Five Ways to Build Authentic Connection in our Digital Age

Every week I do a Live Things episode on five things Facebook. In last week’s episode I talked about building and creating authentic connection in a digital age. I wanted to lay that out for you here. Here are a few ideas I came up with to stay connected in our digital society.

1. Use your phone to call someone

I know this is crazy guys. I usually never answer my phone, so I’m preaching to myself here too. The other day I received a phone call from a dear friend and it blessed me so much. She just called to encourage me and I could have missed that had I let it go to voice mail (like I usually do). I guess this is a two-fold option for connecting: pick up your phone to make a call every once in a while, and pick up your phone to receive calls when they come your way (feel free to skip the ones from telemarketers).

2. Invite others over for dinner

It can be scary to open your home, but people form a special bond over food that is different than gathering otherwise. There is something special that happens when we sit at the table together and share a meal. Stories are told, we learn to listen, learn to give and receive. When there are language barriers, food can cover a multitude of sins. Even when there are no communication challenges to overcome, food is a great way to get to know someone new and gives you something to talk about, or an excuse not to talk so much if you’re mouth is full (haha).

When Justin and I lived in Nigeria, we had the opportunity to eat with many friends from different cultures and it gave us incredible insight into their world and their culture. I can remember the smells, the tastes, the colors, but more than that I remember the love that I felt when someone invited me into their home and shared their food with me. A dear friend invited us for dinner, and although she didn’t have much, that didn’t stop her from preparing a delicious feast and making us feel welcome in her tiny two room home. That meal grew our friendship and became part of our history together.

In Nigeria they have many greetings. One of their greetings, which became a fast favorite, was the call to come and eat. If you’re eating in front of someone who is not, it is customary to invite that person to join you. I remember in my teaching days so many of my fellow teachers or helpers would call me to come and eat with them and their delicious food and those moments were so special and made me feel so loved when I was feeling so far from everything I’d ever known and definitely needed a little kindness. Nigeria is such a beautiful country filled with the most loving and welcoming people you will ever meet.

3. Hand-write a letter

Who doesn’t love getting mail? In a world where everything is digital, it’s really special to receive a handwritten letter, and I just love getting letters! When I was a teenager, they knew me quite well at our local post office where we picked up our mail just about every other day. When Justin and I started dating, he lived in North Carolina and I lived in Cleveland so we actually spent a lot of time writing to each other via snail mail. It was a really great way to get to know each other and connect though we were miles apart.

It feels so good when someone takes the time to not only write a letter, but to put it in a envelope, address it and send it to you so you can be pleasantly surprised when the mailman delivers it to your door. I would urge you to consider picking a few friends to send letters to this week and tell me if your authentic connection doesn’t increase!

4. Offer to babysit

Meeting someone’s immediate need is a fantastic way of showing you care and building a lasting connection. I’m thankful that I am able to stay home with my kids and be available to my friends and their kids when needed. I can think of several people with whom my connection deepened when they were vulnerable enough to share a need and allowed me to meet it. I do not take that responsibility lightly. If I offer to babysit for you I mean it, and am happy to have your kids in my home. It is not a burden, but an opportunity to grow our relationship.

I remember one morning when a mom I was just getting to know better was in a pinch. It was her first day back from maternity leave and her babysitter couldn’t make it in that day for some reason. She texted early that morning to see if she could add her crew to mine for the day. Of course I said yes, and what an adventure that day turned out to be! I took the kids to the park near us without realizing the creek had flooded the bridge, which you have to cross to enter the park. I was wearing the tiny babe in the sling, and ended up having to carry each of the bigger five kids I had with me across some stones one by one so they wouldn’t get wet. I love looking back at that day and remembering it so fondly. That friend and I have become very close and I like to think that day had a big part to play in that.

I can think of another friend who was fostering a child and had two very small children of her own. She would ask if we could have her two while she was going to meetings and such for their sweet foster child. I absolutely loved this because I was not in a place of being able to foster myself at the time, but it allowed me to be part of it. That opportunity lead to extra times of eating lunch together, hanging out and just growing closer.

My heart is for kids and I will always jump at the opportunity to hold a tiny baby, but maybe kids aren’t your thing. If you are trying to build connection with someone new, helping out and filling an immediate need is an excellent way to do that. Helping someone move, taking someone a meal when they’re going through a tough time or even if they’re not, or offering to pet sit if your friend has to go out of town are all great ways to show you care and deepen your connection.

5. Ask someone how you can pray for them 

Being vulnerable to allow others to share in carrying our burdens for a while is an excellent way of building a connection that lasts. We were never meant to do life alone! Asking someone how you can pray for them and then actually doing it creates new space for compassion in your heart towards them. It allows you to know someone in a different way; not in a Facebook or Instagram kind of way where everything looks great on the outside, but in a way that lets you see what’s really going on with them on the inside. So many people have things going on in their lives that we will never know about unless we ask.

When we offer to pray for a friend it is really important to follow up afterward. Send a text to let them know when you’re praying for them, or call to see what the outcome was. Don’t just say you’re going to pray and then forget.

Making others feel loved and connected is one of my five things, and these are just a few of the ways I am intentional in reaching out. I hope you find this list helpful in building deep, lasting, and authentic connection. I would love to hear if you have more to add!

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3 Comments

  1. Alphonso White

    Thank you for this! I honestly forgot how good it felt to receive a letter until I got one just recently. The fact that someone took the time to sit and write me something, and later Mai it, really meant so much. It’s sad how disconnected we all are these days.

    Liked by 1 person

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