The Unexpected Blessing of Social Media

Can I say something that most people don’t seem to want to these days? I really kind of love social media. I know we’re supposed to be skeptical of it, nervous about it, burdened by it, bored with it – and I’ll admit that I was reluctant to get involved in it in the first place. But now? I’m so grateful for its place in my life.

So often social media is presented as a barrier to “real” relationships with people – as if people choose to stay home with their laptops and smartphones rather than go out into the world to be physically present to the people in their lives. Maybe that’s how it works for some. But for me, social media has been more boon than barrier.

Facebook allows me to connect with “IRL” family and friends better than pretty much anything else I can imagine, save a utopian walking community in which everyone’s backyards abut each other. My family is big and busy and mostly spread from one end of a sprawling metropolitan area to the other. Even if we saw each other more frequently than we do (and we see each other pretty frequently by most families’ standards), there’s only so much in-person catching up I could do with my 70-odd closest relatives (not exaggerating – I counted) given my responsibility for keeping track of these four relatives:

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And then there are the family members who live great distances from us. Because of Facebook, I know that my two little cousins in Maine are learning the art of beekeeping. I know that they’ve resumed their riding lessons and that they just swam in the lake for the first time this season. I get to cheer my cousin and his wife in San Diego as they run their (very intimidating and impressive to me) marathons and half-marathons. I get to watch my teenage and twenty-something cousins in St. Louis and Chicago and Nashville go off to proms and colleges and fall in love.

I get to know new friends more quickly and I get to know old friends better. I get to enjoy playdates where my girlfriends and I don’t feel like strangers from postponing a half-dozen times because somebody is always getting sick.

Social media also enables me to be “myself” better than any situation I can imagine. (Even my fantasy utopian communities have their limitations.) Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (I do limit it to the three) allow me to indulge in a custom mix of my favorite interests, values, and personalities – a cocktail of politics and history and faith, of smart/witty/wise/idealistic/self-deprecating Catholic writers, of home-making and child-rearing and beauty found in the ordinary.

They allow me to connect with people who share those interests and values, to make friendships that transcend geography.

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Social media gives me opportunities to understand people and to love them.

On a daily basis, it presents me with more diversity and a wider range of experiences and ideas than I would ever bump up against in my physical community. It helps me put myself in someone else’s shoes; it makes obvious to me the common threads that run through families and communities that seem so different.

Social media allows me to nurture a fondness, a tenderness, not just for my family and friends, but also for the loved ones of those I’ve loved somewhere along the way. (You should see the piercing blue eyes of my college roommate’s little girl and the deep brown eyes of my high school friend’s little boy. You should read the hilarious kid quotes. You should hear how beautifully my friends love their spouses, their siblings, their children, their parents.)

Social media allows me to feel my role in the Body of Christ, praying for and supporting those in need, working with others to accompany people through their trials.

Are there problems with social media and the role it has come to play in our lives? Of course there are. There are problems with just about every way in which we humans come together. When engaging in social media, we should hold to the same principles we (hopefully) do in other human interactions: be kind, consider where others are coming from, watch what you say, consider your own disposition, recognize that the world is full of people who are like and unlike you in a million important and not-so-important ways. Love. Enjoy the people you encounter. Accept the light they bring to your life and offer a little in return.

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The World, My World, And Edel: 7 Quick Takes (Vol. 30)

This has most definitely been one of those weeks when the world seems to be just thick with things to think on – immigrant children pouring over our southern border, religious freedom under attack in the Senate, Iraqi Christians fleeing the terror of ISIS, another round of murders and attacks in Israel and Gaza, more killings by Boko Haram, Thursday’s downing of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet…

And here I find myself, pacing through my home, cooking and feeding and nursing and picking up toys, those events and those people heavy on my mind. I would so love to lose myself at the computer, attempting to make sense of it all by piecing together words in just the right way.

But this week – perhaps because of my anniversary, now that I think of it – I’ve felt the pull of my own little world more strongly. I’ve felt the weight of my responsibilities to my home and my husband and my boys. So in lieu of a few involved (and perhaps self-indulgent) posts on The Worries Of The World, allow me to share with you a collection of things I’ve been thinking about this week:

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—1—

Immigration

Oh so much has already been said about those kids trying so hard to get into our country. I hope to flesh out my thoughts on this particular situation sometime soon, but for now I’d just like to point you to a post I wrote last year on immigration reform, generally.

Here are the bullet points from my post: People have always moved. People deserve a chance to protect and provide for themselves and their families. Things change. Laws change. Families matter. Skills matter. The labor market doesn’t lie. Long borders will never be 100% secure. We should encourage immigrants to invest themselves in this country.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to click over and read what I mean by those points.

—2—

Religious Freedom

There was a great discussion in the comments section of my post from a couple of weeks ago on religious freedom. I love that people were willing to ask honest, challenging questions and dialog in such a smart, respectful way. I know that comboxes have a horrible reputation, but, idealist that I am, the fantasy of discussions like that one drew me into blogging. Keep it up, people! You made me very happy.

—3—

Betterment and Expectations

Speaking of blogging, I’m honored to have been invited to participate in a little “blog hop” hosted by Amy of Go Forth And Mother. Amy has just kicked off a year-long life betterment project called “The Happy Wife Project.” To get things going, she’s asked ten bloggers to post about their expectations of motherhood… and how reality stacked up.

