Genuine Prayers Online

 

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It’s easy to post a photo like this or write a quick tweet…but what impact might that actually have?

We’ve seen it for every mass tragedy that has hit the headlines. We see it when local tragedies occur, Facebook friends or Twitter followers going through a hard time.

The depth I and many others place in these words can be very profound. It can convey our empathy for others and our desire to act as a support system for those facing life’s many challenges and hardships.

The beauty of social media is its ease and wide outreach. Rather than having to dial up a number or wait until an appropriate event to tell these words to someone in person, we can just grab our smartphones and do the same thing….right?

For as often as tragedy occurs in our world and how often we hear about the next big scandal or crime or war, the frequency in which we see these types of messages from our friends and followers can be as overwhelming as the news itself. And it may even be having the same effects as this constant wave of information has on our psyche.

We all know of the boy who cried wolf. What begins as something very moving and provoking slowly becomes less noticeable after the umpteenth time we hear and see it. We’re numbing to violence. Our tolerance for what actually makes us hurt and become taken aback continues to increase.

The same goes for the messages we post in response to these events. What began as something very thoughtful and meaningful after hearing tragic news is now an automatic response, one that everyone posts, one that loses a sense of genuine feeling and compassion.

Think of this in terms of telling someone you love them. People online constantly tell their friends this with plenty of heart emojis to boot. But if you were thinking of truly telling someone you love them, as if you’re telling your future spouse this or a final goodbye for family member about to pass away, chances are, social media posts won’t cut it. If you’re telling someone you love them like you mean it, you’ll tell them in person.

Or, even better, you’ll show them you mean it. You will act in a way that demonstrates your feelings. Nothing can replace the power of actions, ones that inevitably speak louder than any words could describe. Let’s consider the act of writing out our condolences and any emotions.  Call me old-fashioned, but I think taking the time to even write a card or mail a letter (snail mail, what a concept) to a specific person is much more meaningful than a status update.

Again, anybody with a wifi connection can do that, but it’s hard to judge based off of a short statement what feelings are actually put behind the words. You can’t read someone’s facial expressions or body language. You can’t hear their voice speaking. You can’t glimpse intimately into their life to see how it might be affected. There’s so much that goes on behind a screen that relying upon it as a sole resource or platform for communication will only tell a superficial snippet.

Not only do social media posts for thoughts and prayers feel too detached from the humanity behind tragedy, but it can convey the opposite message it might hope to make. How often do you find in these types of posts actual names of victims or their families? This goes especially for national tragedies that we as media users probably aren’t directly affected by whatsoever. Sure, we might be more on-edge in certain situations and feel awkward talking about a relevant topic for a week or so, but at the end of the day, real lives somewhere have been turned upside down. In the grand scheme of things, your quick tweet won’t matter much. The last thing you should be doing is taking violence and mass loss and turning the attention toward yourself and your own feelings.

Instead of posting online, let’s take our thoughts and prayers into action. Let’s donate our time and resources to those in need. Let’s stand up for the lost and evoke political change that prevents further violence and devastation. Let’s go back to our roots of communication, whether that be in-person or traditional writing, to remember what it’s like to truly empathize with each other, to feel the immediate support from loved ones and community members.

As a spiritual person, I believe in the power of prayer. But prayer is nothing without actively seeking change, using prayer a tool for motivation to use our resources and connections with others to foster human impact. We are vessels in which to act for the common good, to invigorate the spirit that can make this world a better place. Social media itself is nothing without the people online. We as people have greater potential tan we may realize. We’re much more than a quick tweet or status update.

What are your “thoughts” on this topic? Are you tired of seeing it? What can we do instead?

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Putting the REAL in Relationships

Remember the days of middle school and high school where all you wanted was to fit in? To make a friend group that portrays your desired image of being “cool”? Good times…(with implied sarcasm).

The second we grab our high school diplomas and seemingly move forward in our lives, we expect building relationships to be different. We envision stumbling upon people and never caring what others think, whether they like who we are or not.

Let me burst the bubble here and say, life can feel like a constant continuation of high school in this aspect. In college and beyond, we still have the innate desire to be liked by others, especially those who seem to have a certain social status, and to be surrounded by people that fit into what we want. We establish an idea for ourselves on what friendships should look like, who they should be with, what activities you do together, and when we realize that we don’t have that immediate control, it can be discouraging.

Even as a college senior, I still can feel that way. Even after years of learning about myself and growing more into the person I want to become, I still struggle with the role relationships should play in my life. I’m often prone to spurts of energy, talking to many people at once and wanting to always go out and socialize, but then long spans of time, I’m not really talking to many people at all and the last thing on my mind is taking time away from my own work and projects to spend it with friends. That sounds awful, but it’s the truth.

And in those times of increased isolation, I beat myself up and feel guilty for my own nature. I draw comparisons to others (thanks, social media) who seem to have their lives altogether, balancing school, work, and friends successfully. It’s like people who might be in a similar boat as me update others about binge-watching YouTube videos or spending hours scrolling through Pinterest. That goes against the grain of the image we want to portray our lives as.

With so many factors that judge our lives and set expectations for what is right and wrong, we lose our sense of what relationships should actually be like and what role they should play. We focus more on the image of having relationships rather than the quality of those relationships.

The second you think you have every balanced out and have established some perfect formula for relationships, think again. Like anything else, it’s a constantly evolving process. We should expect to have challenges, periods of fog where we feel oblivious to what is best for us, times when we get caught up in superficial details that overlook the true value people have.

