“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves,” Jane Austen wrote. There is a paradox in today’s culture—namely, while we are more connected than ever via social media, we are often lonely for true friendship.
The spiritual connections that come through true friendship are worth more than thousands of “virtual” friends.
Like you I’m “friends” with people on social media that I rarely if ever spend quality time with. No, not the friends who live hundreds or thousands of miles away, that’s understandable. I refer to people that would be more accurately defined as acquaintances or peers.
I’m not a Luddite, one opposed to technological advancement. I’m not opposed to social media, obviously. I e-mail, blog, have a Facebook account, etc. These media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al) allow communication to broad audiences instantly.
But social media alone, if divorced from deep relationships, cannot satiate the hungers met in true friendships. They cannot satisfy the spiritual hunger that’s implanted in us.
I have taught literature and/or composition for much of the last 15 years, in addition to serving in the military. A recurring theme I witness when I observe my students each term is the longing they all have for meaningful connections and true friendships. Some of them share details of themselves online that they’d be loath to share in otherwise public ways. Why is that? I think it’s often this void, this friendlessness void, they’re attempting to fill.
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). The contrast is clear. We may have many folks around us, but feel alone. But a true friend is not just around, or on the periphery. A true friend “sticks closer than a brother.”
Might we take the time to invest in our relationships and cultivate friendships? Resilience, a concept we strive to cultivate in the military, is no less important in our civilian lives. The practice of bouncing back and recovering is immeasurably more likely when built upon a foundation of friends:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 ESV).