Fragile Social Media Relationships

by: Deji Yesufu

I became active on social media sometimes around 2014 and because I have some unorthodox views on a few issues, particularly religion, I might have come in contact with quite a number of individuals for which we developed friendship online and offline. Today, some seven years after, I am no longer friends with most of these individuals. It appears to me that relationships built over social media are very fragile.

Facebook offers opportunity for one to be friends with people but relationships on social media are broken just as easily as they are formed. In this essay, I will not be suggesting how one could build virile relationships over social media. I would instead be warning against it and hoping that even if one were to find relations via social media, other factors must come into play to make those relationships strong. If not, one should realize that social media relationship are not strong and when they evaporate, you should not be disappointed.

In 1994 I found myself on a long queue of students trying to register themselves as new students of the Ahmadu Bello University. I remember very well that we were in front of the Dean’s office at the Faculty of Engineering. I saw a very shy, lean, young man and I approached him and asked about how his registration was going. He told me it was hectic but he was positive that he would be done with it soon. I expressed similar optimism and in a moment, we became friends.

That young boy today is Ayodeji Oladipo. We are still friends; although we do not see each other as often as before. We went through a lot at the University and after some added semesters, we finally graduated. We entered the labor market and today we both have families of our own. We are friends on Facebook but I can assure you that it will take a lot for Ayo to no longer be my friend. Even if he chooses to “unfriend” me today on social media platforms, our relationship has become one of brothers that cannot fail on this side of heaven or even in the life to come (thankfully he is a Christian).

I write about Ayo because I have developed relationships with people on social media that extended offline but such relationships crashed and I wonder how and why. I mention Ayo in this essay not because both of us do not disagree on theological and political issues, but because I realize that it will take more than disagreement on mere issues like that for our relationship to fail. So how an individual will develop a relationship with me beyond social media – even though we got linked up via social media; how I will get to know this person’s family; his wife, father, mother, children, brother; and such a person will take a point of disagreement over an issue and end a relationship that has been built over a couple of years – the thought still leaves me in wonder.

I would think that even if such a person will end such a relationship, the process will go beyond just sending a text message. Perhaps, he or she will make the effort to sit with me and discuss. No. They will rather just end it and move on. I think that we have succeeded in transporting the fragile relationships we have on social media to real life. We begin and end friendship in the same manner we accept friend requests and we block people on Facebook. It is sad.

I am a Christian thinker and I must always bring issues of life to the worldview that the Christian scripture espouses. So it was Jesus who said in John 13 that “I give you a new commandment”: our Lord commanded us to love one another. How does this love work? There are hundreds of essays on love that we all must have read but, for me, nothing teaches Christlike love more than my marriage. I see that in my marriage, it is not friendship that is keeping me in my relationship with my wife. It is not how I feel about her. It is not whether there is money or there is no money. It is a commitment to be a husband to her and a father to my children.

Commitment is the driving force behind my love to my wife. So I choose to be a husband and remain in this marriage, regardless of how things are in between us. I have the feeling that this is the kind of love that Christ commands among his disciples: Jesus calls us to be committed to each other. It does not mean that Christian relationship cannot fail; it only means that they should not fail EASILY.

When I wrote the essay on the passing of my childhood classmate, John “Baba” Angulu, I received hundreds of friend requests on Facebook. I did not respond to most of them because my profile algorithm is designed in such a way that every friend request becomes an automatic “follower” of my page. I would rather that Facebook relationships remain “following”; so that the day I say whatever displeases you, you can silently unfollow me and everyone will be happy. There is something akin to dying when relationships you have invested your self in come suddenly crashing to the ground – particularly when the other party does not see any reason to put some efforts into making the relationship work.

If you have discerned that this essay is a lamentation on my part – it is. If it will mean that the said party in this matter will reconsider and pursue a path of reconciliation, I will be very pleased. I must however state this: I am a Christian and the fact that a relationship fails today will not keep me from investing my whole self in other relationships that could also fail tomorrow. The Lord Jesus Christ is my help and my comforter. It is because of him I will continue to build relationship that are virile; relationships that will outlive this life. Amen.

Posted by Deji Yesufu

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