Social media can bring out worst

I’m saying goodbye to a friend in the next few days.

Chris Horton and I have shared books, laughs and video game sessions, though we’re not the closest of friends. Just good enough friends to be connected on Facebook, both times he had an account.

He’s deleting his second account. I wanted to quip, “Yeah, right. I’ll add you again later.”

Instead, I read.

According to his Imperfect Pastor blog, he doesn’t like how he’s become more faithful to social media than to his family or the church.

I don’t share his views on religion, but I read the blog anyway, because I sought common ground. I too think despite its benefits, social media brings out the worst in us.

It lets us do things from afar, where we don’t have to think about our impacts.

We jest on Facebook to the tune of, “It takes more muscles to frown that it does to smack the (expletive deleted) who ruined your day.” But when we can effect change on a topic like child abuse, we don’t volunteer time or money to a local charity. We change a minor detail on our Facebook page to “raise awareness.”

Or we reward people who post the most outrageous things. Either the poster or a “political strategist” ally is invited to a cable news show, where they pretend they didn’t say the thing that’s still documented online. Or we petition for their removal from the site, and they can cry about censorship and be the victim.

Soon enough, we can’t distinguish between the guy who threatens violent revolution and the unstable gun-toter until it’s too late, and six people are dead, while the intended target recovers from a gunshot wound to the head.

I’m guilty, as well — a narcissist who jumps to conclusions, quick to use the online soapbox. The, “Yeah, right” would have enforced it.

But those are my gripes against social media. This is what Chris really said:

“It’s easy to ‘love’ people online. I want to love them in person. I want to be alive to the life around me instead of constantly staring at a computer screen or on my phone. I want to travel with my family. I want to serve wholeheartedly at the church. I want to be fully present at home. I want to read books that I have left abandoned. I want to meet new people. I want to strengthen friendships. I want to love Christ again as I did when I first accepted him.”

I’m not going to join him in his quest, and if I did I wouldn’t choose his reasons. But I can admire him and cheer him on. I posted his blog, said it wasn’t my thing, but wished him good luck and thanked him for the perspective.

Now, I want a better ending.

Chris also wrote, “There are those that can handle it and pace themselves and use it without it being addictive.” I want to be one of those people. Maybe a day off without the Internet here, or a Sunday without texting.

And I can use technology to be a better friend. A few weeks from now, a calendar alert will go off on my phone, reminding me to catch up with Chris. Another reminder a few weeks later. Soon, the phone won’t be necessary.

It doesn’t have to be, “Yeah, right.” Or, “Goodbye.” Or even, “Good luck.” I think “See ya later” sounds a lot better.