In lies where we need to keep it real. Or, as a play on words, putting the “real” in REALationships. We aren’t all going to have the same definitions of what that entails, so the second we begin the comparison trap, we need to lock up our smart phones and be honest with ourselves. Relationships aren’t all about whose faces are filling up your Instagram feed. You shouldn’t feel like you need to prove your relationships to anybody, or think that showing them off is the key to fulfillment.

Quality is forever more important than quantity. I know that even when I’m in these moods of craving solitude, I still have several great people in my life who I consider my friends. These are people who I genuinely enjoy talking to, who I’d want to spend time with, who uplift me in good times and bad. That group of people might be larger or smaller than other people’s circles, and that’s fine. A number of friends doesn’t dictate your character or self-worth.

Prioritizing real connections with others applies to all relationships: romantic ones, family, and anybody else you value. The people that matter to you most shouldn’t have to fit some mold you see as the best way to live, and chances are, those relationships will change, grow, subside, and adjust themselves over time. We’ll all have periods of feeling completely alone, and other times when we’re overwhelmed with how many people care about us and we want to see.

Whatever relationships you want to make as real and genuine as possible, you need to be willing to put in the work. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. True relationships don’t blossom overnight, but they take time and energy to build up. We may have differing degrees of how intimate we are with certain people, but in everyone we value, we cannot expect making a best friend in five minutes, nor can we bash ourselves for facing challenges in relationships, with others and ourselves.

Because to be a good friend, family member, partner, whoever, the realest of relationships we need to establish is the one with ourselves. From that foundation, we can ensure more genuine, honest connections with those we hold dear and draw in the people that really care about us and make life that much sweeter.

What does a “REALationship” look like to you? Have you also felt stuck in high school peer pressure to fit in and “be cool”? I’d love to learn about your own experiences.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

The Occasional Slacker

If you’re a go-getter like me, any sort of procrastination feels like failure…

98% of the time, I’m the kind of person working way ahead of schedule. I’m completing tasks I don’t actually need to finish for a few weeks, but I just feel compelled to do them anyway. I’ve always been that type of person, always on the ball, always trying to make my time productive.

Except, that 2% of the time not accounted for, that’s when I feel beyond guilty. Defeated. Angry and frustrated with myself. Uninspired and unmotivated. There is that rare time when I come across a particular assignment that I just have no willpower to get done. Even when I never plan to procrastinate, which using that term could have many various definitions depending on the person, I have just a random paper or responsibility that I leave up as a window or tab on my computer and just ignore. And end up doing anything else BUT that.

It’s a habit that I luckily don’t fall into very often, but it does inevitably happen. Right now as I’m writing this, it’s a memo for media law and ethics. I have multiple tabs open in my browser for resources to cite and emails from an online database with more information, and yet there the document sits, little progress made, due in a few days. And here I am, writing a blog post instead!

I almost feel like I’m going against my own nature, like some unknown force is blocking my usual urgency to get things done. I’ve never been one to understand those who always write papers the day before they’re due or barely glancing at a textbook minutes before a test is handed out. I’ve had to work my tail off throughout my education, and while it can be exhausting at times, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished thus far.

Until I get to that one little snag in the production that I just hone in and focus on, use it as ammunition to shame my abilities or lack thereof. But regardless of the scenario, we all come to points where we face a roadblock, a random halt in our creativity that can come up out of the blue. The world still expects us to keep truckin’ along as per usual, but we just…can’t, or don’t know how. It’s not that we don’t realize we have lots of people and resources that we could fall back on and ask questions to, we just mentally are at a place where our brain randomly decides that a basic task is too much.

This can apply to so much more than classwork. How about making yearly doctor and dentist appointments? How about applying and interviewing for jobs? Heck, sometimes making a meal that isn’t just cereal feels like a task only a MasterChef contestant can pull off. Our perception of how we view the difficulty of everyday occurrences that skew from reality is appalling.

Wouldn’t it be great to flip a switch and suddenly have the clarity and ambition to do what feels impossible? Or have it already done for us overnight, like secret elves just pulling our lives together? Alas, it’s not how the world works. We are the ones to ultimately hold ourselves accountable. Sure, you could easily neglect certain things that stress you out, but what are the repercussions of those decisions? We all know the answer to those questions as it pertains to our lives, but even then, it might not get you into gear.

What I typically do is still try to be productive, even if one task sits on my to-do list for longer than I’d like, but I still am crossing other things off. It’s a satisfying feeling, and sometimes that’s the only nudge you need to want to cross everything off. Also, your well-being should always, without a doubt, come first. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, that’s what is most important. You can’t do a single thing if you always leave your energy tank on empty.

Keep that one nagging task at the forefront of your mind, regardless of how simple it is to shove it aside. Think of what a relief it will be to get it done. Maybe that means going to a different location to do so, or doing some self-care activities first before you dive in, or taking frequent breaks to prevent getting hung up on tricky spots, or all of the above. It’s whatever you know works best for you.

If you don’t feel it right now, here’s a quick reminder that yes, you are strong and capable of overcoming the obstacles that plague you. You will trudge forward past this point and look back satisfied knowing that you made it. Life is all about the highs and lows, bouncing back and forth in a constant game of pinball. But if I can do it, then you and everyone else can, too.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie