If I read one more article describing the detrimental effects of social media on modern day friendships, I may just tweet about it.
There are a plethora of arguments that claim that our media-based world is redefining the concept of friendship, but in actuality, humans are becoming too self-absorbed to be able to sustain true friendships. We blame the advancement of technology instead of looking toward the heart of the issue: the users of technology.
There is no doubt that the social media landscape has changed the way we communicate. As of March 2013, Facebook reported having 1.11 billion users, Twitter, 200 million users and Instagram, 100 million users. Don’t blame the trend; blame the trendsetters.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are not to blame for the decreasing value of friendship. These social media websites are not forcing people to depersonalize their relationships. But human beings will always look for a scapegoat.
In the past, friendships were taken as seriously as romantic relationships. Aristotle explained it best when he wrote, “Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.”
Today, people have exchanged this concept for self-promotion and the appearance of having friends. We no longer perform the simplest expressions of friendship by giving another person our time, trust and thought. Instead, we prefer likes, favorites and retweets.
We mistakenly believe that our mere physical presence serves as a sufficient dedication of our time to another individual. A friend deserves uninterrupted time and attention, not the leftover scraps of energy that remain at the end of the day.
To give a part of oneself to another individual through verbal expression – to open up one’s soul, to trust another person – is now terrifyingly difficult. The number of people who can actually be trusted is diminishing because of the number of people we blindly welcome into our lives via staged profiles. Our egos seem to deduce that if we don’t get X number of likes, we aren’t attractive, intelligent or fill in the blank.
When a friendship requires more effort than we desire to put forth, it is thrown aside because we subconsciously know that there are 1.11 billion other people out there who are in search of another effortless Facebook friendship.
It is easier to be distant friends with 100 people than it is to be meaningful friends with one. With a multitude of friends, relationships become about what you can receive instead of what you can give.
If our friendship is devoid of sacrifice, then consider us strangers. If the question, “What can I do for this individual?” isn’t popping up inside our heads, then we are unaware of how friendship works.
I grew up under the label “popular,” but it was really a less sophisticated epithet for “people pleaser.” It appeared as if I had a lot of friends, but in reality, all I had was lists of acquaintances. People thought that they knew me because of a shared class, sport or town – common interests that initiate a friendship but should never determine one.
I felt it necessary to divide my time amongst these “friends” because I was afraid of being alone – as if not having a person by my side at all times meant that I was incapable of being loved, or that having a Friday night to myself meant that I was a loser.
Today, my solitary moments are my highest-valued moments. I can count my close friends on my hands, and I’m not afraid to admit that staying in on a Friday night would be the highlight of my hectic week.
I can be that way while actively posting from my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. If I am having a problem with a friendship, I don’t attribute it to an online medium, but rather, I accept that the problem is rooted in personal differences.
It is time to stop observing the communication problem and start administering a solution. Social media is here to stay, and maybe the solution is as simple as relearning how to be a friend. How ironic is it that the more complex the world becomes, the simpler the concepts we forget?