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  • Jessica Cleveland, LPC

The Challenge to Connect

Just take a moment and consider how many “friends” you have? And don’t count the 500 plus social media “friends” you claim. How many can you name? How much time have you spent with them lately? And how do you know they are “true friends?” This is a question for all ages--the young, middle aged, and the old.


I often ask about my clients' social lives, including their hobbies, friends, and how much “active” time they spend engaging in “face to face” interaction with peers, family, and others. There is a tendency to fabricate this time, and it is usually answered in the following way, “I spend a lot of time chatting online or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snap chat, texting, etc.” Yet many report feeling disconnected from themselves and others. Feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, and even self-destructive behaviors can sometimes follow.

Has life really gotten so busy and our schedules so important that we only have time to text, Facebook message, tweet, or chat for a few minutes each day with those we claim to have a relationship with? Or are we deceiving ourselves and convincing ourselves that we’re building meaningful relationships, when in fact, the relationship is shallow and empty at best?


All human beings have a need for meaningful contact with others. By definition, the word connect means to bring together or into contact so that a real or notional link is established. Notice the word “real” in this definition. Social media relationships are defined as “notional”. Notional by definition means existing only in theory or as a suggestion or idea. So are you connecting on social media? Yes, but these relationships are only theoretical, mere suggestions, or ideas.


They are not real actual existing things that occur in fact. Real relationships are not imagined or supposed. I often challenge myself to take temporary breaks from social media and I would like to ask you to consider doing the same. Take a social media break and see how much more “real” your relationships become. Here are a few things to try when/if you accept this challenge:


- Take time to listen to the interests of others. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” Make a point to focus solely on your friend and his or her needs and interests.


- Be open, honest, and real. The word hypocrite originally described actors on a stage who covered their faces with masks to conceal their real identities. This is easy to do on social media but not in “real” life. Resist the urge to appear perfect. Give people an opportunity to know the genuine you.


- Ask yourself, what can I give to others? How about a smile, a hug, a kind word, a listening ear, help with an errand, a prayer, an encouraging note, a meal? Be a giver, not a taker.


When you are going through life and you feel the spiral of stress starting, take time to really connect with others “face to face” when possible. It will change your life. If you are having difficulty engaging socially and would like to learn more about social anxiety and the value of positive social interaction, give me a call at 601-531-3979. Learning about how to make positive connections in therapy can lead to deeper connections and relationships in your overall life.


Jessica D. Cleveland M.S., LPC, NCC


Reference:

Ladd, Karol (2002). “The Power of a Positive Woman.” Howard Books: A Division of Simon and Schuster.

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