We need a new word for “Friends.” How many people on your social channels do you actually KNOW? I personally have more than 4,800 “friends” on Facebook, yet I probably I only know 10 percent of them. Are they my friends? Not really. But do we have a shared common interest or friend? Maybe.
One definition of friend is “a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.” Do you have “mutual affection” for every one of your Twitter followers?
While there is inherent value in the shared interest of people as a whole, it’s time to rethink how we interact with this group of (mostly) like-minded individuals who may share some of our values or opinions, but who would not be among those you call to bail you out of jail or pick you up from the airport?
There have been more than a few articles that look at the effects of social media on relationships and the unhappiness it can bring. One Wall Street Journal article stated: “The problem, they say, is that we spend so much time maintaining superficial connections online that we aren’t dedicating enough time or effort to cultivating deeper real-life relationships. Too much chatter, too little real conversation.”
So what’s that happy medium? To be sure, social media has given us more access to information than ever before. But should it be at the expense of thoughtful discourse with people we know in real life? No. It should have a place in our world, but it should not be mistaken for friendships.
We need to put social media as it is now in its place. It should be a place for information sharing, creative expression and discovery, a place where we find virtual community, connection and acceptance for who we are. Some of that happens today, but when headlines scream “fake news” and news feeds are ripe with partisan divides, it’s sometimes hard to remember. Social media should provide supplemental enrichment to our lives, it should not run our lives. It should not be a replacement for the one-on-one connections that we have with our family and our “real” friends.
So what’s the new word for Friends?
Check out these articles and let me know what you think.
Here’s an Explanation for the Connection Between Facebook and Unhappiness
Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?
Is Technology Making People Less Sociable?