I checked my email soon after I woke up. Made breakfast, ate, looked at my phone, and checked it again. Fifteen minutes later, I decided to read my Bible and my devotional. When I was finished, I sat down at my desk and checked email and Instagram. Ran a few errands, and while waiting in line at Target, popped into my inbox and scrolled through Facebook.
That sounds crazy as I type it all out. And that day when I caught myself, I wondered why I was incessantly checking email and social media. Then tried to justify my actions (in my head) as a way of trying to keep up with friends and keep my inbox clean.
But deep inside I knew my constant checking was about more than keeping up with emails and updates.
My heart was chasing after something more. And finally I paused to ask myself why: Why do I keep checking online?
I sat there for a moment, waiting for my heart to respond. I wasn’t sure if it was God speaking or me answering, but these words rose up in my thoughts: You keep coming back because your heart longs for connection.
No matter how many times I checked email or hopped on social media, it would never be enough to satisfy my need for real-life friendship.
Somewhere in the busyness of life, several friendships had been reduced to quick conversations via email. In the year leading up to this moment, my schedule had gotten stuffed full with my kids’ needs, school projects, balancing marriage and ministry, and some new challenging responsibilities at work.
Something had to give. I needed to find a better balance. Talking on the phone, socializing with neighbors, and hanging out with friends was a regular thing, but in that season, I sensed I needed to cut back on them.
However, that morning as I stared at my inbox, I realized my pendulum had swung too far. My face-to-face time with friends had been reduced to a minimum. And here I was, craving something more.
I was trying to fill a God-created need for real-life relationships with a white screen and black alphabet keys.
My heart craved something no amount of digital conversations could fill. So what did I do? I pulled out my phone and texted a friend who lives nearby who happened to be available. I told her what was going on and we decided to grab a quick, spontaneous lunch together.
Looking into a friend’s eyes, listening to each other talk, and being listened to; it was just what we both needed.
Jesus valued face-to-face connections, and surrounded Himself with intimate friends — His Father, His close friends John, Peter, and James and then the other nine disciples.
He also had friends like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. People He spent time with over meals and conversations about spiritual truths that applied to their everyday lives. Through His example we see how important it is to satisfy our craving for connection by spending face-to-face time with friends.
About a year ago, I started a new tradition — friends on Friday. Every week I carve out time to pull away from my computer and get together with friends who live nearby. Sometimes, I have to plan weeks in advance for face-to-face Friday times with a friend. But it’s worth it, and now it’s my favorite day of the week.
How often do you check email, Instagram, or Facebook in a given day?
Do you ever catch yourself checking more than once in a 3-4 hour span? Next time you do, ask yourself why? And then call a real-life friend, just to catch up. You’ll be glad you did.
Michele Morin says
Thanks for this tiny tug to my spirit — a timely course correction.
Karen Wiggins says
Without even realizing why I was doing it when I read this…it made total sense! Thank you for this reminder. God is always speaking
Renee Swope says
It’s so easy to forget what we really need. 🙂
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I love the “Friends on Friday” concept! Your post really resonates with me. I work from home and I write from home, and lately I’ve been recuperating from surgery….at home. I find myself really missing face to face time with friends. Quick catch-up texts are okay, but they need to be fed with the more satisfying soul to soul face time. I love my cyber friends and the emails that we exchange and I so wish I could look into their eyes. Your post has convicted me. I need to pick up the phone (and use it as a phone) and call some friends and make some dates. You’ve put a finger on what my soul has been craving. Thank you!!
Renee Swope says
Oh Bev, I’m so glad Jesus spoke to you the way He did. My soul would’ve shriveled up like a raisin if God hadn’t shown me how much I needed my face-to-face friend time.
Here’s to using our phones as phones, and hearing real live voices on the other end. 🙂
Tianna Krueger says
How telling that after reading this I thought about leaving a reply, but then thought about checking Facebook or email instead? I definitely have fallen prey to seeking connection through the screen & keyboard. As a breastfeeding mother, I have time carved out of each workday at my office to pull away from my desk and pump. When I went back to work almost 7 months ago I told myself it would be a time to read the Bible, other Biblical books or journal. Here we are and I’m pretty sure I can count the number of times I’ve done that one my two hands. However, how many levels of Candy Crush have I beaten? How many likes have I given to people’s posts? Too many to count or even remember. I long for connection, but I believe my longing is for God Himself. One another relationships are awesome and were created for us, but I’m definitely lacking in my intimacy with The Creator. Thanks for the reminder of this today.
