A few years ago, a clever commercial caught my fancy. A young woman is at home, alone, in front of her laptop. She speaks to the camera about how sad she is for her parents because they are hardly connected to anyone. So she forces them to join Facebook:
I love the contrast shown here: The young woman, all alone with her laptop, asserting, “I have 687 friends. This is living.”—as compared to her parents on a biking adventure in the wild with friends-in-the-flesh. What we don’t know, however, is if the parents feel a deeper sense of connection to their biking friends than the daughter feels to her online friends. The truth is, we don’t need technology to hide from others. The parents may be just as disconnected as the daughter.
This commercial came to mind as I read Erin Davis’s new book, Connected: Curing the Pandemic of Everyone Feeling Alone Together. She identifies a growing sense of loneliness that is gripping people of all ages (and all levels of social media use):
“I’m talking about chronic loneliness. A kind of loneliness that has little to do with whether or not you have people in your world to spend time with. It’s a sense that no one really knows you or understands you. One of the women we interviewed for this book summed it up this way, ‘Loneliness is knowing that people aren’t thinking about me.’ It’s the feeling that you must face the rough edges of life alone.” (9)
Throughout the book, Erin explores our common longing for deep, meaningful relationships, as well as the ways we sabotage and avoid them. I especially appreciated Chapter 5: Lion Hunting and Chapter 7: The Secrets of the Wholehearted.
In Chapter 5, Erin compares our tendency to avoid connection to how a lion hunts for prey. The enemy of our soul is like a lion on the hunt. Lions watch the herd and choose one animal to draw away from the group for an attack. Likewise, Satan is looking for ways to isolate us from community. Once we are alone, we have no one to talk to, no one to turn to, no one to help us. And that’s when he attacks us, filling us with all manner of fear, anger, bitterness, doubt, and anxiety. God created us for community so that we can keep each other from defeat. The trouble is staying engaged with those in our group so that we don’t become easy prey.
Isolation is easy though. When we are aloof and disconnected from others, we don’t have to be vulnerable by sharing the personal parts of our lives. Being real about our needs, our faults, our fears—that’s scary stuff. Erin addresses this in Chapter 6, calling us to live wholeheartedly (a term Erin attributes to researcher Brene Brown):
“Loneliness fades away when we are willing to live messy lives. True connection is a byproduct of our willingness to be imperfect.” (94)
Living wholeheartedly sounds great. But then you have to actually do it—admit to living a real, messy, imperfect life. gulp.
Erin may be rocking our emotional boats here, but that’s why I kept reading. She says tough things from a fellow struggler’s perspective, in a very personal and conversational style. As I closed the cover, I felt challenged to keep pressing into my relationships, to seek to know others and be known by them. And the way I see it, life is scary either way. I’d rather be afraid because I’m deeply known than be afraid because I’m lonely.
Be sure to add this one to your TBR pile.
In celebration of Erin’s new book, I’m giving away a copy to one of you! Entering is simple (at least, I hope so). I’m using Rafflecopter for the first time! To enter, choose from the drop-down options and follow the registration via Rafflecopter. Your name is entered for each of these options—pick one or two or three of them: (1) LIKE my new Facebook author page, (2) TWEET about the giveaway (once each day!), and (3) COMMENT on this blog why you want a free book. Thanks for joining the fun!