The constant stream of news, argument, anger, and fear, and the attention we pay to tragedy and sadness in the world, had been really getting to me a few weeks ago. Someone share some good news, I thought. Very few people did.
I took a break from my computer and went to my kitchen to make lunch. I had an excess of eggs, and some vegetables, so I made a little frittata. It looked good, so I snapped a picture of it and put it on Instagram. I put a little self-deprecating comment with it, because–well, it’s what people complain about when they complain about social media. You took a picture of your lunch. Who cares? Instagram is just a bunch of people sharing dumb pictures of food. Whoop-de-frickin’-do.
A few days after that, I got a message from an old friend who wanted to meet up. I hadn’t seen her in years. When we met, she wanted to tell me about some struggles she’s been going through since the last time we met, and the steps she’s been taking to get over those struggles. And for some reason, seeing the picture of the frittata reminded her that she could reach out to me.
I was really touched by this. A lot of people in our world are worried that their problems aren’t significant. They’re worried that people won’t have time to listen. So this is a purpose for the frivolous photos and small talk. When you use them well, they convey that you won’t dismiss someone else’s problems as insignificant or frivolous. They convey that you have time to connect and time to listen. In the right time and right place, sharing a silly picture of food can be an act of compassion.
There are, however, a couple tendencies to watch out for. Overdoing it is one. If you share everything, it might change the message from “I have time to listen to you” to “I need you to have lots of time to listen to me.”
The other tendency, a big problem on social media, is to make everything into a joke. Jokes can defuse the tension and lighten the mood, that we don’t take everything so seriously. But the everything-is-a-joke spirit of so much social media can get in the way if someone really needs you to take a problem seriously.
So share a picture of your lunch. And also share your actual lunch.