Genuine Prayers Online


It’s easy to post a photo like this or write a quick tweet…but what impact might that actually have?

We’ve seen it for every mass tragedy that has hit the headlines. We see it when local tragedies occur, Facebook friends or Twitter followers going through a hard time.

The depth I and many others place in these words can be very profound. It can convey our empathy for others and our desire to act as a support system for those facing life’s many challenges and hardships.

The beauty of social media is its ease and wide outreach. Rather than having to dial up a number or wait until an appropriate event to tell these words to someone in person, we can just grab our smartphones and do the same thing….right?

For as often as tragedy occurs in our world and how often we hear about the next big scandal or crime or war, the frequency in which we see these types of messages from our friends and followers can be as overwhelming as the news itself. And it may even be having the same effects as this constant wave of information has on our psyche.

We all know of the boy who cried wolf. What begins as something very moving and provoking slowly becomes less noticeable after the umpteenth time we hear and see it. We’re numbing to violence. Our tolerance for what actually makes us hurt and become taken aback continues to increase.

The same goes for the messages we post in response to these events. What began as something very thoughtful and meaningful after hearing tragic news is now an automatic response, one that everyone posts, one that loses a sense of genuine feeling and compassion.

Think of this in terms of telling someone you love them. People online constantly tell their friends this with plenty of heart emojis to boot. But if you were thinking of truly telling someone you love them, as if you’re telling your future spouse this or a final goodbye for family member about to pass away, chances are, social media posts won’t cut it. If you’re telling someone you love them like you mean it, you’ll tell them in person.

Or, even better, you’ll show them you mean it. You will act in a way that demonstrates your feelings. Nothing can replace the power of actions, ones that inevitably speak louder than any words could describe. Let’s consider the act of writing out our condolences and any emotions.  Call me old-fashioned, but I think taking the time to even write a card or mail a letter (snail mail, what a concept) to a specific person is much more meaningful than a status update.

Again, anybody with a wifi connection can do that, but it’s hard to judge based off of a short statement what feelings are actually put behind the words. You can’t read someone’s facial expressions or body language. You can’t hear their voice speaking. You can’t glimpse intimately into their life to see how it might be affected. There’s so much that goes on behind a screen that relying upon it as a sole resource or platform for communication will only tell a superficial snippet.

Not only do social media posts for thoughts and prayers feel too detached from the humanity behind tragedy, but it can convey the opposite message it might hope to make. How often do you find in these types of posts actual names of victims or their families? This goes especially for national tragedies that we as media users probably aren’t directly affected by whatsoever. Sure, we might be more on-edge in certain situations and feel awkward talking about a relevant topic for a week or so, but at the end of the day, real lives somewhere have been turned upside down. In the grand scheme of things, your quick tweet won’t matter much. The last thing you should be doing is taking violence and mass loss and turning the attention toward yourself and your own feelings.

Instead of posting online, let’s take our thoughts and prayers into action. Let’s donate our time and resources to those in need. Let’s stand up for the lost and evoke political change that prevents further violence and devastation. Let’s go back to our roots of communication, whether that be in-person or traditional writing, to remember what it’s like to truly empathize with each other, to feel the immediate support from loved ones and community members.

As a spiritual person, I believe in the power of prayer. But prayer is nothing without actively seeking change, using prayer a tool for motivation to use our resources and connections with others to foster human impact. We are vessels in which to act for the common good, to invigorate the spirit that can make this world a better place. Social media itself is nothing without the people online. We as people have greater potential tan we may realize. We’re much more than a quick tweet or status update.

What are your “thoughts” on this topic? Are you tired of seeing it? What can we do instead?

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie



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