends” generally encourage the making of friends and meeting new people, but he is not following his own advice. He is crying out for attention and affection from his peers. He truly does feel like an outcast.

I get it. I feel the same way so often. Most of you have probably never seen me in your life, unless you’ve had a class with me or enjoy music department events more than the average Joe. I’m an introvert, a very private person. I don’t make friends easily and I don’t like crowds. Yet, like the Outcast, I recognize a need for companionship, and I feel the sting of being lonely.

Unlike the Outcast, however, I realize that there’s a right way and a wrong way to make friends. Labeling yourself an “outcast” is never a good place to start. Even Christian people are guilty of being lazy when it comes to relationships and shallow when it comes to judging others. If we choose to market ourselves as “outcasts” most people are going to passively accept that portrayal. Does that encourage friendship?

Additionally, hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet is not going to bring about a change of state. This is true not just for the outcast but also for the lonely hearts who post messages to their love interests on the Secret Admirers page and those who tweet their @ONU_problems. You’re never going to get the girl if she has no clue who you are, and Sodexo is never going to do a better job if you whine about their scrambled eggs on Twitter. Not everything in life just serves itself up on a silver platter; sometimes, we have to step out and go get it. Yes, you might make a fool of yourself. Yes, you might be ignored completely. But as the old adage says, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Is the Internet really the place to seek friends? I don’t think so. Real people are so much more fascinating than their cyber personas. Being friends on Facebook is quite a bit different than being friends in Ludwig. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have on Facebook; it’s those real-life, face-to-face interactions that fulfill our need for companionship. Internet relationships will never suffice. At some point, we actually have to meet people, and because people are lazy, that requires effort on our part.

Facebook has done a lot of good for our Olivet community, yet it also allows us to be lazy and even cowardly. It saddens me to think that anyone should feel like they don’t belong here. We as Christians are called to love the unlovable, and I highly doubt that the Outcast is truly unlovable. He’s just looking for love in the wrong places.

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