August 2, 2019

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Social media is unnecessary to be fully present to others

Patti LambI just cannot warm up to social media, and it seems I might be ostracizing myself since that’s the way the majority communicates these days.

I really did try to get on board years ago, but I quickly cancelled my account. I usually walked away from the computer with a negative self‑image because I fell into comparing my life with the amazing posts and photos I encountered on Facebook.

I understand that it’s a wonderful tool for connecting and keeping in touch. Social media enables us to expand our circle in an instant, and I marvel at how far technology has brought us. But I struggle to floss my teeth and keep up with the laundry on a regular basis.

So I miss out on a lot.

Recently, my friend and former college roommate was passing through Indy for a work seminar. She was only in town for a short window, but she called to ask if we could meet for lunch. The only day she was in town was the only day I was available.

“When the stars align!” she joyfully proclaimed.

We met at a café and embraced immediately. It was as if no time had passed. We both couldn’t stop talking and asking questions.

Fortunately, the line was long, so we had time to do some initial catching up.

She took first turn at asking questions—about my parents, then my family and work.

Next, it was my turn.

“First, how are your folks?” I asked. I will never forget a particular day with my friend and her dad at the Meijer in South Bend. Her folks are equally amazing, but her dad is particularly a hoot.

These were the next words out of her mouth: “My dad died a year and a half ago.”

Tears welled up in my eyes, then they streamed down my face by the scone and pastry table. I didn’t care what other people in line thought.

She told me the backstory. How she was the first to arrive and—never mind. The details were piercing, and I felt awful that I wasn’t there in her time of sorrow.

I apologized profusely. I have a cell phone and e-mail, so I don’t do everything with a pen and a typewriter. But if I’d been on social media, I would have been informed.

She explained that she was so shocked and grief-stricken that she didn’t pick up the phone to call me.

“I’ve always considered you a friend who is planted in my heart,” I told her.

She acknowledged those roots in my heart.

Our friendship existed before the dawn of social media, and for me—that’s how it will remain. She accepts that.

In just over 60 minutes, we caught up on 10 years, all without removing our phones from our purses.

It was authentic and undistracted.

(If the family sitting in the booth behind us is reading this, I apologize for our frequent outbursts, laughter and table slapping.)

So many concerns compete for our attention. Our visit that Thursday afternoon reminded me of how beautiful it is to sit down and be fully present to someone. I think that’s what God is reminding us to consider. He simply wants to have that authentic conversation with us. Laugh. Cry. Shout. Be genuine with him. He is listening. And we should do our best to listen to him as well.

A T-shirt I spotted at a Plainfield boutique captured it well: “A thousand ‘likes’ will never replace ‘love.’ ”

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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