Friday, July 7, 2017

Exclusion? Inclusion? Friends or "Friends?"

You know the kind.  The people (usually women) who want the world to think they're cooler than they really are.  The ones who seem to flit and float above every flower, bestowing the gift of themselves upon every blossom.  It seems they have never-ending energy, taking meals to all the neighbors, hosting backyard parties all the time, liking and commenting on every single Instagram post and Facebook status update.  They're always posting selfies and kiddies and us-ies.  Are they really that important?  Are they truly as happy as their IG account suggests?  Who flew over from England and knighted them expert over all things they profess to be experts in?  Does the world really revolve around their hearting the crap out of Instagram?  Do their friends' lives really depend upon their support?  Admit it.  In your heart, these friends of yours really make you feel quite badly about yourself.  How can you keep up with constant posts of perfect cupcakes and home decor, leisurely days at the pool, book suggestions a mile long, and recipes from Pinterest that we all know nobody really makes.

I beg you to look more closely.  Are these people really happy?  Do they have what really matters?  What are their relationships with their husbands and children really like?  Are they secretly feeding addictions they want no one to know about?  Are their marriages healthy?  Do their husbands secretly celebrate when they leave town for business each week because they can escape their wife and kids Sunday through Thursday?  Are their financial houses really in order?  Do they really only eat Pinterest salads?  Are they as nice to the people not in their circles or who don't follow them on IG as they are to all the people they play to 24/7?  Are they using or manipulating you in some way? Trying to make you feel less-than because you don't subscribe to their mantra or shop where they shop or exercise at their gym?  Are they trying to sell you something?  Anything?  Even if it's just their friendship?  

I've been around a while.  I've seen a lot of trends come and go.  I've been a student of human behavior since college and I'm told I have an uncanny ability to size people up.  I watch and I observe.  I know more than I say.   I've noticed a change in people since social media exploded and became our culture's crutch.  While it has its merits of which I enjoy ease of communication and tools to do my work at a more rapid pace, it has its warts.  Inclusion and exclusion have whole new rule sets, which creep over into real life.

Before Facebook, a person's circle of honest and real friendships was a lot smaller.  Sociologists will tell you that you can't really have hundreds and hundreds of friends.  No person on the planet has the time and talent to BE friends with that many people.  Friendship requires work, sacrifice, empathy, respect, thought, connection, and time--both time spent together and time growing the friendship.  In human relationships, we have circles that work outward like the ripples in a pond.  The circle gets larger as we work outward.  The people in the outer circles are less close to us than the ones in the inner circle.  These people used to be called associates, not friends.

With Facebook and friending, we've crossed a horizon that I'm not sure was meant to be crossed. Are the people on social media following us really our friends or are they merely voyeurs?  Likewise, why are we following all the people we're following or friending?  Just to see what they're up to, not because we really care, but because we simply want to know?  Before social media, we had no access to this type of open and unashamed peeping-tom behavior.  If you wanted to know how someone was doing, you had to look them up in the phone book and give them a ring---talk to them in person.  Now people Facebook stalk each other, spend hours poring over photos and posts, maybe giving a generous like, but usually just looking, peeping, trolling.  

When this crosses over into real life, it messes up all the rules of etiquette.  Are you supposed to invite every Facebook friend to your child's wedding reception?  Do you think that just because you're friends with someone on FB that entitles you to said invitation?  Can you see how it helps to warp and contaminate honest relationships?  If you're friends on FB with one person in your neighborhood, do you have to be friends with everyone?  Newsflash:  You're not supposed to be friends with nor are you required to like everyone in your neighborhood.  While we should be kind, civil, respectful, and loving in our attitudes to all people, FRIENDSHIP is something that takes years and years to grow, bloom, and thrive.  It doesn't happen with the friend or follow button on social media. 

What about inclusion versus exclusion?  Does it have to be all or nothing?  Can't we, or rather aren't we supposed to be choosy about whom our associates are?  We tend to become like the people we affiliate with (birds of a feather....), hence the need to be vigilant in choosing our friends wisely.  I don't care if it's on Facebook or in the backyard.  The people we associate with have powerful influence over our attitudes, goals, and behavior.  I believe in inclusion in the way that we are all children of God and we should be kind, loving, and generous in our attitudes toward all people.  But I believe in exclusion because we will not agree with everyone on the big things, the messy things, and not everyone should be welcome in the inner sanctums of our lives.  Some things are just private, right? And many more things are for only very trusted friends.  

