We all have friends. Or so, we tell ourselves. In this day and age, it may seem like we are all surrounded by our friends and engulfed by them. Being able to simultaneously talk to any number of friends via messaging apps and social networks, makes it feel like we are always connected to them. But the reality of things is that, friendships are dead.
It is a harsh statement I am making and I am in no way a recluse, but for the sake of the experiment, lets all put our objective goggles on and look at the subject from a different perspective. Yes, you have many friends, and rest assured, you won’t lose any by the time you finish reading this article (hopefully).
Friendship: the state of being friends (from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)
It was not so long ago, that people connected in a genuine way. A random encounter in the street, a get together with different groups of friends, a bus ride made easier by talking to the person sitting next to you. All of these are just a few examples of how people used to connect and talk to one another. Sure, not everyone did this, but in today’s world, can you legitimately say that you see it happening more often than not?
Once you had a friend, you kept in touch. Be it either by actually talking to the person over the phone, or occasionally meeting just to hang out. Apart from the verbal exchange, you physically made time and engaged with your friend in a way that actually cemented your relationship into something that could be built upon and carry you both over the years.
As the friendship grew, so did the importance of that friend. Missing an important event in the other friend’s life was something inconceivable and if it did occur, you knew you had (and wanted) to make up for it. Sharing various experiences with one another was like a short theater play. Since phones were not able to take pictures, and film took time to develop, describing to each other your last vacation had to involve a lot of imagination. All of these actions only increased the connection between you two and made the friendship become stronger.
In sheer contrast to the past, today’s world is a harsh and bleak nightmare when it comes to friendships. Everyone is constantly preoccupied with numerous social media accounts and we are bombarded with information about our friends all the time.There is no reason to ask the person next to you on the bus, what stop you should get off. You have an app for that. Meeting friends at a bar? All the questions related to the logistics of this hangout can be solved easily by your generic run-of-the-mill messaging application. A blue double check mark is all you need to know.
The interaction between people keeps getting less and less personal. Everything has become digitalized. When you want to congratulate a work colleague or a friend, you give him or her some form of digital appreciation (I.E. “the like”). Owing to the smartphone and it’s camera, we don’t have to describe our latest vacation to our friends. They have already seen all the photos we have shared and are not interested in hearing the stories associated with them. Social media has become the place where we show and share our love for our friends. And we expect the same to be given back to us by our friends. The funny thing is that, we have gotten to a point where we measure our friends and friendships by these things.
Once our friendships were built by shared experiences (in real life). A fun night at a party, a weekend excursion in the wild, a hairy situation you got out of. You would usually meet up with one or all of your friends on a daily or weekly basis (or at the very least, talk to them). Nowadays, we mostly interact with our friends by exchanging messages or by using a social network. And once we are there, we have a feed that lets us know how many times we liked each others posts or how many pictures we were tagged together.
Surely, I am not making a statement against social media platforms and saying they are all bad. But while the benefits of these applications are clear, saving people time and making it “easier” to connect to one another. One should ask, if these are really benefits and if so, what have we actually benefited from them?
Let’s face it, on any given day, you rarely make an interaction that is not digital with your friends. Ask yourself when was the last time you actually spoke (not messaged) any of your friends? Your parents? Your spouse? The bonds that were rooted so deep in our society, in ourselves, as a social populous, are tearing at the seams and are hanging by a thread. Does anyone actually call any of their friends on their birthday anymore? We got notifications for that. It all boils down to the fact that you never get to see the other person’s face or reaction to your words. You only see their digital reaction. And because of this, our friendships and ties are more loose and frail.
This type of eco-system that encourages digital behavior instead of a more personal one, is what is corrupting our friendships. Gone are the days when you could have a candid conversation with someone. The most you will get today is some sort of emoji. And when we do actually meet up with our friends, most of the time we are preoccupied with what is going else where and seeing what our other friends are doing.
The situation we are in is a mess and to compare the past and the present is like looking out from across the other side of a cliff. Our friendships and their meanings have changed so drastically, that I don’t know how (or if) we can fix them. You can, and should, try to connect and keep in touch with the friends you hold dear. Doing so will benefit you in the long run, as there are numerous studies pointing out how beneficial friendships are to our well-being. Especially ones we invest in over the years, carrying them to our elder years. All we can do now is influence the people around us to see the reality as it is.