The Group Text

If millennials and whatever we are calling the youth of today are the most connected generation ever… why is there such an uprise in loneliness, depression, anxiety, and suicide?

We have all heard about the research that tells us social media and communication via our mobile devices is a significant cause of this
loneliness epidemic.

I’m not about to disagree with that data. The negative is there… but is there positive?

A study published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction suggested it is how we use technology and social media that
creates feelings of loneliness, not the media in and of itself.

Linda Kaye, PhD, looked at how our phones and social media/group messages affect social functioning in a positive way. (Kaye is a senior psychology lecturer at Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom.)

Her research found, “feeling close to the people in a group chat created sense of belonging.”

I wholeheartedly agree with what this study is suggesting: it is how we use technology that creates a sense of loneliness or a sense of connectedness.

The Group Text

I have these three friends…

We couldn’t be more different. Yet we are all the same. For the past three years, we four have had a constant group text. One that has quite literally been visited almost every day since its origin.

We are all in our early 30’s.
We are all married.
We all have children.
We all love the same coffee shop, The Pinto.
We all listen to the same podcast, Armchair Expert.
Some of us like rap
And some of us hate it…
Some of us love stormy days and dark emotions
And some of us like sunshine and people.
We all believe in Jesus…most of the time.
And when we don’t, it’s ok. We remind each other that truth resurrects itself.

These people make space for me and all my big feelings and emotions.

This past summer I was at a family reunion for my husband’s family. I had been having some social anxiety issues and just kinda wanted to go

Don’t get me wrong, these people are lovely and fun and easy to talk to. It was me… not them.

My husband and I were sitting talking to a relative. Her life sounded cool and exciting and I began to feel self-conscious like I had no interesting antidotes to give her. I am currently a stay at home mom. And sometimes the story I tell myself is that my daily life is boring.

My husband knew I was feeling anxious, so in an effort to help, he mentioned something or other about how I have had this ongoing group text for a few years and how it gives me life.

A group text? How lame. I was embarrassed. Christian… come on…come up with something else to make me sound more interesting… I don’t know how I got myself out of that conversation, but I am sure it was awkward.

As I reflect on that moment, I wish I could go back and tell my anxious self to press on… And expound!

If I have found something in my life that makes me feel connected to other people —- in a place and time where loneliness, depression, anxiety, and suicide are on the rise —- I should be proud of that experience.

I should tell of friends who walk through darkness with me, who engage me in difficult conversations and ideas.

I should tell of the hope they offer me, and of how we have been able to celebrate with one another and mourn with one another.

I should tell of how we press on and communicate and forgive one another when things get weird.

And of the serendipitous timing of our intermingling.

How It Started

The four people in the group text don’t hang out every day and are rarely all together at the exact same time. The text group started because one of us was moving away to another state. At that time, we all knew each other but we were not all close or necessarily in the same friend group. The friend that was moving was our main connector. We were her people. So she created a group text for herself to stay connected to her people.

How About You?

Do you feel unconnected? Do you feel lonely? Do you feel like all the noise is out to get you?! I so often do.

So I say to myself first and then to you: take responsibility for yourself. Do you hate me now? It’s HARD to stop blaming and start owning. It’s 2020 now. The future is here. And we are faced with the reality that technology/social media is an integral part of even our friendships. We are all learning how to integrate this into our lives.

We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking. – Richard Rohr

I will tell you right now that the people who I have seen make complete turn arounds from toxic patterns and behavior to healthy patterns and behavior have been people who started with that simple hard thing: taking responsibility for themselves.

AA step one: “Admit you have a problem.” That is taking ownership. If you go to therapy, any good therapist will help you to start taking the
reigns of yourself. Even scripture says self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.

Of all the awkward people in your house or job there is only one whom you can improve very much. – CS Lewis

Do not mis-hear me: If you have been hurt or abused by the hands of another, that IS NOT your fault. I’ve heard it said that trauma is not your fault, but healing is your responsibility.

To Summarize

Can our phones be a source of unhealth in our lives? Absolutely. We can become addicted to it in very toxic ways. It is all in how we use it. And
how we use it is solely up to us.

So… I exhort you… go find those safe people. BE that safe person. Start a group text. And let us allow truth to redeem us and this technology
that so easily entangles us.

(Disclaimer: This story focuses on three close friends of mine. But the people in my life who I would categorize as healing friends goes way beyond just these three. I see all of you. And you know who you are, and I love you.)

Megan Baxter is a regular contributor on The Oddfellow. In addition to her writing ventures, she also is part of the women’s ministry team at Fellowship Bible Church in Batesville, Ark. She has a degree in Family Psychology from Williams Baptist University, and lives in Batesville with her husband, Christian, and their children.

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