Facebook can be a great way to make new friends, stay connected with old friends, and reconnect with even older friends. I sometimes wonder though, if all of the incessant social networking we do can have some unintended consequences. My fear is that as we spend more and more time “connected” as it were, we will begin to lose touch with the experience of being silently and deeply connected to the one person we really need to understand..that is ourselves…Here is why I am concerned:
There is a universal human need, I think, to be connected to other people in a deep and intimate way. We all long to be loved, accepted, and deeply understood, by one or more true friends in whom we can confide our deepest secrets. Old friends are particularly valuable because of the history we have with them. They have seen us at our ”best” and at our “worst”. Through it all they continue to love us, and the memories we share provide a sense of meaning and continuity in our lives.
Consider then the one person who has been with us from the very beginning. It is, of course, our very personal “yours truly”. It is us. Because we are conscious, and able to form elaborate short and long term memories of our experiences, we can think about what is happening and consider how we feel about it. The way I see it, we actually have a relationship with ourselves, and like all relationships, it takes time and careful nurturing to make sure it’s a positive and supportive relationship. Ideally, I would say, we want to become our own “best friend”. We want to know, understand, accept, and yes, even love ourselves. From this strong foundation of self love and self acceptance I think we can have the best chance for healthy relationships with others.
I know some people will automatically cringe when they hear the words “self love”. Often this term conjures up the image of the typical “narcissist”….the man or woman who is completely “full of him/herself”. It’s actually quite the opposite. In the Greek legend, Narcissus is a man who is constantly fascinated with his own image in the river. Narcissists need to have their “greatness” constantly reflected back to them by other people, so they “use” people for this. In fact they are internally “empty”, and they can never be filled up enough. Underneath their outward conceit and bluster, there is very little self love. True self love, and self esteem are very different from narcissism. It has to do with acceptance of all of who we are, the admission of flaws, failure, and vulnerability. I think it also has to do with the constant quest for self understanding. Through such understanding we can create a sense of worthiness that comes to us from the “inside out” rather than the “outside in”
So, back to facebook again, my concern is that having a million “friends” on facebook, will create the illusion of connection while allowing the constant user to neglect the most important relationship of them all. How ironic would it be if we spend so much time “checking in” with others, that we stop checking in with ourselves.