Belonging is a need we all have. In our Student Improvement Plan, we define it as “having healthy connections with trustworthy people, including those with similar strengths and interests and those who are different.”
Helping students develop healthy belonging was one of our main goals during our abstinence-until-marriage and alcohol-reduction grants. It was exhilarating to see them make progress toward this goal.
Addressing the issue of “belonging” remains important to me for many reasons. For the purposes of this post, it is partly because of my own use of Facebook as well as the incredible rise of online social networks. Did you know that it has been recently reported that Facebook now has 750 million users? That is world history in the making and being documented at every turn. Almost 1/6th of the entire planet is utilizing this one online resource. That is a lot of adults and teens wanting to feel a sense of connection online.
Have you noticed what I’ve noticed?
- We must not equate healthy belonging with the number of friends we have on Facebook.
- We must not envy those with more friends and assume we’re somehow less friendly.
- We must not be offended when people don’t comment on our posts.
- We must remember that many of our friends on Facebook really aren’t friends at all. They’re acquaintances.
- We must not let Facebook postings take the place of phone calls and face-to-face times with our true friends. They could turn into acquaintances if we’re not careful.
- We must remember we’re only learning about a slice of people’s lives when reading their posts.
- We must value trustworthiness and still use this character quality when choosing friends. And, we must be trustworthy to enhance our friendships.
- We must value, model, and teach vulnerability and transparency especially in the days of social media. These qualities are related to trustworthiness and without them, accountability isn’t possible. Without accountability, we may not grow.
Healthy connections are the goal of belonging. Let’s make sure sites like Facebook enhance our relationships and don’t take the place of them.