I’m excited to be one of the participants, because really, how fun is it to get to do something alongside these great ladies? But also because I’m intrigued by Amy’s project. Since becoming a stay-at-home mother, and especially since moving into this, our “forever” house, I’ve thought a lot on how I go about my daily work and how it – and the state of my household, and interactions with my family members, and any number of other things – impacts my sense of happiness and well-being. I know that being more purposeful about such things would bring more peace into my life. So I look forward to seeing what Amy shares and I hope the project will inspire me to make the right changes in my own life.

‘Till then, here are the participants and the schedule for The Happy Wife Project’s Expectations vs. Reality Blog Hop:

July 21 – Amy @ Go Forth and Mother
July 22 – Julie @ These Walls
July 23 – Kelly @ This Ain’t the Lyceum
July 24 – Sarah @ Fumbling Toward Grace
July 25 – Nichole @ Yackity Shmackity
July 26 – Colleen @ Martin Family Moments
July 27 – Lindsay @ Lindsay Sews
July 28 – Olivia @ To the Heights
July 29 – Ana @ Time Flies When You’re Having Babies
July 30 – Jamie Jo @ Make Me a Saint
July 31 – Michele @ My Domestic Monastery

I hope you’ll stop by here next week for my contribution and then “hop” on over to the others for theirs.

—4—

This One and Love

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You know how women describe an incredible rush of all-consuming love when they have a baby? How they say things like, “I feel like I’ve known you forever” to their newborns? Well, I’ve started much smaller than that with each of mine. There has, of course, been love from the outset. But it’s been meek, awed, a little hesitant. I tend to ask, “Who are you?” to my new babies.

But my love grows. Each day, I love each of my boys more than I did the day before. And in some seasons, my love for them grows by leaps and bounds in just short stretches of time. So it is right now with this one. His smiles, his little fist grabbing onto my shirt, my growing comfort with how his shape fits in my arms… I am really feeling the love for this one this week.

—5—

This One and Mercy

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This beautiful little guy here – he’s got something of the stinker in him. He has that wicked little gleam in his eye, you know? To a point, he’s impervious to our corrections: he grimaces or grunts or laughs when we tell him not to do something. But past that point (and it can be hard to tell where it is – all I can guess is that there’s something about the tone of our voice) – he loses it. He is suddenly and deeply hurt/embarrassed/remorseful. He starts wailing and flings himself at us, clinging and gasping and looking so terribly pathetic.

After he’d done this a few times, it struck me: the boy is looking for mercy. His eyes become super wide as they search yours, pleading for it. So I give mercy: I hold him tight and assure him that I love him. I wait for him to calm down and I talk through his correction. Then I hug him again and send him on his way.

The situation has really gotten me to think on mercy. I think about it terms of my boys, but also about other people in my life, about times I’ve needed it myself, and about conflicts throughout the world in which people would surely benefit from it.

—6—

This One and Time

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This one in orange, that is.

The other day I had a big grocery trip to undertake and I dreaded the logistics: how was I to fit two preschoolers, an infant, and loads of food and household goods into one cart? So I took a little gamble: I let my four-year-old push the baby in the stroller while I pushed his two-year-old brother in the grocery cart.

And you know what? It was wonderful. Everybody was happy and (mostly) well-behaved and all of our purchases had somewhere to go. When we got home, my big boy even helped me unload the car. (Happily! Without being asked!) My sometimes dramatic, frequently challenging four-year-old made my day easier. And a shopping trip I had dreaded became one that I enjoyed.

It was yet another reminder of just how big and grown-up my little boy is becoming and what a neat kid he really is.

With three very small children to care for and a household to manage, I don’t spend much time trying to get to know my kids. But I should. I should remember, in the midst of the cooking and the diapering and the correcting and the stepping over toys, to appreciate my boys for the individuals they are. I should take the time to get to know their little-kid personalities and preferences and talents and to become excited for the big-kid ones that are coming next. Thanks for reminding me, Big Man.

—7—

The Edel Gathering

One week from today, I’ll be in Austin for The Edel Gathering! I’m super excited to get the opportunity to meet so many great women, including most of my favorite bloggers. And I’m really super excited to just get away. Nevermind that I’ll have the baby and the stroller and the luggage to deal with – I’ll get to revisit my old, glimmering, plane-hopping, fancy-hotel-staying past. And I’ll only have one-third of my usual workload to handle!

That said, I’m a little nervous too – about flying with the baby, about leaving my boys behind, about spending a weekend with dozens of people I don’t know. And, I’ll admit it, I’m a little intimidated at the prospect of plunging myself into the midst of all those Texans. (No offense intended, Texas. It’s just that you can be a bit daunting with all that “TEXAS IS THE BEST PLACE EVER!!!” stuff. A bit.)

I decided I needed a little something to arm myself against the jitters so…

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I chopped off my hair. I’m not sure about it yet. We’ll see how it looks after a wash and an air-dry return my curls to me. (Update: It’s not great. You win some, you lose some…)

—Bonus—

I have revived my Twitter account! My primary motivation in doing so was to be able to tweet while I’m at Edel, but I have to admit, I’m enjoying reading my Twitter feed much more than I expected to. If you’d like to follow me on Twitter, click here!

 

Well, that’s that. Be sure to stop over to Jen’s (whom I’ll see next week in Texas) for more Quick Takes!