Part of my job as social media manager at Avidmode is keeping an eye on the trending hashtags that pop up daily. In the last few weeks most of these hashtags (in the UK) have been based around a reality TV series called Love Island and of course the looming Brexit. Neither of these topics are particularly intriguing or thought provoking, on Monday I was pleasantly surprised to see #InternationalFriendshipDay trending.
Friendship is something that we all have at one time or another, as kids we all had best friends, people that you would chat to each day or just acquaintances that you were friendly with. As a young adult (can I still say that at 25?), I’m realising that the opportunities to make friends are not often thrust upon you. In fact, if you aren’t on the lookout for social interaction you can get by without speaking to anyone else for weeks at a time.
This might well be personal to me for a few reasons:
- I work from home, in a family owned business and everything I do in my role involves the internet.
- The area that I live in is quite isolated, especially if you don’t have access to a car or other forms of transport that don’t cost an arm and a leg (looking at you trains). All shopping is done via the internet and shipped to my front door.
- I’m generally quite an introverted person, I like to sit in the quiet, don’t enjoy large crowds of people and have always had one or two friends rather than a big social circle.
- I’m terrible at keeping in contact with people, most of my friends in university were international students who’ve since moved back home. It’s not so easy to pop down to the local Starbucks for a catch-up when your friends live 10+ hours away!
In saying all the above, I’m not generally unhappy with my current situation. However, when I noticed that it was International Friendship Day it gave me a little pause for thought.
“Do I do enough to put myself into social situations, are we less likely to have friends or best friends as we get older and has the emergence of the internet and the digital age had an impact on our friendship making abilities?
That last question is something that I really want to hone in on. Has the internet been a detriment to us or a benefit? Just to clarify, I’m looking at this from the perspective of a heavy internet user – there are millions and millions of people out there that are way less technologically connected, but they might well feel the impact of the internet just as much as I do (perhaps in a different way).
- We can talk to anyone, from anywhere at the touch of a button. A friend in Malaysia or in the US doesn’t seem so far away because you can contact them and assuming they are connected to their phone, their answer could be mere minutes away. I guess you could say that we now have a broader spectrum of potential friends than ever before. It used to be that your social circles were confined to people that you met at school, during hobbies, from your neighborhood and family connections. I can now connect with someone who I would have never come across had the internet not existed.
- Making friends over the internet is a thing. I wholeheartedly believe that the friendships that we make on-line should be considered as real as those that we might make whilst out and about in the world. Case and point would be my relationship with my now husband, we met almost 10 years ago in a video game, we were friends at first, chatted, made each other feel better when the other was down and eventually got together. A few months later our long-distance relationship became a no distance relationship when he moved to the UK, the rest as they say, is history.
- We are overly attached to our technology – It might be possible that we are so connected that it takes us away from being able to make friendships with people local to us. As an example, I’m much less likely to head out on a Friday night because I have everything that I could want at home at the touch of a button. That means that I’m closing the door to opportunities that I might have had to make friends and strengthen relationships with people that I already know. I’ll be interested to see how this pans out with younger generations who have had the internet for their whole lives, do you think it will make a difference?
- The internet can cause us to have jumbled expectations. This is something that I’ve noticed recently. As we all type away to each other online and post statuses about our day it’s difficult to keep in mind that the person on the other end isn’t always having a great time, they are probably posting that status alone in a room, the same way that you’re alone and reading it. This dissonance might well cause us to resent or envy friends which can then go on to cause rifts in relationships.
From my point of view, there are both good and bad points when it comes to the internet vs friendship. I think that we all experience it in different way, some people get everything they need through online social interactions whilst others might enjoy a weekly meeting at the pub a lot more.
Regardless of who you are, social interaction is an important part of being human. At some point we all need to vent, to ask for help or just get a hug from a friend. All it takes to be a good friend is the ability to reach out and listen.
In the spirit of #InternationalFriendshipDay I think it’s important that we take stock of what we are doing to keep a handle on our friendships, are you putting in the effort to make friends with those around you, are you stuck in a toxic relationship that is causing more stress than it’s worth, have you done all that you can to reach out to those you’ve lost contact with?
Celebrate friendship day a little late by sending a message to that friend you’ve been meaning to get back to, give a hug to someone that needs it or check in with someone that is having a rough time.