Conversation, sure. Connection, fine. Business, of course.
Social media is a potent tool and frictionless facilitator of instantaneous discussion, seamless self-promotion and all the other bells and whistles we’re so used to discussing in the modern forum.
But for me, social media’s secret truth has long been its function as a catalyst for compassion.
This was the case for me as I dipped my toes into social media in 2009 — four years ago (almost to the day) when I quit my job in politics and began to build a blog and platform for myself as a writer and aspiring author.
It just so happens that I was thoroughly depressed at the time.
I was dealing with youthful heartbreak and a quarterlife crisis of identity that left me reeling in self-oppressive sadness.
I felt directionless with my life, had abandoned my career amidst a 100-year recession and was trying to “start over again” in spite of my collegiate degree and the previous ten years of working and interning experiences — all at the young age of 23 when feeling so terrible “ought” to be inexcusable.
And living in the woods of the state of Rhode Island further felt like a terrible place to start over and anew. I felt isolated, insulated, and without a proper outlet of connection to peers like me: men and women who shared my values for “living and loving” their journeys, every step of the way; the ease and joy of conversation and connecting on a personal level; the soulful dedication to service, leadership and giving to others that I simply could not avoid, and spelled the ultimate end of my young career as a office lackey who hadn’t “earned his stripes.”
Suddenly, after abandoning my career plans and quitting my job, the stripes were mine to earn.
But social media was the first to paint those stripes.
Well beyond the short-and-sweet conversation, the Followee/Follower connection and ease by which you can drum up support for business services and products, I began to discover social media was helping me to feel compassion for other human beings. I discovered stories and felt my heart well with empathy. I shared my own and discovered how simple relatability builds a bridge of emotional connection by which, I believe, genuine participants experience deepenings of a well of their own natural, loving humanity.
Through simple, even cheap words shared across social media platforms, my heart and head began to mend.
I remembered other people were suffering worse than I could ever imagine. I remembered I wasn’t alone. I remembered that I was here in this life to help other in spite of my own troubles and worries and petty heartaches.
Social media was a little tool in my pocket by which, with a few strikes of my fingers, I could tap into my soul’s well of humanity and service and goodness and remember my life’s purpose.
Four full years later, social media has the same effect for me in my life — although to a different degree.
For days and weeks I’ll barely think of it. I don’t rely upon Facebook for marketing or Twitter for building a strong base of connections to peers in my field or distant thought-leaders who I’d love to get to know better — but in truth, I’m still meeting dozens of men and women, sharing conversations with them and making new friends every time I turn around.
It’s just that this time, I’m not desperate for it.
I’m no longer struggling, sad or meandering. And I’d never say that social media had an integral part in that — maybe that’s just my ego talking — but what I do know is that discovering and intentionally deepening my personal capacity to connect with men and women on genuine, emotional levels truly strengthened my head and heart.
Social media helped me tap into more of myself — by remembering to tap into the hearts and minds of so many other beautiful people around the world.
And that still feels really, really good.
This piece is a part of Social Media Consciousness: The Blog Project, a joint exploration by fourteen participants to explore conscious engagement in a modern age of instantaneous technology. Learn more here.