You remember the quarantine? You may have forgotten, but there was a time when we were all asked to shelter at home for, like, a really long time.
Yeah, you remember.
Everyone dealt with it in their own way. I was a bus driver at the time, and we had hours of online training five days a week. As a gamer, I also gamed with friends, online, of course. And D&D is something my wife and I have played for years, and we weren’t about to stop. But we didn’t play in person, we played online.
As an extrovert, this was a…confusing time. I was being social, per se. But obviously, it was different. The difference was clear to me at the beginning, but I had also expected things to be different. The whole world had changed, of course life would be a bit different. But as time passed, online socialization just became the new normal for me.
Gosh, remember that phrase? “New normal”?
It was, and still is, the worst.
Once online community became my normal, I thought that I was okay. I was socializing, right? I saw friends once or twice a week, saw people from work five days a week, that should be fine.
My mental health started struggling, I began battling depression on top of the anxiety disorder I already struggled with, and yet it still didn’t occur to me that my lack of a real-world community may be the issue.
No, it wasn’t until this year, 2022, when I picked up a new hobby (disc golf. I am obsessed), that I started to see major improvement on my mental health. I saw friends two or three times a week, but this time, it was in person. Just the physical presence of these people, the ability to chat casually, to shake hands or give a high five, was filling a need I had forgotten was needed.
It changed everything.
One of the most iconic parables Jesus ever told was one of a lost sheep (Matthew 18:12-14, Luke 15:4-7). He spoke of a man who has 100 sheep, but loses one. He leaves the 99 sheep and seeks out the one until the one is found. When the one is found, when the 100 are reunited, the man celebrates.
Let’s be clear, it wasn’t just that he found the one. If he came back with the one and there was another one missing, he would return the one he has and go search for the other. His celebration isn’t for the one, it’s because the 100 are reunited.
I thank God that I found real-world community again. If I had continued to assume that online community was enough, I can’t imagine the struggles I would have faced. Let me be clear, online community was good! It was fun to socialize and chat with people online.
But it could not replace real-world community.
While a large portion of the world has returned to physical communities, there are so many people out there that continue to rely on online community. Like surviving on junk food and soda, it’s easy and meets a need, but is also highly unhealthy if relied on exclusively. Whether someone is an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in between, having real-world community is still something vital to all of us.
We at SavePoint want so badly to unite people with churches that will open their arms to them, to help people plug into places where they can share the hobbies they love but also to be encouraged in Christ. Our goal is to help lost sheep find the other 99 sheep, where they can all be united under the shepherd.
And if you find yourself spending the majority of your social time online, please seek out a church to be united with.