Renee Swope says
Oh yes, I completely agree. My relationship with God is also impacted by this pattern of constant checking in online. But when I ban myself from social media or email for a day or two, my time with Him is so sweet. His presence is more evident and His whispers are easier to hear. Thank you for reminding me of both. 🙂
Summer Rae says
Dear Miss Renee,
A little less than a year ago I deleted all of my social media accounts (besides e-mail) and started a blog. For probably a week, I found myself still picking up my phone (too often) and checking for notifications… it meant/means so much more to me when I receive an e-mail or a thoughtful text from someone rather than our entire relationship being summed up with a heart/thumbs-up. In that time God has opened my eyes to what a true friend is and I am so blessed to be surrounded by them. Recently, I too have found myself checking my e-mail or blog activity quite frequently… I just get so excited and love talking to poeple! Something I always remind myself before I pick up that phone to call/text a friend is to: pray. Why am I contacting them? Is it to vent? Spreading gossip and drama never makes anyone feel any better; take it to God instead (Matthew 11:28). Is it to hangout? Are they Godly people/will our time together be edifying or bring glory to God? Thank you so much for this inspiring and encouraging post on reaching out. It can be hard… but, sometimes getting coffee with a friend or two is exactly what you need to refresh your soul and fill your cup! I pray you have a blessed day.
This side of heaven,
Renee Swope says
Thank YOU Summer Rae!! Your note was a sweet encouragement to me today. Yes, real-life friendships are a gift but not always easy to build or maintain. It definitely takes intentionality and time. 🙂 But so worth it as you said!
Eunice B says
Thank you, Renee, for being authentic, raw, and vulnerable, and being a tool to allow God to speak to me. Being newer in our community, I find that it is so much easier to hind behind a computer screen, yet as you mentioned, it’s not the same. We were created for connection, and there’s nothing quite like the face-to-face. Thank you for challenging me today!
Renee Swope says
This was a raw one to write, but reading all of your comments has helped me feel relieved that I’m not the only habitual checker of all things online. I have a feeling we’ve rewired our brains with all the apps on our phones. Even when I take them off my phone, I find myself picking it up for a few days until I retrain my brain. 🙂
Here’s to breaking old habits and starting new ones!
We just moved to a new town in a new state and I’m missing my in-real-life friends from our previous location. Praying for God to bring just the right face to face friends here in this new place so I can fill up my connectedness tank! Thanks for these great words of encouragment to get out from behind this computer and find some hands I can actually shake! Blessings!
Beth Williams says
Praying God will bring a few good life long friends your way. May He bring comfort to you and fill your tank. It is hard to make friends in a new town. Try getting a little involved in a church. I started out by doing women’s Bible studies and meeting great women.
((Liz)) I’ve been there many a time. Moving seasons can be lonely seasons. I pray the Lord fills your life with new relationships soon, friend. xoxo
Renee Swope says
Oh Liz, moving and starting over is hard. I pray Jesus will bring new friends who are also looking for new beginnings and a real hand to shake and table to share over lunch. It’ll take time but it’ll be so worth the effort. I bet there are others who need friends too. 🙂
This is spot on for me in this season of my life! I work in ministry and have a lot of face to face connection on Sunday’s. but beyond that there hasn’t been any depth to those friendships. Here’s to Friends on Fridays! I am going to be more intentional about connecting with friends! Bonus, Friday just happens to be my day off!! Thanks Renee!
Renee Swope says
Well, that’s perfect. Friday is my work in the morning only day, so it’s just right for me too. I hope you’ll enjoy your new tradition. I have a feeling you’ve got a few friends who’d love to be with you too!
Beth Williams says
I am not a big fan of social media. I check emails about 1-3 times daily & Facebook about 2 times weekly. I like the more personal face to face contact. Currently I am a part of two groups of women who meet monthly. One group, made up mostly of church friends, meets in restaurants. Our goal is to befriend a single woman & try to get her to come to church. My other group is ex-co-workers. We call ourselves “the final five”. The last of the original group working at clinic. We meet in restaurants, discuss life & pray for each other. It helps to have face to face connections with these women. We need each other & help build each other up.
What an insightful post! Too often I check my email/texts/social media when I could be taking time to read a bible passage and actually learn something of real importance. Thank you for the reminder to actually have “real” contact with friends. Those times are truly refreshing. A good reminder for this comes from Exodus 33:11 “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”
Danielle Bernock says
Loved this. Thanks for sharing. It’s so easy to get caught on in our online world.
I LOVE the “Friends Friday”!! I try to use it for the same thing. We try to use Fridays for lunches, Bible journaling, shopping…whatever, so long as we connect together!
Iwill endeavour to have a Friends Friday
This really spoke to me today!
I’m an introvert to the highest degree, I like my sheltered bubble and my online friends are the best! But recently my therapist and I have started setting goals to get me out of my comfort zone. At least once on the weekends I’m to get out and socialize with my friends and/or family. I’m hoping this helps! But I’m like you; I constantly check my email, FB and IG on a regular basis. And when I have email I get excited- but it’s normally just bills 🙂
Thanks for helping to remind me that getting out there helps and GOD wants us to be surround by those close to us!
