In recent weeks a challenge was created called: #amplifymelanatedvoices The creators invited users to spend a week promoting work by Black creators, rather than their own.

I am ashamed to say that it was only when I read about this that I reviewed my social media content and saw how narrow what I share really is – and I’m grateful for the push to widen the breadth of people’s stories, thoughts, art and music that fill my news feeds, book shelves and music library.

Networking by its nature joins people together that have similar views, hobbies or backgrounds. We choose who we will follow according to whether they will make us feel affirmed and good about who we are and what we believe – rather than challenging us to grow – so we tend to follow people who are like us.

Jesus, on the other hand, interacted with the poor and the rich, the sick and the well, the Jews and the foreigners, the men and the women, the young and the old, the respected and the outcast, the authorities and the exploited. He did not have a narrow network of “friends” who all agreed with him and his views.

Although I think there are great things about social media, one important thing we can do to diversify our awareness of different realities that exist, and therefore grow in our love for those who are different is to invest in our offline relationships.

Even though I live in Sutton Coldfield, my walk to drop the kids at school is SO much more diverse than my social media presence has been, and this just happened – not through intentional effort like I’ve had to put into diversifying who I follow online.

I meet Kay, an elderly Irish Catholic lady who makes me wait while she runs inside to get the chocolate she got for my kids.

I meet Chris sitting on a bench who tells me about what was going on in the park at 4am this morning.

I get given a container of delicious dal-fry as a gift for our dinner by Nital – one of Allegra’s classmate’s parents.

And talk to another mum who is tired looking after her three kids with no partner to help her.

And on the way home we wave at Ted on his front drive, out chatting to his neighbour.

A lot of us haven’t just narrowed our online contact, we’ve forgotten the actual physical place where we live. And we’ve lost so much in the process – no wonder we become self-obsessed and divided as a society when we have so little contact with anyone who is any different from ourselves. I read this recently:

“Most people believe they have some sense of how their actions affect others. But what happens when a society lives above place for generations? Over the course of time, whole populations can develop a cocooned way of life, unaware of how their lives really affect each other and the world at large. Your parish is a relational microcosm that helps bring many cause-and-effect relationships back together again. Being in collaborative relationships in real life (where you live, work and play) awakens you to the effects of your actions both on people and on the place itself. It creates a context where your church can see whether its faith is more than just talk.” (Sparks, Soerens, & Friesen, 2014)

Could we follow in Jesus’ footsteps this week? Engage in conversation (from a 2m distance) with someone we’d normally just nod at and pass right by, walk somewhere instead of driving and pay attention to who we pass – or make an effort to engage with our neighbour in the next garden, and if this isn’t possible right now – have a look at who we follow online, and who’s content we share with our followers – who could I spend time listening to that is different from me?