Friendly Deception – how social media is changing our relationships and what we can do about it

IMG_7748Isn’t it funny how deceiving a picture can be? Take this one for example. It looks like the perfect day – not a cloud in the bright blue sky, the sun shining above, everything lush and green. The truth – it was darn cold, and it rained off and on all day. But you’d never know it by looking at the photo. This idyllic scene from my recent trip to Stockholm is quite deceiving unless you were there. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, about how every day we look at pictures of people and places that seem to be perfect, but we don’t really know what’s going on because we aren’t there, but more importantly, because we don’t ask.

I recently read an interesting article by Jay Baer, consultant and keynote speaker, who said that “those situations where we ‘meet’ someone through social media, have the opportunity to interact in real life, and then develop a relationship that creates true friendship are few and far between.” He lamented the fact that a social media friend committed suicide, and nobody saw it coming. He wondered if this person actually was his friend, was he anybody’s real friend? He argues that social media isn’t bringing us closer together but driving us farther apart “as we know more and more people, but know less and less about each of them.” 

39931590_419362661928100_610133224239162107_nThink about your own social media account. I don’t know about you, but I use mine to share updates about my kids, picture of my travels, and upcoming events I want to invite people to. And that’s what I want to see on other people’s posts. I don’t care how you lean politically, and I don’t want to see your dirty laundry aired for the world to see. I prefer Facebook to be my happy place, where I can go and see a smiling picture of a happy person, enjoying life. Yesterday, I stumbled upon this picture of my oldest daughter, and I think it’s one of the prettiest pictures I’ve ever seen of her. And like all of the first-day-of-school photos and the Homecoming shots, it just made me smile. But I also know what was going on in her life on the day this picture was taken, the people and things she was worried about, the decisions she had to make, and the hectic pace of her life that week. You don’t see any of that in her smile.

Her picture perfectly illustrates how my attitude, of wanting to see only the good, blinds me to what’s really going on with my family and friends. I see their happiest moments and often forget to ask about the tears they shed for a loved one, the defeat they just suffered at work or on the field, the problems they are facing with their family, or the devastating news they recently received. I’m not saying that I, or anyone, should pry into other people’s business, but I sometimes need to be reminded that social media lets us forget that we’re all real people. We need human interaction, and not the technological kind. We all have what psychologist Abraham Maslow termed, the Hierarchy of Needs (anyone who has taken a psychology course at any level should remember that triangle). Nowhere does it mention that we need hundreds of sometimes friends, but it clearly says that we need intimate relationships. We need REAL friends.maslow-5

I’ve had to stop and think, when was the last time I picked up the phone and called a friend to see how she’s really doing? When was the last time I invited someone to lunch or took the time to visit with anyone in person? When was the last time I sent a card to someone just because I wanted them to know I was thinking about them and not just hitting the “like” button on their page?

FullSizeRenderI consider myself extremely blessed because I do have an intimate group of friends who are “my people.” We tell each other everything. We commiserate with each other when our lives are spiraling out of control, and we lift each other up when we are feeling down. And yes, we do that through a private Facebook chat group. But here’s what really makes the difference in our friendship: we seek out time to get together. We plan trips to see each other. We revel in each other’s real presence. We hug, we hold hands, we look each other in the eyes. We participate in a real friendship. 

On the downside, I rarely see or talk to the women who live nearby and who have been my best friends for many years. I think I take for granted that they will always be there. I forget that they, too, are just a phone call away, a short trip down the road. It’s so easy to let those relationships slide because I know I can just send a text and say, “let’s get together.” The problem is, I rarely do. I let my everyday life get in the way. I depend upon social media to keep me up on what’s going on in their lives. I do exactly what Baer warned about, I allow social media to inform me about my friends and my relationships instead of reaching out beyond my computer screen.

I know that I need to really assess my friendships and my relationship with social media. Because that’s really what the relationship is with – social media – not with real, live people. We can’t live without checking out Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, but we live without checking in with the real flesh and blood people in our lives. Maybe it’s a generational thing. My mother is on Facebook and peruses it regularly, but more often, she can be found having lunch with her friends, taking trips with her girl group, and organizing get-togethers with people near and far. She knows how to cultivate friendships and how to keep them for many, many years. I fear that the rest of us are losing that ability. 

So, the next time you’re scrolling through those smiling, happy photos plastered on Instagram, remind yourself to stop and think about the faces you’re seeing. Ask yourself when the last time was that you contacted them, asked about their families, inquired about a hard situation they were in, or checked on their health. Baer summed up his article reminding us that we all think we know someone and what’s going on in their life, but we don’t. “And that’s social media’s fault. But more so, our own.”

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

 

 

 

Learning From the Past; Preserving the Future

img_3618Over the past month, our family has spent a lot of time looking at pictures. My father-in-law, once an avid traveler and adventurer, now finds pleasure in perusing old family photo albums. Seeing all of the photos from the past, while at the same time putting together our family’s 2017 album, leads me to wonder about all of the pictures that people take today. I hear countless people talk about the thousands of photos on their phones. I cringe at the tales of those who have lost thousands of photos because of a phone failure. I recall all of the pictures my grandfather took throughout his life, so meticulously placed in albums and labeled with tender loving care. And I think about the albums I have put together every year since 1992 that my children still love to pull out and go through, laughing at their childhood antics and fondly recalling those who are no longer with us. How will it be for future generations when there are no longer any photos to see, no albums to leaf through, no tangible proof that any of us were here? I get that people are taking lots of pictures, but what do they do with those photos? Where do those memories go?