Thank you for sharing and I love your Friends on Friday concept! My bestie and I live hundreds of miles apart, so we’ve had to figure out how to spend time with one another living in different states. We make a conscious effort to have Fireside Chats (sometimes we sit next to the heater!). Usually on Saturday mornings, it has become our tradition to catch up after our long and busy week. We sometimes have to coordinate our schedules to find time, but we do it because it is our face-to-face (read ear-to-ear) time. It’s not the same as dropping by or getting together, but it’s our way of staying connected and it means the world to us both!
What a sweet tradition. 🙂 Love that.
I really enjoyed today’s reading and I love the idea of Friends Friday! It is so true we get caught up in a reality world and miss real connect with people. So funny how I was trying to explain this to someone about a week ago. It’s not about going out, just to go out, its about connecting with people. Sharing life together. So thank you for this mornings read.
Jennifer Frisbie says
Renee, this really spoke to me today. Just over the weekend I attended a conference and, when I picked up a Bible study on a vendor table, I flipped to a page that spoke directly to me. It talked about our tendency to pull back from people and isolate ourselves when we were going through struggles. How the enemy gets us in a place – in the middle of this isolation – so he can feed us lies. I know this isn’t exactly the same, but it’s so very similar. I’ve listened to so many lies during a time of pulling back from face time in my own friendships and it’s taken hearing this through words in a study as well as here at (in)courage to understand my mistake. I desperately need this connection for accountability, encouragement and laughter. ALL positive entities in our lives that fight against enemy attacks.
There’s so much I could write here, but I think I just want you to hear a resounding “thank you.” Thank you so much for these words.
Kristy Lynn says
Wow!! This post really hit me between the eyes because I am a chronic social media checker! I know there is a huge whole in my life where friendships are just lacking. I used to be very active in church; being on the women’s ministry and a part of the worship team about 5 years ago, but even then I didn’t have real friendships and people that I spent regular time with. During that time I was in a very difficult marriage, my husband was controlling and verbally/emotionally abusive so I kept myself distanced from people so they wouldn’t know what was going on. My husband passed away in August of 2012 and even though I was active in a church of some 200 plus people, no one was really there for me after his death (only 2 people brought me and my daughters meals when he died). I stayed in the church for about 6 months after his death but felt so disconnected and like it was his church more than mine and that people weren’t there for me. I felt God release me from that church and let the pastors know I was leaving. I was so hurt from all that had happened that I withdrew from going to church all together and tried to just focus on getting my life back together after my husband’s death. Now almost 5 years later I find myself in a place of loneliness, lacking any friendships other than my two grown daughters, lacking a church community and having a lot of regrets in regards to romantic relationships I never should have persued. I just never made the connection between my loneliness and my constant checking of social media to feel connected to something! I have been feeling a huge tug towards getting my focus back on God because my life has become a huge mess and I see this is something I truly need to work on!
Rebecca L Jones says
I check off and on during the day, I like to make sure I answer prayer requests. I wasn’t interested in Facebook, but joined ata friend’s request and it does get me a few more blog readers, but I don’t have to tweet everything or every picture. We definitely still have to to have face time and not a keyboard.
Kathy Cheek, Devotions from the Heart says
I have found summer to be a hard time to plan things with friends because everyone is out of town, so I look forward to fall when normal routines make that easier. Friends in real life are the real deal. It is wonderful that we can connect with so many online, but never to the neglect of those around us.
Natalyne Gilbert says
This was right on time because I totally feel this way. As I was reading I reached out to a friend who doesn’t have a car and asked if she needed me to run her around. It’s not always easy for me to just outright ask a person to hang out so I sometimes look for ways to be a help…when I wrote her she said only if I wanted to hang out with her because we hadn’t in a while. I am so glad that I read this and that she let me know it wasn’t about doing a good deed but just spending time..it’s like she wanted it as well.
julie holly says
Such an important message for me to hear! This is a habit I’m currently trying to break and it’s encouraging to learn from someone else one way to help! Thank you!
All I can say is “THAT WILL PREACH!”
Facebook is If you’re limited for various reasons, but it shouldn’t be limited to black and white keys, but one to one communication.
I have been doing this more and I find it’s the next best thing for bonding relationships besides being there.
Truth ❤️ thanks for the reminder
Oh yes..even while reading this I texted two different friends to reach out and reconnect.
How does it work when people you would like to hang out with don’t ever contact you and never seem to want to hang out with you when you try to contact them? Or what happens when you have started a second job because you needed the extra money and your previously empty calendar leaves you with a full plate and unable to make time for friends who never seem to want to hang out with you or people who want to hang out with you whom you don’t want to hang out with are the only ones who bother to contact you? I’m wondering if I’m in over my head and whether the answer lies in moving to a new area where perhaps I could find one 40hr a week job and have weekends free to go to church and connect with/make new friends? I have an opportunity to move to Texas and I’ve been dragging my feet. A lot of it is being afraid of not finding a job there and admitting failure( parents have already said if I move out I can’t move back in with them which could leave me homeless) and being in debt…I don’t know what the right action is and I’m pretty sure God said that he’s giving me the freedom to choose so that doesn’t help me…any advice?