Social Media Can Foster Real, Meaningful Relationships

“Teenagers today don’t even know how to form a complete sentence because of technology.”

“People who use social media all the time don’t know how to engage in ‘real’ relationships.”

“He took his own life because of Facebook.”

“140 characters of evangelization? More like 140 characters of narcissism.”

I recently attended an in-service about using technology to pass on our faith and I was more shocked than I should have been at the vitriol (sorry, sometimes the English major in me really cannot pass up a great vocab word) that poured forth from my peers.

I shouldn’t have been shocked because I’m aware it’s out there – I hear it occasionally from parents, parish staff members and other adults I know. I was shocked partly because I’m so immersed into the culture of the inter-webs (as my grandmother still calls it) and social media that I can often be blind to its downfalls, but also partly because I just flat out disagree with so much of the criticism.

Authenticity

One critique I hear is that the anonymity of the Internet allows us to try on different personas and different attitudes in different places. This may have been true even 2 or 3 years ago, but today? Today, my Facebook and Twitter accounts are linked to my blog. My LinkedIn account talks to Google+ and any photo I take with Instagram gets posted on all my social networking sites. In other words, today it’s all connected.

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I’m sorry I couldn’t come up a better title.

I'm Sorry HandsI spend a lot of my time apologizing.  I have a big mouth and a frequently inappropriate mind.  I’m not great at keeping unimportant things to myself (though great at things that pertain to my teen’s lives and my job – thank you Holy Spirit).  Also, I am a bit of a screw up sometimes and this leads to a lot of legitimate reasons to apologize.

This week, in fact has been the week of apologies.  I inadvertently shared the inner workings of a meeting with an outsider through email and had to apologize to one of my best friends in ministry. I got into an argument with my buddy Kory and ended up going too far in order to win the argument and had to apologize. I’ve apologized to my wife about 10 times, but that is pretty normal.  I’m not going to even mention that handful of emails I started with an apology.

The thing is, I’m not that upset about my week of apologies.  Apologizing is a good thing.  Yes I wish I didn’t mess up all the time. Yes I wish I didn’t stick my foot in my mouth constantly.  Yes I wish I was perfect, but I’m not.  The thing about apologizing is that it is good for everyone.  Maybe most importantly, it is good for me.  I think there are 5 reasons apologizing is good for us:

1.  Acknowledges Reality – A real apology that recognizes a legitimate problem or hurt demonstrates a firm grasp on reality.  Ignoring a problem as if it doesn’t exist and refusing to apologize is akin to a blatant denial of what is real. Apologizing is often seeing things for how they really are, not how we would want them.

2.  Shows care for other – When we apologizing we are putting the other person ahead of ourselves and proves we care for them.  For me apologizing says, “I care more that you are happy and holy, than I care that I feel good about myself.”

3.  Heals & Strengthens relationships – Every and any relationship I have been in where I had to apologize is a stronger relationship than one where I haven’t. I got a phone call complaining about something I said during Mass announcements once. I called the gentlemen, apologized and talked it out. By the end of the conversation, he mention how impress he was with me and grateful that I worked at the Church. We went form apology to compliment in 5 minutes!

4.  Training in humility – I secretly believe I breathe excellence. When I am confronted with proof that I do not, I can get pretty upset about it. Apologizing is training me to be humble (which I desperately need) and helping me to be honest with myself. Humility is seeing ourselves as God sees us, and apologizing is key in making that happen.

5.   United with the forgiveness of God – I am not a priest (Shocker), so I don’t get to absolve sins during the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Yet, I do get to forgive others all the time. When I apologize I get to give others the opportunity to forgive me which is central to the Christian life and straight from scripture (James 5:16).

Apologizing (and forgiving) is an intensely Catholic thing. Heck for any follower of Christ it is essential. Of all the powers that Jesus handed onto Peter, the most obvious was the Church’s power to forgive sins (Matthew 16:17-19). I will probably have to apologize and forgive a bunch of times today, and that is a good thing.  Who do you have to apologize to? Who are you not apologizing to that you probably should? How has apologizing been a good thing in your life?