I’ve probably said it a thousand times so far in my life, and I’ll probably say it a thousand more before the fad dies out: I love social media. It offers you a simple, efficient way to keep in touch with the people you care about, without having to leave the house and do the whole people-ing thing. Since I now live at least a 3-hour drive away from almost everyone who means anything to me, social media offers me a way to be there without being there.
But, for all the wonderful things social media does for us, it can’t do everything. As it stands, the technology just isn’t there to replicate real human behavior. After all, most people’s social media posts are carefully screened before posting, to provide exactly the sort of image they want to provide to onlookers. We notice these differences when they’re people we see all the time, but for some reason, we forget when it’s people we don’t see often.
The old-school-rules for social interaction still apply, and the best way to show someone you’re there for them is still actually being there for them. If you want to make sure social media isn’t the full extent of your social behavior, here are 6 ways you can show someone you actually care about them. (But you should still probably like that selfie anyway… Just in case.)
1. Surprise your friends and loved ones with a visit.
All too often, we get so wrapped up in our day-to-day lives that we forget to make time for the people we care the most about. (I’m really, really bad about this… My girlfriend threatens to hide my laptop when we travel.) Of course, social media isn’t the only factor involved here, but checking in with your friends and family on Facebook or Instagram might give you a false sense of closeness. Remember: The virtual world isn’t “really there.”
Showing up to see someone, however, shows that you actually do care – enough to take time out of your busy (or antisocial) schedule and drop by. While your friend who works from home might not like the “surprise” part of this (we freelancers really are a fickle bunch), but if your loved ones have a consistent schedule and you can swing by for a few minutes, I’m sure it’ll make their day. (Assuming, of course, that they consider you a loved one, too.)
2. Call instead of texting.
As easy as texting is (and as much as the radiation from cell phones is probably bad for you), calling is still a lot more intimate than texting. Think about it: How many times have you texted “lol” with a totally straight face? It’s not like that on the phone. We’re more likely to actually laugh when we hear someone else’s voice. I think it’s something about internal monologues (aka that voice in your head that reads things for you) versus actual dialogue… But I’m not a scientist.
This is definitely something some people are better at than others. My girlfriend can have a totally succinct, totally meaningful phone conversation every single day. I, on the other hand, need at least 3 days’ notice before I use an automated phone system, and even longer if I actually need to talk to a person. Still, even those of us who “hate talking on the phone” generally feel happy when we hear the voice of someone we care about. (Even if it’s in a message on our voicemail.)
3. Kidnap them.
I’m not talking about something super creepy where you throw them in the trunk and feed them bits of bread and water for days. No, I’m talking about kidnapping your friends for an impromptu road trip. There’s something confusingly magical about being stuck in a cramped space with people who mean a lot to you… It should be totally horrible, but for some strange reason, it’s not.
Anyone can send a card or a letter, or buy an awesome birthday present that we happened to get for an incredible bargain. But how many times in your life have you taken an unforgettable adventure? Now, when’s the last time you did it with your squad? If you can’t remember, you’re probably overdue.
4. Give them your attention.
We’ve become a society fixated on getting more done in less time. I’m definitely guilty of this one, as a look into my planner will soon show you. But, realistically, multi-tasking is a total waste of time, because you’re splitting your already-limited attention in multiple directions. It’s taken me a long time to break this habit, but trust me on this one: Multi-tasking is a lie. When you try to multi-task, you’re really not even single-tasking. You’re half-tasking, at best.
When you’re spending time with people, it’s the same thing. Put the smartphone away and pay attention to what’s going on around you. Angry Birds and Instagram can definitely wait until you’re not doing anything else. Your friends are here now, and who knows when you’re going to see them next?
5. Tell them you love them.
When’s the last time you said “I love you” to someone other than your significant other? Most likely, it’s been far too long, and it was brought on by a rough time – either yours, that they helped you through, or theirs, that you helped them through. It’s sort of messed up, if you think about it – somewhere along the way, we’re conditioned to think that romantic love is the only love that matters.
It’s always been really hard for me to tell people I loved them, whether they were people in my family, my friend circle, or even the people sharing my bed. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel the love – it was because I was taught that infinite love is weak. It’s not weak. In fact, loving yourself and others is one of the strongest things you can do. (And, if you’re feeling it, you should say it, just to make sure they know.)
6. Be their offline support system.
A supportive Facebook post or Instagram hashtag can be a nice way to acknowledge that you’ve noticed your friend going through a rough time. Sometimes, you really just need someone to show up and give you a hug. If you’re close enough to be a physical presence in someone’s life, and you know they’re going through a rough time (or even just suspect it), you should be willing to go see them and show them how much you really care.
It can be really awkward to be around someone who’s going through something rough, and that might make you want to shy away from the idea. But that’s exactly why it means so much when someone comes to cheer you up when you’re down. The willingness to just be in the presence of one another leads to the greatest feelings of love that friends can share – and is your schedule really so full that you can’t make your friends feel loved?