People need to be together, but more than just online

November 1, 2010 

I remember the first time I saw someone using a social network. It was in the college library, and a cool kid was using a site called MySpace. I noticed a box in the lower righthand corner labeled "friends," and every once in a while this girl would click on the picture of a person, then leave a comment. It was almost like collecting baseball cards of your friends.

I was fascinated, so I immediately sat down to create an account. It was about connecting with friends and I loved it. Quickly, I found 50 friends online through their e-mail addresses and became part of an online group.

The heart of social networking is about being together. While it starts at the computer, conversations soon spill into real life. Even when you are face to face, you talk about what you posted on Facebook. And when a phone call comes through, you laugh at the latest YouTube video that your friend found, or you comment on a Scripture verse someone posted from your pastor's sermon last Sunday.

Suddenly the notion of being together is remade.

Being together isn't a new concept, but I think that in our busy lives, we forget how to do this simple thing. Two words we need to look at: "being" and "together."

Often, we think that "being" means getting all our "to dos" done, or working a lot of extra hours, basically the idea that we are what we do. It's good to make a name in the community, but when the end of the day feels like a whirlwind, and we lay down in bed just barely gaining breath, there is a problem.

"Being" is bigger than our "to dos" -- it is the sum of everything that makes a person a person and not a tree or a chipmunk. It is the thoughts, the stories, the emotions, the places visited, the images of oneself, the choices we make and the people we love. "Being" is a conversation with ourself -- and to understand it, we need quietness, and brief moments (or long sabbaticals) of time to remember who we are. A life not reflecting on itself will act on impulse and fall apart in its inconsistencies.

The second word is "together." It is when you venture from the refinement of solitude to give from what God's given you, back to God and to others.

Growing up in a warm and caring church, I knew what togetherness meant in full. Jesus himself talked about "The Kingdom of God," and I believe one of the greatest outward expressions of the love of the church (at least that I knew as a child) was the pot luck.

Basically, everyone who was able to cook would bring something to eat to the church table. There would be three types of baked beans, four types of casseroles, macaroni salad with and without onions, green beans, squash and an infinite supply of chocolate chip cookies as well as my favorite -- pink ambrosia.

To a growing kid, there was no greater expression of love than the chocolate chip cookie and pink ambrosia, and being surrounded by the adults who were able to make such glorious creations. Being together at the church is necessary because, while you can entice someone with a picture of a cookie on the Internet, you have to be face to face in order to give it to that person.

God bless the ladies of the church.

How interesting that MySpace isn't the dominant social network any longer. A recent bottom line analysis was made of MySpace, saying "the emphasis will be on entertainment and celebrities, rather than friends." How unfortunate, as they have missed a basic understanding of why social networking is popular. The core need is this: People just want to be together.

Whether at church, online or at the coffee shop -- we need each other.

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