Sharing is Caring: But Sometimes It's A One-Way Street

“The only blessings you own are the ones you share.”  — Frank Blake

Last week I went out for an afternoon round at my local golf course, Scholl Canyon Golf & Tennis Club. I was excited to soak in the late afternoon beauty with some restful fun swinging the golf club.

Since the course wasn’t too busy, I was able to tee off on the front nine by myself, feeling grateful to have the time to enjoy the game, the beauty, and the quiet all by myself.

When I made the turn after the front nine, I rounded the corner to hole #10 and saw a foursome leave the tee box. This meant two things: 1) a slow back nine awaited me, and 2) there was a good chance someone would try to join up with me to play the back nine in my group. The second reality was what ensued, and that’s what led to me writing this post.

Sharing is Caring

Like an Oreo, life is meant to be shared.

From the oxygen we breathe to the planet that we inhabit, every aspect of life is amplified by the ability to share. Many things in life begin to lose their luster or appeal when they become isolated and individualized. 

Before the 21st century, life was shared through communities, associations, families, tribes, and other various groups. Through the invention of modern media, largely beginning just over 100 years ago with the invention of radio, television, and video, we unlocked the ability to share cultural, social, and popular norms, news, and experiences across a much wider audience. This was amplified by another factor of ten when the internet was made available near the end of the 20th century, as individuals now had free reign over all the information at the tips of their fingers, ready for consumption. The most recent explosion in our ability to share culture, ideas, and experiences with each other has been the 21st century’s introduction of social media.

Social media gave individuals not just the ability to consume information online, but to readily share information with others. More importantly, it gave them the ability to share their life and their experiences with all who care to see. What began as a way to further connect, has quickly turned into a living, breathing, and moving entity that has seamlessly spun itself into the fabric of the everyday lives for the majority of people in our westernized world.

“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racquet.”  - Eric Hoffer

The Redemptive Edge

Social media is increasingly becoming a dangerous and addictive outlet that’s starting to be seen as one of the leading contributors to the mental health epidemic we are facing today. Yet the beginnings of this platform were more pure and innocent of heart. Social media was intended as a way to connect family, friends, and loved ones that weren’t able to be as connected with their daily life. It provided a way for individuals to share in the experiences of the community and people they cared about.

This is the redemptive trait that can still be found in the socials (albeit, now it requires some digging). Being able to share some of the exciting and encouraging parts of your life and your daily existence here on earth is a blessing! Sharing always amplifies the enjoyment of whatever is shared. It feels good to share something, even if that means less of the thing for you, as in the case of food or resources.

Not only is it fun to share images, words, or stories from the interesting parts of your life, it’s also a joy to see and experience those same parts of the people in your life and in your community that you love and adore. Being able to celebrate the wins with your friends, and to help mourn their losses is an important part of friendship and being human.

This reality was personally felt last week on my Sabbath. With re-prioritizing a practice of the Sabbath these past few months (click HERE to listen to me talk more about this), I’ve made a few rules to abide by during my Sabbath-day each week: 1) no email, 2) no work on career-oriented endeavors, and 3) no social media. In abstaining from any social media use of any kind, I’ve realized that there is a level of joy we experience when we get to share something we really enjoyed with those who know us or follow us online. When we get to see a jaw-droppingly beautiful sunset, or read a thought-provoking quote, or have a moment of unique insight we want to pass on, being able to share these moments with others actually amplify the joy we experience in those moments!

The joy we experience from sharing, even if it’s as intangible as a photo or some words given through a virtual medium, is the redeeming value found in the world of the internet and social media.

But there is a missing component, one that drastically reduces it’s value… 

A One-Way Street

In a general sense, the greatest value of sharing is that it is felt, experienced, and enjoyed by both parties involved. From one side of the equation it is the joy of giving, on the other side it is the joy of receiving. Without the seen and experienced benefit of the other, both sides of the equation’s benefit is reduced. 

This is the missing component of sharing through social media and other virtual platforms. Whereas sharing in the real world involves two or more human beings, sharing in the virtual world involves just one. Of course there can be the argument that social media allows sharing to be a two-way street through liking and commenting and interacting with what’s been shared, but it is undeniable a cheaper form of reciprocation that reduces the joy found in giving/receiving down to a number beside a heart-shaped button. This robs sharing of it’s full potential, robbing it of the joy that can be found in a healthy practice of sharing life with those you love. It is trading a ribeye steak in for a $0.99 cheeseburger from McDonalds, providing us with a quick hit but no lasting nourishment for the relational-needs we’ve been created with.

If the only aspects of our life that we “share” is through social media and the virtual world, we are living an inherently selfish life. There is only so much impact that can be had in a virtual world, and it is a world that, by its nature, dehumanizes other humans into profiles, pictures, and names. This is the tragic reality of the sharing we experience virtually. It cheapens both sides of the equation and distracts each from sharing the momentary beauty of daily life with the real, tangible, human beings sitting and walking next to us in our day-to-day experience.

Stated even simpler: social media is robbing us of our humanity. Humanity is found — humanity is regained — in the sharing of our talents, gifts, abilities, and resources with other human beings in the real, tangible world of daily life.

The Feeling Will Follow

This was the message I needed standing on the tee-box of #10 at Scholl Canyon Golf Club. As I’m waiting there for the group ahead to finish the hole, a single player drives up asking the question that caused my heart to sink: “Do you mind if I join up for the back nine?”

Writing this now shows me, to an even deeper extent, how selfish I really was in that moment. Thankfully, I was polite enough to say “sure”. And thus began nine holes with my new friend Paul.

Paul was a supremely nice man. He has a wife, two kids, and a thriving business he’s owned for many years. He’s tired of the long hours and hard work, and he’s looking for his exit plan. He is proud of being able to pay for both of his kids to go through college and he loves them dearly. He wishes his relationship with his son could be better. He longs for the day when his son will actually listen to him and understand that he just wants what’s best for him. And, he’s extremely jealous of the fact that I get to play in a Father-Son golf tournament this next month.

This is just a snippet of the life we got to share that sunny afternoon at Scholl Canyon, and it was only nine holes of golf…

Sharing life — the real, tangible, non-virtual aspects of the moment-to-moment existence we call “living” — that is what makes us human. Sharing is one of the distinct features of being human. It is one of the greatest means we have to experiencing joy and fulfillment each and every day. And it’s a part of life that is readily available, always within reach of our current grasp, no matter the place we find ourselves in.

“We may spend most of our waking hours advancing our own interests, but we all have the capacity to transcend self-interest and become simply a part of a whole. It’s not just a capacity; it’s the portal to many of life’s most cherished experiences.”  — Jonathan Haidt

We will always have hesitation toward sharing. We will always second-guess whether it’s the smart move, whether it’s “worth it” in the long run.

I’m here to tell you it is. Life is meant to be shared in a real, tangible, personal, human way.

Trust me, the feeling will follow.

“From what we get in life, we make a living. From what we give, we make a life.”  — Arthur Ashe