It really was madness—ending an engagement via text message, but at the time I didn’t know what else to do. So I took the easy way out and avoided a long face-to-face conversation. Besides, how could this kind of conversation (between two young kids who met online, talked online, and lived in two different time zones) go well anyway? We didn’t really know each other; we knew the selves we presented online.
According to Facebook, he was a writer and I am a writer. We shared similar beliefs and both enjoyed spending time outside. But Facebook never asked me about my love for travel, my volunteer work with refugees, or what kind of stories I wanted to write. There was no text box on my profile where I could explain what social issues made me tick. There was no space to explain why The Pianist (despite its harsh subject matter) made me smile and why The Lord of the Rings (despite bloody wars, impending death, and talking hobbits) inspired my love for travel. Although I listed Remember the Titans and Radio as some of my favorite movies, there was no box where I could explain how and why they informed my political beliefs. And even though both of our profiles listed the Bible as one of our favorite books, Facebook didn’t elaborate that he saw it as great rulebook while I saw it as the greatest narrative of grace and mercy. So even after two and a half years of “knowing” each other, we didn’t know each other at all. Even worse, neither of us knew how to have the conversation we needed to have.
We didn’t really know each other; we knew the selves we presented online.
More than five years later, I find myself battling shame every once in a while. I am not ashamed of what I did, but how I did it. It needed to be done, and I’m glad I was competent and courageous enough to do it. (After all, how true of a commitment can you make to a person if you’re not even sure of who they really are?) I only wish I knew then what I know now—that social media is a wild, mad thing, created for entertainment and quick connections, not lifelong commitments.
I wish I had known the the differences between my digital self and the evolving human being that I am. I wish I had been more mature, but I am thankful for the lessons I’ve learned. Relationships require face to face communication. I am so much more than a Facebook profile. Long-distance dating is not for me. Social media is only as mad as the individuals operating it. Life is about balance. Balance keeps us whole. My relationships today wouldn’t be half of what they are if I had not sent that text and embarked on a new life journey, but hiding behind social media is no longer an option for me. Sure, I love Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but I’ve come to realize they don’t define me.
I wish I had known the the differences between my digital self and the evolving human being that I am.
Life behind the screen is so black and white, so this or that. Instead of being defined by my quirks, experiences, failures, and victories, I’m forced into categories. According to the digital realm, I have one sibling. My parents are divorced. I am 24 years or older. I am a college graduate and a Christian. My preferred political party is Independent. My favorite kind of music is classical. If I could be a superhero, I’d like to be Batman. But if you asked me to tell you about myself over a cup of Earl Grey tea, I’d tell you:
I am a traveler less afraid of getting lost than missing out an adventure of a lifetime.
I am an advocate for social justice trying to heal some wounds.
I like uncomfortable words and unpredictable stories.
I’d tell you that the harder it is to swallow, the more I’m changed.
I like people, places and things that are different from me.
Though some days I struggle, I believe. Faith holds me together.
Sunshine on a warm summer day defines me—bright, intense, steady, watching and observing. Far and distant, but capable of being felt.
I love the complexity of the Middle East—easy lives make boring stories.
I enjoy thinking beyond and find that getting lost in thoughts can be fun.
I’m ok with being misunderstood, but I’ll strive for respect, honesty, and integrity all lifelong.
Deep thoughts seduce me. Complex ideas attract me. But I also like the simple life.
Oxymorons make me smile.
Rain brings out the introvert within me and quiets my soul.
I’d tell you I am a conservative, free spirit who is concerned less about geography and more about the journey to freedom.
I’d tell you that these are some of the seasonings of my life, far more flavored than any binary code.
But I won’t lie and tell you that the chains of comparison don’t grip me from time to time, because they do… More often that I care to admit.
I’ve come to remember the value of face-to-face conversations, walks in the park, coffee dates and picnics. I’ve come to appreciate the wonder of hearing another’s laughter and smelling the salt of the ocean. It’s an experience emojis can’t mimic. But of course, face-to-face encounters can be awkward and terribly uncomfortable. Yet, being uncomfortable is how we grow, and I welcome growth in all its varied forms.
So, if you’ll put down your phone, I’ll put down mine. Then we can talk, laugh, share, cry, encourage, vent, remember, and cherish the little time we have together as individuals struggling to live free in a world dominated by screens.