Being Intentional With Your Relationships In The Age Of Social Media

By Amy Daughters

How many people can you actively be in real relationship with?

While that seems like a simple, straight-forward question the reality is more complex. First, how do you define the real in real relationships? Are there certain criteria we need to meet? Is there a checklist? Do we need to show up at certain events or make a minimum number of phone calls or texts? Maybe it’s checking in at least once a week?

Furthermore, if you are indeed in it, does it have to maintain a certain level of activity for a preestablished unit of time for it to remain the real deal?

But wait, aren’t there seasons for relationships? Don’t they come and go and evolve like we do? So, are they still considered real from a historical perspective even if they aren’t actively real?

For all we can’t enumerate in human interaction, what we do know, and what we can quantify, is that we can’t be in real relationship with hundreds of people.

And that’s true even though many of us are connected to that number of individuals on social media

It’s also one of the biggest takeaways that I learned via my quest to write all 500-plus of my Facebook friends a handwritten letter.

It seemed like a good idea, reconnecting with everyone, in a personal way. It was, I supposed, a noble — yet completely ridiculous — attempt to transform my online connections to actual one-on-one, flesh-and-bone, relationships. 

What did I learn?

Predictably, my journey through the U.S. mail resulted in joy, laughter, and a sense of awe that I was connected to so many amazing, flawed, real people who had come into my life at the perfect moment.

My grateful meter went totally off the charts!

What I didn’t expect was the guilt I felt with each passing week of the campaign. The truth was that for every ounce of goodness the repeated, endless cycle of writing letters and receiving responses elicited, there was an equal dose of contrition.

While, yes, I was reaching out to these friends in love, when they replied in kind — often divulging personal information about their very real struggles and pain — I realized that I could never keep up with the volume of sharing. 

These people needed a real-life friend, just like I did, but there was no way that I could be there on a day-by-day basis for hundreds of actual human beings. 

My feelings toward them — my love, gratitude, and sincere concern — were a concrete reality; they just weren’t sustainable. 

It left me feeling like I had failed them terribly.

While I don’t know if I’ll ever completely escape the guilt I still feel when thinking about certain letter exchanges with certain friends, I did have a life-changing realization because of the profound experience.

Though we can’t be there for the hundreds of people we are connected to via social media, we can be diligent about being present for the people in each of our small circles of friends. 

We can call and check in. We can show up when it matters. We can be present in a deliberate, one-on-one way which leaves no doubt of the other individuals’ value. 

It’s paramount that we separate our online relationships from those we have in “real life.” Yes, we may feel connected to and care about our social people, but it’s absolutely critical that we cultivate our in-person relationships, not only for our own well-being but for the well-being of others.

And if the circles of intimates linked to each of our precious online friends do the same, also drawing an invisible line between “real” and “virtual,” then those hundreds of human beings that we genuinely care about, but can’t possibly attend to, will be looked after in a way that’s life changing. 

The result on both sides of the equation is having the capacity to care and therefore be cared for. To support and be supported. To love and be loved. Not only is that something – it’s everything.

Amy Weinland Daughters is a freelance sportswriter and author. Her second book “Dear Dana: That Time I Went Crazy and Wrote All 580 of my Facebook Friends a Handwritten Letter” (She Writes Press) is due to be released May 17, 2022. Currently a resident of Tomball, Texas (a suburb of Houston), Amy and her family have also lived in Blackwell, England and Dayton, Ohio. 

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