Many years ago, my husband wrote a song called "Merry-Go-Man."  I love it because of its power chords, raging base guitar, and for its message.  It talks about a man who is all things to everyone.  He's supportive of things he doesn't believe in because he wants to be popular.  He says whatever the people want to hear.  He just wants to be loved.  It's a powerful parable about people who speak smooth words in order to gain power, but in the end they have none because they have no integrity---they don't know who they really are.  People like these spend so much time looking for approval, feigning support for others in the hope of a big return, only to find themselves eventually discovered as untrustworthy, disingenuous, and phony. If anyone ever decides to call them out, they haven't anything to stand on.  Their own personal relationships are often in shambles, though they might be in total denial.  Generally, there is proof in the pudding, so to speak.  

It's the arbitrary rules that are so dangerous.  We're all supposed to know and comply with everyone else's made-up personal rules.  I guess we're supposed to be mind readers.  Well, read my mind then. I'm sick of all the new rules, the lack of propriety and etiquette, and basic good manners.  It seems people don't really care about each other in real life, but on social media they sure as heck do. Liking someone's 40034 pictures from their trip or tournament or party is better than being a valiant visiting teacher, right? And if you can't get over to give your sisters a spiritual message and check to see how they really are, because you're so busy hearting everything on IG, just do a drive-by cupcake dropoff--that always works!  (Not really.)  

Solution?  You can do what suits you, but I would suggest you sharpen your discernment skills and tune into what your soul is really telling you.  If social media causes you stress, depression, anxiety, and lack of confidence, then reconsider how you should be using it in your life, if at all.  If you're the one who is a FB stalker, then stop it now and show real compassion instead of just trolling people's accounts.  If you're confused about who your friends really are, then do an assessment.  Who do you trust?  Who are you confident in?  Who loves you no matter what and has never betrayed you?  Who do you actually talk to or spend time with face to face?  You might be surprised.  For me, the people on this list are not avid social media people and that is not where my relationships are with them.  Some of my best friends are so busy and know I'm busy and so we don't talk every day or even every week, but when we get together, we are together, and it's honest, real, and tangible.  I recently purchased a new smartphone and I didn't install social media on it---intentionally.  I'm going to force myself to only look at social media once a day from my computer or tablet, and then be done with it.  My family and real friends communicate with me via text, phone, and email, so I'm not missing anything and even when they do post, it's not often so my once-a-day check-in will suffice.  

As for the whole inclusion/exclusion thing, we shouldn't be made to feel guilty because we don't want to be friends or FB friends with everyone.  It's how God made us.  We're not supposed to have 4000 friends or even 400 friends.  It's not humanly possible.  We are commanded to love all people as our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, but that doesn't mean we have to be friends with them all.  It's entirely different.  When people wake up and see that it's okay to have separate groups and not be invited to everything or know about everything, or even have the desire to be invited to or know all, I know it would make us a happier culture.  It's okay to go back to the way it was before Facebook, you know.   And for those who are the Merry-Go-Men-and-Women, please just stop and ask for help for your narcissism and insecurities.  That alone will make the world a better place.  

For the record, I'm not offended if I'm not included in other people's circles, but what does annoy me is the smugness with which some people seem to flaunt the fact that I'm not included, all the while crying foul because they weren't included in mine.  You can't have your cake and eat it, so you've got to choose.  For me, inclusion is for all of God's children in an eternal plan as brothers and sisters.  Exclusion is where I get to choose who's circles I want to accept invitations to and whom I want to invite into mine.  It's how it worked before Facebook!  Give that a good think this weekend and see then if you just might agree.    


  1. One time I got invited to a baby shower for an aquaintance from high school. I was really surprised because we were never that close. Then I noticed that they had literally invited about 150 people! I clicked "not going" without regret.

    I love how you said that your real friends understand that you are busy, and when you get together it feels like no time has passed. That is exactly how things are with my best friend. :)

    1. Thank you, Chelsey! Hasn't it become ridiculous the way social media has decided who our friends are? I wish they wouldn't have used the word "friends" for FB and instead called it something else. At least LinkedIn calls it connections and it's for business networking. Just like anything else, there is good and ill to be had with social media. What saddens me is the very real statistics about depression, anxiety, and social paranoia caused by "social" media. The very thing that is supposed to connect us and make us closer is, in my opinion, doing the opposite. I love it for staying in touch with those people who live far away from me and for my very, very close friends and family, but other than that, I have personally grown deeply weary of its weird rules and conditions, what happens if you, heaven forbid, "un-friend" somebody, and all the social punishment that occurs from that. And the funny thing is, I've never had anyone actually talk to me to my face or on the phone about un-friending them, but they wreak havoc in social circles and I get the cold shoulder and silent treatment. Makes one wonder why we were ever "friends" at all, right? ;) Thanks for reading and commenting, Chelsey! Have a great weekend!