Since the invention of social media, ‘friendships’ have changed dramatically. In times BF (before Facebook), you may remember the types of friends that you had: good friends, fun friends, drinking friends, school friends and friends of friends, not necessarily plopped into such neat little boxes as these but all easily identifiable and appreciated for their individual qualities.
Now however, in the times AF, we’ve got a whole array, the ranks have expanded to include Facebook friends, Snapchat friends, Tinder friends, WhatsApp group friends etc etc and the lines have become blurred. Who do we trust? Are we best friends with this girl or have we just got really good SMC (social media chemistry – I’m coining that!)? Or worse still, are we actually drifting apart from our true friends because of our lack of SMC? – I hardly ever see one of my closest friends who lives TWO STREETS AWAY because she is SO crap at social media, so this actually is a worry…
In the “olden days” (pre social media world domination), in order for a good friendship to truly stand a chance, you’d need to ensure that you spent a lot of time together, that you were always ready to answer the phone, to hop on a train or jump in the car to see them and that when you did, you could guarantee them your undivided attention. If a friend lived in another county or God forbid another country you would need to make extra-special efforts to ensure that your friendship survived.
Now, in some ways it is SO much easier. Haven’t got the time to drive two hours this weekend? Send them a long text. Can’t be bothered to call them? Share a nostalgic photo on Facebook. Suspect they’re feeling down? Send them a Snapchat of you as an old woman in the bath. Problem solved right? Meh. Not really.
You see, I am very grateful to the advancement of social media for so many reasons. I have some friends living on the other side of the world who I can now, thankfully keep in touch with. I have actually become really close with people that I don’t see that much but because of the joys of IMing I talk to all the time and thanks to Facebook I can now keep an eye on all of my friends from a distance, to check that they’re not getting too thin, partying too hard and that they’re not posting too many photos of sunsets with deep meaningful quotes on them (code for PLEASE HELP ME). For many aspects of a lot of my friendships, it can be a great thing.
But in other ways, I worry that it is making us lazy. That we’re starting to slack and that we’re slightly losing sight of what is important. How many times have you sent a message to a person that you know that they have ‘read’ but not replied to? It’s happened to me loads. Usually I’ll get a message back in a couple of days with the classic “so sorry babes, totally manic, U OK?” to which I normally reply by saying “yes, all fine, no worries” (translation: NOT FINE, WHERE WERE YOU BITCH? I’VE BEEN CRYING FOR THREE DAYS SOLID AND ATE A BOX OF CHOCOLATE BIGGER THAN MY HEAD), and no more is said about it.
But after some slightly disjointed messages with a really good friend of mine recently, it got me thinking… is that really okay? Can you imagine reaching out to a good friend in the flesh only to have them hear what you say and walk away? No. Because that is totally shitty behaviour and not something that friends do. So why is it okay in our new virtual reality?
Do we assume that since someone is always an instant message away that the pressure is off? That we can stop worrying and reaching out? When you see a good friend in the person, you will know fairly immediately if they are okay or not. The option of laying into them with all of your problems is not really there as, eventually, you will will need to come up for air, it will be their time to speak and as a true friend you will recognise that something is not right.
But for a lot of us, no matter the strength of the friendship, the idea of telling someone out of the blue on WhatsApp that you are feeling a bit down, makes us really uncomfortable. If you have seen on Facebook that they are out for lunch, you’re not going to want to bother them. If they’ve sent you a million Snapchats of their beautiful hotel room, you’re going to assume that they won’t want their holiday ruined by you being down in the dumps and sometimes, mostly, we could all do with a bit more than a distracted <3 emoji and I ily message.
How do you ask for that though?
Well, we shouldn’t actually have to. Social media has, without meaning to, made us all fairly selfish people. Not in like a “you’re going to burn in hell because all you think about is yourself” kind of way, but in a more subtle sense. Instagram is basically a huge showing off forum, Facebook is a fab place to show the world how many friends you have and Snapchat is used to show people how pretty you are when you like totally #justwokeup. No one wants to interrupt watching their profile picture likes come rolling in by having a DMC on messenger anyway.. right? I’m sort of kidding… hopefully, but kind of not really – there is an element of this and I think that is part of the problem.
Thanks to social media, there are many of us who think that we are doing enough to maintain strong friendships. That our omniscient virtual presence is all that we need, but we need to start remembering that it just isn’t. Having a friendship that is spent more online than off is like having dinner with someone who wont put their phone down, or having sex with someone who has one eye on the telly… sure they’re ‘there’ but you’re not the priority.
I think social media is ultimately, sadly, making us bad friends and, as I’ve said before, since it isn’t going anywhere in a hurry, this is something that we are going to need to address, and fast. It is high time that we stopped saving all of our pearls of wisdom for a particularly poignant meme and instead started injecting all of that emotion, time and energy in the right direction.
They say that ‘no man is an island’ and they were right. No man is an island, nor is any woman or child. We all need people to survive and right now we seem to be so busy being the world’s best travel agents for our own private resorts, that we are forgetting that we are in fact attached to a whole load of other destinations that need just as much attention as our own. After all, who wants to look up in five years time to realise that you’re island is in recession, the airports are shut and everyone has all but forgotten where you are, because if we don’t venture across to our neighbours every once in a while, that could well happen.
It’s time we shut the apps, got in the car, dialled the number and started to actually BE there again.