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At the age of 17, I knew that what really matters in life are people, relationships. I wrote it down in my journal – the one with life truths in it.

I have resisted social media as a rule, not wanting to reduce friends to a pixelated Face in a book on the web, or be downsized to 140 characters on the run between supersized meals. If I want to keep up with someone or they want to know more, we can talk on the phone.

What matters in life are relationships, and such are not fostered by monitoring digitized updates.

So when the panelist of self-published authors yesterday said of the process, “It’s all about relationships,” I nodded my head.

The coffee shops, the ice cream stores, and the bakeries she frequents display her book proudly on shelves. Not a means to an end, but part of her heart and her soul. The kind of community I seek.

Struck by a void, I felt the relationships lacking. Though I live in a Portland place filled with community potential, I have failed to know neighbors – failed to converse rather than make a transaction, to walk to the river beside moms pushing carriages, to find a location for lounging other than my fenced-in backyard.

The truth is I rarely slow down to frequent a place as I’ve always desired. I flit from one place to the next, never long or intentionally enough to establish rapport.

In some cases, I fear being known, wanting to be left to my work and my thoughts. In others, I fail to find language to carry the conversation between strangers. More often than not, I concede relationships to tasks and miserly fixations, insisting others step aside as productivity barrels its way through.

I’ve resisted the many social media because I have no room for more. I don’t want to expand the web to capture the woman I met on the light rail, the high school classmate I silently tolerated, or the colleague I relegate to the professional realm.

At some point the weight of the silk-woven threads surpasses the girth of the web, and I know I will capsize under its bulk.

I resist relationship outside the closest and few, quickly withdrawing when the connection’s not there.

Yet what really matters in life are people, relationships.

“The strongest professional connections are on LinkedIn,” the author continued. “I recommend spending an hour a day building relationships.”

This woman so much further along than me in appreciating and fostering community would not consider an hour a day on LinkedIn a waste of time.

Social media building community.
Courtesy of kdonovan_gaddy

I found myself caught off guard, not most by the suggestion, but by the juxtaposition not jarring me. Having chastised myself for not slowing down as had this Portland-bred author, I now saw she cared far more for people than this Christian-bound hide.

Those phone calls I’d make if I wanted to know more – I’d rarely made time. And while I feared downsizing friendships, I saw perhaps I must enter this world, or delete nearly all. Perhaps I must join this modern medium if I am to live out the truth.

If there is no time for a quick poke or a note, then I have no room for others in life. I must choose to reach out in person or, because I have continually crowded out all other ways, I must at least capitulate to the digitized version.

What I am sure of is I can no longer hide behind walls of efficiency.

I desperately want to spend that hour a day reaching beyond the confined space in my head, finding the deeper connection with others, building the substance of knowing. Through one self-published author, I saw it may even become the most productive, paradoxical of ways.