IMG_3023I wonder how many people have never created a photo album or even own printed photos, other than a few framed prints around their house. We all know people who have boxes of developed but undocumented photos stashed away somewhere or laptops filled with pictures with no idea as to whom or what are in them. We live in a world where most pictures depict someone’s face, with their forehead cut off or their tongue sticking out, that is here one instant and self-destructs the next.

My oldest daughter disagrees with me about this being a problem. She says that her generation takes more photos than any other, and they print and enjoy looking at them with their friends. She believes that the digital age has allowed the taking of photos to become more popular than ever. But that isn’t my point. The Professional Photographers Association claims that 42% of people no longer print photos. Some claim that this isn’t an issue because digital drives can be handed down from generation to generation. Yep, those old floppy disks full of pictures sure are valuable today, aren’t they? Or those flash drives that hold all of your family memories? How will those be accessed in twenty years? No problem, you say, because Instagram and Facebook hold a treasure-trove of photographic memories. Not true, my dear, not true. I noticed recently that even those photos only date back a few years. Facebook is deleting your memories, and I bet you didn’t even know it. Go ahead, check for yourself. All those pictures you shared several years ago are gone.

Things looks pretty dim for future generations when it comes to remembering what great-grandma looked like or how much someone resembles his grandfather.

Cameras are being sold at record low numbers. Everyone depends upon their phones for pictures, but once a digital image disappears, it’s nearly impossible to get it back. I recently read Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs, a novel about a photographer who specializes in recovering newly discovered film from years gone by. Working with anthropologists, historians, and families, she’s able to identify POWs, MIAs, and other people whose pictures have survived the years, locked inside a roll of film in a forgotten camera. Will there come a time when there are no cameras, no never-before-seen film or even SD cards to help unlock secrets of the past? Adding to the problem is that most people who do print photos use cheap printers with ink that fades and have no idea how to actually go about properly preserving photos.

12-7-28Judging by what I’m seeing and hearing, Ancestry.com is exploding with people looking for answers to their past. DNA tests are becoming commonplace among people from ages twenty to fifty. We are yearning for a connection to the past, a window to tell us who we are and from where we came. I can’t help but wonder if it’s because we no longer have as many photographs to help us find that missing link. No more photos of common things like preparing a meal or families enjoying a simple day at home. All photos are either staged for Instagram perfection or are filtered before being dispersed to cyberspace for a quick laugh and instant destruction.

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Gram looking outI hope I’m wrong and that younger generations do realize what a gift they have with all of this modern technology and and will use it in a way that allows them to pass down cherished images to their children and grandchildren. I hope more people will begin taking and saving photos in some way or another instead of continuing down the road of only taking selfies that have no meaning and no lasting significance. I hope my daughter is right and that her generation of twenty-somethings are saving their photos in a way that will let their children and grandchildren see them. I hope everyone strives to preserve pictures of the past and of those important people who should never be forgotten but will not show up in any history book. Otherwise we are not only losing the Greatest Generation but our link to all generations since then.

What I was writing about this time last year:  I Want to Be a Princess

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on sale online and in stores.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)

 

Be Thankful

DSC09204-001Here we are in the month of November, the one month of the year when everybody seems to be grateful for something – actually 30 somethings – one new thing every day.  While I applaud the effort of those truly trying to show their gratitude, I find myself wondering every year, are these people thankful for these things all year long or just when they can post it on Facebook for all the world to see?  Do any of us really understand what it means to be grateful?  Are those petty little things actually the things in life for which we are the most thankful?  Why do we take so much for granted, whether that means appreciating something just once a year or never giving it a thought at all?

This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated our anniversary in Cartagena, Colombia (I’m grateful for business trips to exotic places and for frequent flyer mileage).  While we were there, we took an excursion that led us off the beaten path IMG_1439and through a rural landscape that revealed poverty the likes of which I have never seen, and I’m sure few people in this country could imagine.  We recently began sponsoring a young boy in Colombia, and I cried when I looked at the huts outside of my window and pictured him living in one of them.  We asked if we could send him shoes or clothing, and we were told no because it might cause him harm to have things that nobody else has.  How sad, how tragic to think that a simple pair of shoes is too much for a person to even hope for.

I read somewhere recently that our families are getting smaller while our houses are getting larger.  We have accumulated more “stuff” than any generation before us, yet with all that people have, there are those who are still crying for more.  Even the poorest people in our country have more than those in 3rd World nations, yet the ones we saw last weekend are out there working hard every day trying to feed their families while here, over 1/3 of the US population is on welfare.  So many of us drive around in luxury cars without a care in the world while approximately 50,000 of our US Veterans are living on the streets.  We can all find time to go to Disney World, but 85% of nursing home residents never have anyone visit them.

Hey, listen, I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to buying things I don’t need, eating more than my share, taking for granted all that I am blessed to have.  All I ask is that every United States citizen stops and takes a minute to think about all that they have and how lucky they are to live in a land where we have the ability to run to the store for milk, shop whenever we want new clothes, or even just change our shoes when our feet get sore.  Be grateful that you have family and friends, that you have a home and means of transportation, that you have the freedom to worship, work, and play however you please, and that there are men and women standing guard at night while you’re asleep making sure that you can wake up tomorrow and still have all of those opportunities.

We are among the lucky ones.  Remember, not just today, but every day to thank God, your parents, your teachers, and our military for all of the sacrifices they have made for you.  It’s not about the cars and houses and material things.  It’s about the life you live and those who are a part of it.  Smile and be thankful – every minute of every day.

                                        Vets

Special thanks on this Veteran’s Day to my father, Richard; my father-in-law, David; our friend, Nick; and my nephew, Ty for their service to our country.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.